Andrew Thompson (Cambridge University) - Fathers and sons: the politics of intergenerational conflict and the Hanoverian monarchy (Special lecture)

seminar report

The conflicts which abounded between the first generations of the Hanoverian monarchs of Britain must at the moment be examined in the context of the many exhibitions and conferences exploring the early Hanoverians. But they must also be understood in the light of eighteenth-century assumptions and practices. The role of successive princes of Wales, the nature of their position, in particular, needs to be considered. The ruling dynasty in Hanover, and their state, should be understood, too. In the politics of northwestern Europe, the Hanoverian electors played a far more prominent role than British historians have often assumed. This had important implications for the Hanoverians as British rulers with powerful continental interests. From their first months in Britain, the Hanoverians confronted difficult issues of moral and political corruption, religious debate and party conflict which continued, as had been true since the 1660s, to play themselves out in court politics. Besides, Hanoverian fathers and their sons often had powerful personal resentments which fuelled generational conflict. Perhaps inevitably, successive princes of Wales became enmeshed in the ensuing conflicts. On the religious issue they very successfully — and early on — established their firm Protestant credentials and promoted Anglicanism’s identification with liberty, often using artistic images to do so. On other issues, misunderstanding and conflict between Hanoverian monarchs and their heirs were exacerbated by, or even originated in, court and party quarrels. The discontented found it profitable to make trouble for the monarch by befriending unhappy princes of Wales, without challenging the fundamentals of the Protestant succession. In such conditions, management by the monarch of the Hanoverian family and of the court were especially closely related. Both were inextricably linked to Britain’s political system. Yet, despite conflict with the future George II, George I, at least, deserves greater credit than usually afforded him for the dynasty’s successful transition from Hanoverian to British conditions. CCN