George I (George Louis), 1660–1727, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1714–27); son of Sophia, electress of Hanover, and great-grandson of James I. He became (1698) elector of Hanover, fought in the War of the Spanish Succession, and in 1714 succeeded Queen Anne under the provisions of the Act of Settlement, becoming the first British sovereign of the house of Hanover. He was personally unpopular in England because of his German manners, his German mistresses (see Schulenburg, Ehrengard Melusina von der, duchess of Kendal), his treatment of his divorced wife, Sophia Dorothea, and his inability to speak English. George's dual role as elector of Hanover and king of England also raised problems; he spent much of his time in Hanover and was widely (although unjustly) believed to be indifferent to English affairs. Yet, despite the uprising of the Jacobites in 1715, his crown was never in danger, for he stood to Englishmen as the guarantee of the "revolution settlement" against a return of the Roman Catholic Stuarts. George's succession brought the Whigs to power, and the early years of his reign saw constant maneuvering for power among his ministers—the 1st Earl Stanhope, the 3d earl of Sunderland, Viscount Townshend, and Robert Walpole. The principal achievement of these years was the Quadruple Alliance of 1718, which provided an international guarantee of the Hanoverian succession and the status quo of the Peace of Utrecht (1713). Rising to power in the South Sea Bubble crisis, Walpole dominated the end of the reign, beginning his long tenure as virtual prime minister. George was succeeded by his son, George II.
See biography by J. H. Plumb, The First Four Georges (1956); A. Redman, The House of Hanover (1960, repr. 1968); B. Williams, The Whig Supremacy, 1714–60 (2d ed. 1962); R. Hatton, George the First: Elector and King (1978).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.