George II, king of Great Britain and Ireland

George II (George Augustus), 1683–1760, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1727–60), son and successor of George I. Though devoted to Hanover, of which he was elector, George was more active in the English government than his father had been. Caroline of Ansbach (whom he married in 1705), through the subtle influence she exerted over him, furthered the ascendancy of the great Whig minister, Sir Robert Walpole. The early part of his reign was peaceful and notably prosperous. However, just as George had quarreled with his father over personal matters, so Frederick Louis, prince of Wales, was strongly at odds with the king and became nominal head of the opposition group that ousted Walpole in 1742. In the War of the Austrian Succession, George led his troops in person at the battle of Dettingen (1743)—the last time a British monarch did so. In 1745–46 the last uprising of the Jacobites was suppressed. England was expanding as a commercial and colonial power and clashed with France in India and in America (see French and Indian Wars) as well as in Europe in the complex struggle known as the Seven Years War (1756–63). The principal ministers after the fall of Walpole were Henry Pelham, his brother, Thomas Pelham-Holles, duke of Newcastle, and William Pitt, later earl of Chatham, the architect of England's victory in the Seven Years War. George was succeeded by his grandson George III.

See J. H. Plumb, The First Four Georges (1956); B. Williams, The Whig Supremacy, 1714–60 (2d ed. 1962); H. Walpole, Memoirs of King George II: The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Memoirs (ed. by J. Brooke, 1985).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies