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King George I of England, the Pretender and the Jacobites

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King George I

King George I (1660-1727)

George I was born in Hanover, Germany on 28 May 1660 and was king of Great Britain and Ireland from 1 August 1714 until his death in 1727. He ascended the British throne, following the death of his second cousin Queen Anne of Great Britain, as the first monarch of the House of Hanover, as the Act of Settlement 1701 prohibited Catholics from inheriting the throne. The nearest blood relative at the time was the son of James II who was a Roman Catholic, George was Protestant.

However, a great many people in Scotland felt that there should be a monarch from the Scottish Stuart family so they began calling young James Stuart King James and persuaded him to come to Scotland and raise an army to march into England. They intended to make James king rather than George. James quickly became known as the 'Pretender' and all those who followed and supported him were called 'Jacobites'. Lord Mac, a friend of James in Scotland who started to assemble an army, believed that many English gentlemen would join him and send money to support the Scottish cause but this did not happen. At the 1715 battle at Sheriffmuir near Dunblane in Perthshire they lost a great many men and the Englishmen coming to support them were defeated at Preston. Spain supported a Jacobite-led invasion of Scotland in 1719 but stormy seas allowed only about three hundred Spanish troops to arrive in Scotland. They were based at Eilean Donan Castle on the west Scottish coast but were poorly equipped and easily defeated. The Scots dispersed into the Highlands and the surviving Spanish troops surrendered. The Pretender had no choice but to escape to France.

King George I was outraged about the events in the north and decided to make an example of the survivors. He put to death common soldiers and then had six lords beheaded. This was seen by many as cruel and unjust retribution for men doing what they believed to be right. Luckily, Lord Nithisdale escaped execution with the help of his clever wife. On one of the frequent visits to Nithisdale in prison with her maid she had the maid dress in two sets of clothes. Once inside Lord Nithisdale's room half the maid's clothes were taken off and he dressed quickly in them and left the prison with his wife. To avoid speaking to anyone when they left Lady Nithisdale said her 'maid' had terrible toothache and could not speak. A coach was waiting for them at the prison door and together they went to a safe place until Lord Nithisdale could successfully escape to France. Thus ended the first civil war begun in Scotland.

King George I died in Hanover, Germany in 1727 during a visit and had been King of England for just thirteen years. His reign would have been easier if he had come to the throne younger than his 54 years and had bothered to learn to speak English properly. He also would have benefitted from behaving like an English gentleman at all times. He was succeeded by his son George II

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