by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
We do know that Georg Ludwig, installed as King George I, was an unappealing figure. He spoke no English and communicated with ministers in French, the language of European courts. He had shut his wife up in a German castle and brought over two mistresses, one fat and one skinny, and gave them titles of nobility.
He spent enough time in his native Hanover to prompt consideration of a law barring monarchs from leaving the kingdom without permission from parliament.
He and his son George II and chief minister, Sir Robert Walpole, were loathed by the chattering classes of the day. Jonathan Swift’s diatribes and fables, John Gay’s “Beggar’s Opera” and Samuel Johnson’s commentary pilloried the Hanoverians as corrupt and in league with the bankers and financiers of the City of London.
The anti-Hanoverian Cato’s Letters and Bolingbroke’s Idea of a Patriot King provided arguments and inspiration to the Founding Fathers in North America.
But despite their unpopularity, the Hanoverians served Britain well. Freedom of expression became ingrained. Commerce boomed and generated capital for the Industrial Revolution. The Bank of England enabled Britain to borrow cheaply enough to match and exceed the massive military capacity of France.
Under the Hanoverian kings, the North American colonies enjoyed benign neglect, leaving their local legislatures and town meetings as incubators of the ideas that made America united and free.