The House of Windsor, the royal family of the United Kingdom has been a major stabilizing factor in Britain for generations. The royals have attempted periodically to change with the times including a name change in the early part of the last century. Before World War I the House of Windsor went by its original name which was the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
This surname came from the husband of Queen Victoria, Albert the Prince Consort. Queen Victoria herself was from the House of Hanover. On the death of Queen Victoria the throne of Britain would pass to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in the person of her son, Edward VII.
The last of the Hanover's would be Queen Victoria herself who reigned from 1837 to 1901. In all there were six monarchs from the Hanover dynasty that ruled the United Kingdom from 1714 to 1901. The Kingdom of Hanover was joined to the British crown until 1837. Under continental Salic Law, a woman was barred from the throne of Hanover. When Victoria ascended to the British throne, the throne of Hanover went to her first cousin Ernest Augustus.
The House of Hanover itself would come to the throne of the United Kingdom over the issue of religion. It was a direct result of a lack of a suitable heir in the House of Stuart following the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Despite 17 pregnancies Anne died without surviving children at the age of 49. It would be during her reign in 1707 that England and Scotland would unite and create the United Kingdom.
Upon Anne's death the throne then passed to her second cousin George I from the House of Hanover. George was a descendant of the Stuart lineage through his maternal grandmother. His grandmother Elizabeth was the daughter of King James I of England who was also known as James VI of Scotland.
The Stuarts themselves had come to the throne of England following the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 which had brought the Tudor Dynasty to an end.
Although there were over 50 Roman Catholics that bore a closer blood relationship to Anne, the Act of Settlement of 1701 prohibited Catholics from inheriting the British throne. George of Hanover was actually Anne's closest living Protestant relative.
George I would come to the throne at the age of 54 since his mother the heir to the British throne had died 2 months before Queen Anne. His mother Sophia of Hanover claimed her dearest wish was to have engraved on her tombstone that she had been Queen of Great Britain. Her reign would have been a short one regardless since she was 84 at the time of her death.
The English people were not impressed with George I. He did not speak English and seemed to have no wish to learn the language of his new subjects. He arrived in England with two mistresses who were later named “the Elephant and the Maypole.”
There was an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne of the United Kingdom the following year but the revolt failed and was over by 1716.
The monarchy lost power during these years partly because of the language barrier and the estrangement between the King and his heir the Prince of Wales who would become George II upon his father's death in 1727.
George II who had not been allowed to see his own mother for over 30 years as well as his own children at one time by his father the King came to the throne unreconciled to the former monarch. One of his first acts as King was to make away with his father's will.
Against his minster's wishes George would declare war on Spain in 1739. The war would continue and eventually the English were attempting to prevent French hegemony on the European continent. George would be the last British monarch to lead his troops into battle which occurred in 1743. This action would be a significant victory for the British Army during the War of the Austrian Succession.
The Jacobite Rebellion would occur in 1745. It was another attempt by the Stuarts to regain the British throne. It would ultimately fail after some initial success.
George III would succeed his grandfather on the throne in 1760. Frederick the father of George III had died in 1751. George II would not attend his son's funeral and both parents had not been fond of the former Prince of Wales.
George III although of German descent was the first Hanoverian king to be born in Britain. Unlike his two predecessors George III was to become popular with the people of Britain. The new King took his role as monarch seriously and lead a good domestic life which gained him respect from the people he ruled over.
His relationship with his own son George following the Hanoverian pattern was quite strained.
He became quite ill in 1788 with what today some claim to be porphyria a disease of the blood. He gradually recovered but the illness returned in 1810. Some of the symptoms make the patient appear not of sound mind.
His son would soon be appointed Regent and George III would spend the last 10 years of his life a recluse. He was left neglected, unkempt as well as being blind and deaf. He would die in 1820 after a 60 year reign.
George IV being the eldest of the fifteen children born to his father George III was a leading figure in fashionable society. He became known as the first gentleman of Europe for his polished and fine manners. His won his fathers disapproval with the associates he kept and the mounting debts incurred.
In 1795 he was forced to enter into an arranged marriage in order to induce Parliament to pay his huge debts. His new wife Caroline was said to be unattractive and did not seem too concerned with personal hygiene. After fulfilling his duty by helping to produce an heir George would soon abandon his wife. She was unable to see her daughter regularly and in 1799 was banished. She then went abroad and by all reports lead a scandalous life
George IV would outlive his only daughter and heir. She would die young from complications developing after the birth of a son who was stillborn. Another scandal would follow upon his coming to the throne with the return of his wife from abroad. She was denied entry at his coronation.
During his reign he would begin major restorations of Windsor Castle and Buckingham House making them more of what we recognize today. George IV would die in very poor health in 1830 succeeded by his brother William IV.
William IV would ascend the throne at the age of 69. His reign was rather short because of his advanced years and poor health. He would die without any living children so the throne would now pass to his niece the 18 year old Victoria in 1837.