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King George II of Great Britain (1683-1760)

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George II of Great Britain in Coronation Robes

King George II and his Troubled Reign

George II was born and brought up in Hanover, northern Germany in 1683 and was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1727 until his death in 1760. His reign was aided by the Acts of Union 1707, which restricted the succession to Protestants, and was not without problems caused by foreign wars, civil war and family disputes. He fell out with his son Frederick, Prince of Wales, who married a German princess and lived in London. They quarrelled over the money George gave them to spend so he ordered them to go and live in Kew. His son and his wife Princess Augusta (Caroline) of Saxe-Gotha had two children, one of whom was to become the future King George III.

The first foreign war during King George II's reign was with Spain which broke out in 1739. This started after Spain had conquered much of South America, killing many people there and taking all the gold and silver for themselves. The problem was that other countries wanted to have a share of the riches and other useful things too. For example, English merchants wanted some unique timber and other valuables but the Spaniards attacked and killed them as they cut the trees down so England went to war with Spain. King George was also at war with the French and Bavarians following the Prince of Bavaria's attempts to make himself King of Bohemia by removing the lawful queen, Maria Theresa, and her infant son.

There were also wars with the French in the East Indies. England had an army there to protect English merchants and English interests, and France sent an army under Count Lally to win power in India. The French were beaten so soundly by Lord Clive's forces that they never attempted it again. The French were also present in North America and fighting with the English continued there until the final English victory at the Battle of Quebec in 1759 where the brave General Wolfe was killed.

During the earlier reign of George's father, King George I, the Scottish 'king' King James the VIII, known as the 'Pretender' by the English, returned to Scotland from France and attempted to take the kingdom for himself and become the English king. This was not to be and he was soon forced to return to France. He stayed in France briefly before moving to Italy where he married a Polish princess and they had two sons, Charles and Henry. Charles was the oldest and became known as the 'Young Pretender' whilst the younger Henry became a respected clergyman.

The Young Pretender, Charles, thought his family would try once more to take the throne of England from the Protestant King George II so, with money, some French soldiers and a ship loaned by the King of France, he landed in the highlands of Scotland where most of the Scots were still fond of his family. With the support of the highland chiefs he was soon able to assemble a great army and march on Edinburgh. Once there, he proclaimed his father King of England, Scotland and Ireland, and himself the real Prince of Wales. Charles was now known by the Scots as Bonnie Prince Charlie, and he continued his march south into England where he met little resistance at first. However, when he got as far south as Derby resistsnce was much stronger so he was forced to turn back and flee to the Scottish highlands for safety. He did not get the English support he had expected.

The English armies followed him and they soon met for battle at a place called Culloden where the Young Pretender's army was completely destroyed. Bonnie Prince Charlie managed to escape the battle and spent several months hiding in woods, wasteland, forests and caves from the Duke of Cumberland's men who were still searching for him. Charles eventually escaped and returned to France.

In his last days King George II suffered from partial blindness and loss of hearing, and died in 1760 of heart problems in Kensington Palace at the age of 76 years. He was succeeded by his grandson George III and was buried in Westminster Abbey

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