xxxxxAs we have seen, towards the end of Queen Anne’s reign, a number of senior Tories, led by Viscount Bolingbroke, were laying plans for the restoration of the Roman Catholic Jacobites. Her sudden death in August 1714, however, put pay to their schemes. The Act of Settlement of 1701 was quickly put into effect, and this ensured that her Protestant cousin George, the Elector of Hanover (and great-grandson of James I), succeeded her as king of Great Britain and Ireland.

xxxxxIn these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that when coming to the throne George I should attach himself firmly to the Whigs, the party to whom he owed his succession. But in fact it was more than an attachment to the Whigs, it was a reliance upon them. He spoke no English and spent the vast amount of his time in his homeland, Germany. He was interested in foreign affairs, but mainly in respect of his Hanovarian possessions. For the most part, therefore, government came to rest in the hands of a small group of ministers, dominated by James Stanhope, Charles Townshend and Robert Walpole. This “cabinet” virtually ran the country and, in the absence of the king as the “chairman”, the chief minister became the “prime minister”, though the term did not actually become official until 1905. His succession, then, gave a further boost towards parliamentary government in his newly acquired kingdom.

xxxxxBut as a Protestant as well as a foreigner, his succession also gave a boost to Jacobite hopes. There was still a substantial number of Jacobite supporters within the British Isles, be they Roman Catholics, fervent followers of the Stuarts, or both. It is little wonder, therefore, that a year after he became king there was a rebellion aimed at restoring a Stuart to the throne, namely “James III”, son of the exiled James II. In the event, the rebellion, known as The Fifteen, came to nothing, due mainly to bad planning and lack of leadership. The Jacobites had been soundly defeated and dispersed long before the Old Pretender arrived in Scotland to claim his throne. With no army to support him, he returned to exile in France early in 1716, while the leaders among his supporters were rounded up and executed.

xxxxxThe Fifteen was one of the two major events of the reign. The second was a serious stock market crash centred around the fortunes of the South Sea Company, trading with the Spanish colonies in South America. Holding out hopes of a speedy and handsome return, shares in this company were quickly over subscribed, and matters were made worse when they were linked with government bonds aimed at reducing the national debt. A frantic wave of speculation followed and in September 1720 the South Sea Bubble burst. Shares plummeted and thousands of investors were ruined. In addition, a parliamentary enquiry established that some ministers had taken bribes from the company, as had the king’s mistress, the Duchess of Kendal.

xxxxxThis economic crisis led to the death of Stanhope, but it proved the making of Robert Walpole (illustrated). He took immediate measures to restore public confidence, saving the Whig party and earning the valuable support of the king. Then, two years later, he confirmed his position as chief minister when he uncovered a Tory conspiracy in support of another Jacobite invasion. The leader, Francis Atterbury, Bishop of Rochester, was sent into exile, and Walpole’s position was secure. Together with Townshend he kept the country at peace, supporting the Triple Alliance with the French and the Dutch (formed in 1717), and encouraging trade and commerce.

xxxxxIt must be said that George I was far from popular. Apart from his long absences and limited interest in British affairs, his two German mistresses lowered the tone of his court, and his treatment of his wife, whom he kept imprisoned on the grounds of infidelity, did not endear him to the general public. Nor was any love lost between him and his son George, who hated his father for the way he treated his mother, and delighted in associating with his father’s political opponents. It is said that at one time the king considered having his son kidnapped and whisked off to America to stop him inheriting the throne! Be that as it may, in 1727 he died of a stroke on yet another journey to Hanover, and his son did succeed him as George II.

xxxxxIncidentally, George, who married Sophia Dorothea of Celle in 1682, accused her of infidelity in 1694 and, having divorced her, kept her imprisoned in the castle of Ahlden, Lower Saxony, until her death 32 years later! His daughter, also named Sophia Dorothea, married Frederick William I of Prussia in 1706, and was the mother of Frederick the Great.

GEORGE I  1714 - 1727  (G1)  Lived 1660 - 1727



The German scientist Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit constructs the first mercury thermometer and goes on to devise a new scale - named after him - for measuring temperature.

The "Fifteen Rebellion" a Jacobite rising starting in Scotland to support James Edward, son of James II, is defeated at Preston, and "James III", arriving after the battle, returns to France in the New Year.

The German composer George Frederic Handel, who settled in England in 1712, performs his Water Music for the King. His choral work, the Messiah was performed in 1742 (G2).


The Dzungars (Mongels) invade Tibet and capture Lhasa. The Chinese emperor K'ang-hsi sends an army and expels them in 1720. He then incorporates the country into his empire.

The French painter Antoine Watteau completes his Embarkation for Cythera, a charming, make-believe pastoral scene which typifies an artistic genre known as the fête galante.



Followingxanother Ottoman offensive in 1715, the Austrians gain victories over the Turks and, by the Treaty of Passarowitz, retain their dominant position in east-central Europe.

Robinson Crusoe is published by the English writer Daniel Defoe. Though based on the experience of Alexander Selkirk, it is seen as a pioneer work in the history of the novel.


In London, a company trading with the Spanish colonies in South America, collapses. The bursting of the "South Sea Bubble" results in financial ruin for thousands of investors.


The Treaty of Nystadt confirms the decline of Sweden as a great power - following its defeat at Poltava - and marks the entry of the Russian Empire into the affairs of Europe.

Robert Walpole is re-appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer. An able Whig politician, and generally regarded as Britain’s first prime minister, he goes on to serve George II until 1742.

The German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, one of Europe’s most skilful musicians, completes his Brandenburg Concertos. A brilliant organist, he writes a vast variety of music, much of it for Church services.


The French scientist René Antoine Réaumur improves methods of steel production. He also devises a thermometric scale and, later, publishes a major study on the history of insects.

The Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen becomes the first European to visit Easter Island, noted for its array of gigantic statues. He later discovers some of the South Pacific islands belonging to the Samoan and Society groups.


An Afghan army invades Iran and captures the capital Esfahan. Sultan Husayn I is overthrown and the Safavid dynasty, dating from 1499 (H7) comes to an end. In the meantime both Russia and Ottoman Turkey invade the country.


Rebellions in India and the Middle East begin the collapse of the great Mughal Empire, founded in 1526. Apart from two or three provincial states, it breaks up into petty kingdoms.



Peter the Great dies. His widow, Catherine, becomes Catherine I of Russia and there follows a period of instability until the reign of Empress Elizabeth, beginning in 1741.

The Italian musician Antonio Vivaldi writes his well-known descriptive piece The Four Seasons. A prolific composer and accomplished violinist, he is best remembered for his development of the concerto.

Gulliver’s Travels, a powerful satirical work by the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift, exposes to ridicule human follies and vices. It is an instant success.

Another Spanish attempt to recapture Gibraltar fails. As we shall see, the last and most promising attack on the fortress is made by a Franco-Spanish force in 1779 (G3a).


George I dies in June while on one of his many journeys to Hanover. His son, whom he disliked intensely and frequently tried to disown, succeeds him as George II.


George I: after the German/British portrait painter Sir Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723), c1714 – National Portrait Gallery, London. Walpole: by the English painter and engraver Arthur Pond (1701-1758), date unknown – National Portrait Gallery, London. Coat of Arms: licensed under Creative Commons. Author: Sodacan –


















Snippets During George1 reign Synopsis of George 1 Reign

Timewise Traveller is a free non-profit resource. However, if you have found it of interest/value and would like to show your appreciation, the author would welcome any contribution to Cancer Research UK.

To visit our Cancer Research page and make a small donation, click