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Reign of George II

Accession of George II. - A New Parliament called - Onslow elected Speaker- Frederick, Prince of Wales, comes from Hanover - East India Company's Charter prolonged - A Bill passed, erdering all Pleadings and Processes of Law to be in English - Duke of Wharton dies - Pragmatic Sanction ratified - Stanislaus and Augustus both elected Kings of Poland- Spaniards conquer Sicily - Duke of Berwick killed before Philipsburg - Prince of Wales marries Augusta of Saxe Gotha - Don Carlos acknowledged King of Naples and Sicily - Riot in Edinburgh, and Captain Porteus hanged by the Mob - Prince of Wales and his Family dismissed from St. James's Palace - Queen Caroline dies - Princess of Orange comes to England, but is sent back to Holland - War with Spain proclaimed - Admiral Vernon captures Porto Bello - King of Prussia dies, and is succeeded by Frederick the Great - Emperor Charles VI. dies - Anne, Czarina of Russia, dies, and is succeeded by Elizabeth - Empress Maria Theresa succeeds to Charles VI. - The King of Prussia invades Austria - Anson's Store-ship, the "Wager," wrecked at Cape Horn - The King announces to Parliament his determination to support Maria Theresa- Battle of Molwitz - King of Prussia takes Brieg - George concludes a Year's Neutrality with him - Carthagena and Cuba unsuccessfully attacked by the English - King of Prussia takes Prague, Breslau, &c. - The Empress summons the Hungarian Nobles at Presburg, and they declare in her Favour; but the King of Bavaria is crowned King of Bohemia, and elected Emperor by the title of Charles VII.
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George II. was born in 1683, and was, consequently, in his forty-fourth year when he ascended the throne. In 1705 he married the princess Caroline Wilhelmina, of Anspach, who was horn in the same year as himself, by whom he had now four children - Frederick, prince of Wales, born in 1707, and William, duke of Cumberland, born in 1721.

George had, if either, a narrower intellect than his father, but could speak English fluently, though with a foreign accent - a great advantage over his predecessor. He was small of stature, and subject to fits of violent passion, neither of which qualities were conducive to royal dignity. Nor did the qualities of his mind supply any advantages calculated to remedy these defects. He was possessed of courage, which he had proved at the battle of Oudenarde, and did again at Dettingen; and he was praised for justice, which his first act, the suppression of his father's will, did not by any means demonstrate. In filial virtue we have seen that he was totally deficient, and this want was exhibited towards himself in his son, the prince of Wales, who scandalised the nation on his arrival by the same hostility to his father as George had exhibited towards George I. Perhaps it was a love of order and etiquette rather than justice which distinguished the present monarch. For his sort of military precision and love of soldiers he was nicknamed "the little captain" by the Jacobites. But the vilest trait of his disposition was his avarice, which was the more odious in a monarch who had everything liberally provided for him by the nation. He was said to have had his purse continually in his hands, not for the purpose of benevolent distribution, but for the mere love of his coin; and one of his bedchamber women, to whom he was making love, after seeing him count over his money many times, exclaimed, "Sir, I can bear it no longer; if you count your money once more, I will leave the room." He admitted, says lord Chesterfield, that he was much more affected by little things than great ones - the certain mark of a little mind; he therefore troubled himself very little about religion, but took it as he found it, without doubt, objection, or inquiry. He hated and despised all literature and intellectual pursuit, arts and sciences, and the professors of them; and was such a mere mechanical plodder, that lord Hervey observes that "he seems to think having done a thing to-day an unanswerable reason for doing it to-morrow." Like his father, he had his mistresses; but they were some of them English and good-looking; and his best merits were that he was a good man of business, and contented to leave alone the liberties of the nation so long as he could enjoy his mistresses, his money, and his trips to Hanover.

As for the queen, she was a far superior person. She had been well brought up on the second marriage of her mother after the death of her father, by the queen of Prussia, Sophia Charlotte, the sister of George I. She had been handsome till she grew corpulent and suffered from the small-pox; and still she was much admired for her very impressive countenance, her fine voice, penetrating eye, and the grace and sweetness of her manner. She was still more admired for the striking contrast which she presented to her husband in her love of literature and literary men, extending her interest and inquiries into philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Those who are inclined to ridicule her pretence to such knowledge admit that she was equally distinguished by prudence and good sense. She combined in her manners royal dignity and unassuming grace, and was more popular with the nation than any one of the Hanover family had ever yet been. "Her levees," says archdeacon Coxe, "were a strange picture of the motley character and manners of a queen and a learned woman. She received company whilst she was at her toilet; prayers, and sometimes a sermon were read; learned men and divines were intermixed with courtiers and ladies of the household; the conversation turned on metaphysical subjects, blended with repartees, sallies of mirth, and the tittle-tattle of a drawing-room." Lord Mahon adds that" on the table, perhaps, lay heaped together the newest ode by Stephen Duck upon her beauty, her last letter from Leibnitz upon Free Will, and the most high-wrought panegyric of Dr. Clarke on her 4 inimitable sweetness of temper," impartial love of truth,' and 4 very particular and uncommon degree of knowledge, even on matters of the most abstract speculation.' " She delighted to engage theologians in discussing knotty points of doctrine, and in perplexing them with questions on the various articles of faith in different churches, and corresponded with them on these subjects through her bed-chamber woman, Mrs. Clayton, afterwards lady Sundon.

In fact, allowing for the tendency of men to satires a woman's taste in such things, Caroline seems to have desired to introduce a more elevated and intellectual tone into the English court; to make it more what it had been under the Tudors in this respect, and what it has never succeeded in being under the Hanoverian dynasty, even down to our own time. But the best proofs of queen Caroline's superiority- were shown in her pure, moral character, which was free from the slightest stain, and in her quick discernment and substantial promotion of the most able men in the church. Through her influence were elevated to the episcopal bench such men as Hare, Sherlock, and Butler, and such unprincipled and heartless men as Swift were kept from desecrating it. Through her, too, as long as she lived, the king was influenced to the discharge of his duties as a king, though she managed her power with such tact, that she seemed never to dictate or presume. She inspired the king, and he acted, believing himself to be directed by his own wisdom. Towards his foibles she was more than "a little kind." She not only tolerated his principal mistress, Mrs. Howard, afterwards countess of Suffolk, in the palace, but used banteringly to call her "sister Howard," and employed her at her toilet, and otherwise about her person.

The wits in the opposition, Swift, Gay, Pope, Arbuthnot, Bolingbroke, Peterborough, and others, imagining, as is commonly the case, that the mistress would have more power than the wife, paid all their court to lady Suffolk, and found out their blunder too late. Walpole, a deeper reader of human nature, from the first saw the truth, and herein showed himself a far profounder diplomatist than Bolingbroke. Such were the moral and intellectual elements prevailing in the court of George II. at its opening.

For a moment, however, Walpole appeared about to fall from his altitude, and the Jacobite faction was in ecstasies. The dispatch of Townshend announcing the king's death in Germany arrived in London on the 14th of June, and was soon followed by himself. Walpole instantly hastened to the palace of Richmond, where the prince of Wales resided, and was told that the prince was taking his usual afternoon siesta. He desired that he might be awoke, in consequence of important intelligence. George, suddenly aroused, rushed forth half dressed to learn the urgent business, when Walpole knelt down and kissed his hand, informing him of his father's decease, and that he was king. George was at first incredulous, but Walpole produced Townshend's dispatch, and inquired whom his majesty would be pleased to appoint to draw up the necessary declaration to the privy council, trusting that it would be himself. To his consternation and chagrin, the king said abruptly, "Compton;" and Walpole withdrew in deep vexation, imagining his own reign was at an end.

He waited on Sir Spencer Compton with the royal command. This gentleman, who was the second surviving son of the earl of Northampton, had long been, with lord Scarborough, the prince's chief favourite. Compton had conducted himself very well in the speaker's chair, where certain parliamentary knowledge and tact are needed rather than great abilities; but he felt himself totally unfit to wield the difficult affairs of a nation. He was confounded at the proposal to draw up the declaration to the privy council, and begged Walpole to do it for him. Walpole instantly recovered his spirits. He saw that such a man could never be his rival, and he advised his colleagues, if they went out of office, not to engage in any violent opposition, as they would soon be wanted again. He knew, too, that he had the queen in his favour, who was too clearheaded not to see that Walpole was alone the man for the time. He had also perceived her talent, her sound judgment, and the influence she was sure to acquire; and he had, accordingly, cultivated her goodwill. To complete his favour with her, he offered to procure her a jointure from parliament of one hundred thousand pounds a year, whilst the impolitic Compton had only proposed sixty thousand pounds. The queen did not oppose the king's attempt to change the ministry, but she impressed him with the danger of disturbing an already powerful and prosperous cabinet; and she made him aware of the fact that Compton had been compelled to get Walpole to draw up the declaration. Besides the liberal jointure which he promised, she added that he intended to add one hundred and thirty thousand pounds to the civil list. Horace Walpole, arriving from Paris, threw his whole weight into the scale, representing difficulties which must beset foreign negotiations in new hands. These combined circumstances told strongly on George; but the finish was put to Compton's government by his feeling overwhelmed by his own incompetence, and resigning the charge. The king had, therefore, nothing for it but to re-appoint the old ministry again. Some slight modifications took place. Lord Berkeley, who had joined the opposition of Carteret and Roxburgh, was replaced by lord Torrington, and Compton received the title of lord Wilmington, the order of the garter, and the presidency of the council.

The opposition was confounded. It had begun to triumph in the fall of Walpole, and his son relates that when the throng of nobility and gentry crowded to kiss the royal hands and congratulate them on their accession, and his mother, lady Walpole, the wife of the fallen minister, made her appearance, she was treated with great rudeness. The crowd of titled vulgar sturdily held her back by their scornful looks and elbows, so that she could not approach nearer than the third or fourth ring. The queen, however, instantly descried her, and exclaimed aloud, "There, I am sure, I see a friend!" The effect was instantaneous, and the lady herself observed, u I might have walked over their heads if I had pleased." The servile crew perceived they had made a blunder. Parliament, in accordance with the act of settlement, ought to have met the day after the announcement of the death of the late king, which would have been June 15th, but it was prorogued to the 27th.

The king, in his speech, made the usual avowal of regret for the death of a father whom he had never respected when alive, and the equally matter of course ones - that he would maintain the constitution and the civil and religious rights of his subjects. The address of condolence and congratulation was moved by Sir Paul Methuen and seconded by Walpole, and carried unanimously. These formalities settled, Walpole proposed that though the revenue of the civil list was found to produce one hundred and thirty thousand pounds more than the seven hundred thousand pounds allowed to the late king, the whole should be settled on his majesty for life. Not a man except Shippen raised a word of opposition. That stanch Jacobite declared that the civil list of queen Anne had amounted only to five hundred thousand pounds, and that the same sum had been twice voted during the late king's reign; that the highest sum granted to George I. was seven hundred thousand pounds, and it had been hoped that considerable retrenchments would be made, especially in the items of journeys to Hanover. No voice, however, was raised to support him, and the whole eight hundred and thirty thousand pounds were voted, as well as the one hundred thousand pounds for the queen's jointure, without remonstrance.

The course of events on the succession of George II. was a great blow to the cause of the pretender. Instead of any trouble, as they hoped, they found the spirit of loyalty towards tue new dynasty greatly on the increase. The pretender was at Bologna when he heard of the king's death. The dispute with his wife had continued, and he had resisted many representations from his friends, of the impolicy of their keeping before the world their disunions on account of the titular earl of Inverness. Matters had lately, however, been somewhat accommodated. He had agreed, though with every sign of reluctance, to dismiss Inverness, and Clementina, thus mollified, had quitted her convent and agreed to set out to join her husband. Both she and the pretender were on the way to meet, when the news of the death of George I. reached them. The pretender turned quickly and hastened towards Lorraine. He dispatched letters from Nancy to Atterbury in Paris, to lord Orrery in London, and sent Allan Cameron, one of his most trusty servants, to confer with Lockhart of Carnwath, at Liege. James, spite of the little prospect of aid from abroad, or preparation at home in Iiis favour, was eager to repair to the Highlands and make another essay. This foolish design was encouraged by Inverness, but both Lockhart and Clephane declared that the attempt would be sheer madness, and the answers from Atterbury and from London were as decisively against it. They declared that no attempt without a powerful army and general aid from abroad would be of any use.

Whilst suffering this disappointment, the pretender was not allowed even to remain quiet on the continent. The English court demanded that he should be ordered to quit Lorraine, and the duke dared not disobey the injunction of France on that head. By the advice of Atterbury, he retired to Avignon; but he was not permitted to continue even there. France obtained his removal, and the next spring he returned to Rome and joined his wife, where they continued to live for some years in apparent harmony. Those who saw Clementina during that period, describe her as of graceful and kindly manners, and equally distinguished for her quiet good sense and benevolence. Inverness, though still greatly regarded by the pretender, was kept at a distance, in compliance with her wishes. He generally lived at Avignon, but the earl of Dunbar, James's other favourite, retained his influence in their little court.

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