George IGeorge Louis, Elector of Hanover, owed his accession not to divine hereditary right, but to the Act of Settlement of 1701. He was the son of the Electress Sophia, the most direct Protestant descendant of James I.
He finally arrived at Greenwich on 18 September, having been delayed by contrary winds and by his own lack of urgency. Although he had known since 1701 that he was likely to be king, he had not troubled to learn to speak English with any proficiency.
The limits of George’s power were defined by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. He had to be a Protestant, he was forbidden to give office, title or estate to a foreigner without Parliament’s consent, he could appoint but could not dismiss a judge, he could appoint and dismiss ministers and dictate foreign policy. He controlled a vast amount of patronage. But he needed Parliament (a) for money and (b) because no minister could survive long without its support.
The Whig supremacyOn 10 April 1716 the Whigs passed the Septennial Act, on the grounds that the Triennial Act of 1694 had fomented feuds and party strife and occasioned ruinous expense. But the Scottish Whig, Lord Islay, gave the game away: frequent elections rendered ‘government dependent on the caprice of the multitude and very precarious’. The Whigs had moved a long way from their radical origins in the reign of Charles II and were now firmly oligarchical.
prime minister 1721-42
|George II, r. 1727-60|
When he became king,
he kept on Walpole
as prime minister.