Hanoverian England – Walpole and Pitt

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King George I of England

King George I of England

Because Queen Anne had no children, and no Catholic could be king or queen, when Anne died in 1717 AD her cousin George – James I‘s great-grandson – became King George I of England. George was born in Germany and grew up speaking German and ruling part of Germany. And he was already 54 years old. So it seemed funny to have him become King of England!

Parliament took over more and more power instead, and soon the Prime Minister, Robert Walpole, made most of the decisions. Under Walpole, England’s navy got stronger and stronger. It was stronger than Spain’s navy, or any other navy in the world. British ships carried millions of enslaved Africans to the Americas. Walpole started to take over India from the Mughals and the French.

Robert Walpole - a white man with a long white wig on

Robert Walpole, the Prime Minister

George’s son George II ruled after him, starting in 1727, but Walpole continued to hold the real power. He made alliances with the Iroquois against the French king Louis XV and the Algonquin. Walpole sent settlers to conquer Cherokee and Shawnee land in North America south of the Carolinas. The invaders named their new land Georgia after the king. There was more fighting over who would control Spain. Walpole lost power in 1742, and first Carteret and then Pitt ended up controlling Parliament.

William Pitt - a white man with short gray hair and a dark suit

William Pitt, the Prime Minister

Then in 1760 George II’s grandson ruled as George III. This is the George who was king when Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. But even though Jefferson addressed the Declaration to the King, really it was the Prime Minister who was making the decisions. In 1775, the British army attacked the Maratha Empire to get control of northern India. Then in the late 1770s Britain lost their North American colonies in the American Revolution. As a result, to keep the British spinning and weaving factories supplied with plenty of cotton, in the 1780s the Prime Minister William Pitt organizedcotton-growing in British colonies in Africa, and forced Indian cotton-growers to sell raw cotton to Britain instead of weaving it into cloth. In 1793, Pitt joined Austria, Prussia, and Spain in fighting against the French Revolution. By 1796, this put them all at war with Napoleon, and in 1803 they helped keep Haiti free from French control.

Spencer Perceval: a white man with short gray hair

Spencer Perceval

George III’s son George IV took over in 1810, because George III was suffering from mental illness and couldn’t rule. So it was George IV’s prime minister, Spencer Perceval, who killed the leaders of the Luddites – rioting knitting-workers who wanted decent pay – and forced the rest to go back to work. Perceval’s successor, Robert Jenkinson, ran the War of 1812, and defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. In 1817, Jenkinson attacked the Maratha Empire and took control of central India too. George IV died without sons so his younger brother William became king.

Because of public protests, William’s prime minister Charles Grey passed a Reform Act in 1832 that gave the vote to many more men in England and Wales (no women could vote yet). After the Reform Act, about one in five adult men could vote. This was still only about 5% of the total population in England, and completely left out Britain’s colonies.

Victorian England
Anne of Austria in France
Cherokee and Shawnee

Bibliography and further reading about Hanoverian England:


Victorian England
British India
Anne of Austria in France
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By | 2018-04-08T11:14:22+00:00 August 5th, 2017|History, Modern Europe|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Hanoverian England – Walpole and Pitt. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 5, 2017. Web. April 20, 2018.

About the Author:

Karen Carr
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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