Thursday, 24 June 2010
Dear old George II, sometimes German Geordie, in many ways the architect of his own unpopularity: rude, opinionated, lacking in any of the social graces, boastful and insufferably pompous!
But he was not, by any measure, a bad king, and his reign was one of the most successful, perhaps the most successful, in all of British history. One has to remember that the early Hanoverian period was a time when constitutional power was shifting away from the monarch towards the prime minister, so George was never destined to be cast in the same central role as either Henry VIII or Charles II. Even so, he showed good judgement in his steady support for Robert Walpole and Henry Pelham, two of the most competent ministers ever to serve the crown. Contrast the reign, moreover, with the upheavals of Henry's and the foreign policy disasters of Charles.
By 1760, as George's reign drew to a close, Britain stood high in the world, as high as it ever had, replacing France as the premier power. In 1759, the last full year of George's reign, the church bells were said to be worn out with ringing for victory: Robert Clive in India, James Wolfe in Quebec, Edward Hawke at Quiberon Bay. George deserves to be remembered with greater affection.