King George II reigned between 1727 and 1760. He succeeded his father, George I, King of Great Britain and Ireland and was the last British monarch to be born outside the country. A great linguist, he was born in Germany but spoke only French until the age of four. Later in his childhood, he learned German, English and Italian.
So, what else do we know about this popular monarch, who was known for his performance on the battle fields as much as his activities at Court? Here are ten interesting facts about King George II, the second Hanoverian King of Great Britain.
1- Hanoverian beginnings
King George 2nd was born in Hanover in Germany in 1683. His parents’ marriage ended when he was 11 years old due to adultery and his mother, Sophia Dorothea of Celle, was imprisoned, never to see her children again. Young George established an early interest in military history and battle tactics that would serve him well as king.
2- Family conflicts
Growing up, he didn’t always see eye to eye with his father. In fact, the two often argued and he was even banned from visiting St James’s Palace at one stage; his father’s royal residence. He did not attend his father’s funeral in Germany, which earned him much praise due to his perceived loyalty to Britain.
3- Queen Caroline and King George II
King George II married Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach in 1705. He travelled to her home in disguise in order to ‘inspect’ her and make sure she was suitable for marriage. They had a happy marriage, which produced three sons and five daughters, although several died in childhood. The couple’s oldest child was called Frederick Louis and he was born in 1707. He was made Prince of Wales when his father was crowned in 1714, following the death of Queen Anne.
4- 1727 Coronation – and Zadok the Priest
The composer George Frideric Handel, later known for his 1741 oratorio, The Messiah, wrote the anthem for the Coronation of King George II at Westminster Abbey in October 1727. Zadok the Priest was a majestic, ornate piece of music that was fit for a new king. The words came from the Bible, specifically 1 Kings 1:38-40, which describes how Zadok the Priest anointed the new King, Solomon. The anthem has been sung at Coronations ever since, including that of Great Britain’s current monarch, King Charles III, in May 2023.
5- A peaceful start to his reign
The first twelve years of George II’s reign were relatively peaceful, thanks in no small part to Britain’s first Prime Minster, Sir Robert Walpole. Various medals were produced to mark points in his life, including family relationships, e.g. the 1732 George II royal family historical medallion, made by J Crocker and JS Tanner that depicted part of the King George II family tree. However, the peaceful state didn’t last and by 1739, Britain was facing escalating conflicts with various European neighbours.
Discover the Medallion: 1732 George II - Royal Family Historical Medallion by J Croker / J S Tanner
6- Trouble closer to home
In 1745, the height of another Jacobite rebellion arrived. Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland, ready to take over the throne of King George II. Although he was able to push quite far into England with his supporters, the rebellion was eventually quelled and Bonnie Prince Charlie fled back to Scotland. They were finally defeated at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746.
7- Military leadership in Europe
In 1742, George II’s son, Frederick Louis formed a political group that opposed his father’s Whig government and forced Walpole to resign. He was replaced by John Carteret, who used his position to take England into the War of Austrian Succession that was happening in Europe. George II was the last British monarch to lead his troops in person on the battlefield during this war, fighting against the French at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743. The War of Austrian Succession ended in 1748, when a peace treaty was signed at the Free Imperial City of Aachen. It was called the Treaty of Aix-la Chapelle, or the Treaty of Aachen.
Discover the Medallion: 1749 George II Peace of Aix La Chapelle Historical Medallion by J Kirk
8- Leaving an academic legacy
King George II had little interest in academia, preferring pursuits like military history, hunting and playing cards. Nevertheless, he donated the entirety of his royal library to the British Library in 1737 and founded the Georg August University in Göttingen in Hanover. He also served as Chancellor of the University of Dubin between 1716 and 1727 and issued the charter for King’s College in New York City in 1754. The George II State of England Historical Medallion was also struck in 1750.
Discover the Medallion: 1750 George II State of England Historical Medallion by J A Dassier
9- How did King George II die?
King George II died in 1760 from a thoracis aortic dissection. He was also blind in one eye and hard of hearing by the time he passed away. His death came nine years after his son, Frederick Louis died following a cricket injury that damaged his lung. His Grandson inherited the throne and ruled from 1760 as King of England, George III. King George III is now thought to have suffered from a medical condition known as porphyria. His health struggles became the subject of a 1995 blockbuster film called The Madness of King George.
10- Reunited in death
When King George died, he was buried in a vault under the Lady Chapel at Kensington Palace. He was laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Caroline, who had pre-deceased him in 1737. The sides of their two coffins were removed so that their remains could mingle and reunite after death.