England's Kings and Queens of the 18th Century
by Rick Brainard
The 18th century was the Age of Revolution. Revolutions in thinking especially in the way, people thought about government and who held the power. We see these changes in the movement towards democracy.
To be sure not the type of Democracy of the 20th century but the beginnings of this form of government. The Roots of Democracy as we know it today can be found in England during the mid-17th century. Parliamentary Democracy challenged and to a certain extent, replaced Monarchial rule.
The Monarchy became a "ceremonial head" of government. Where the government is now in the hands of the Prime Minister, and the monarch only presides at ceremonial and traditional events.
The British Monarchy
The British Empire at the time of the 18th century was just beginning. Today however, all that is left of this once great empire is the Nation and Commonwealth of Great Britain.
The two main houses of rule during the 18th century were:
1. The House of Stuart
The Stuarts reigned over Britain during the 17th century to the early 18th century. In fact, the Stuarts were forcefully removed from the throne during the Glorious Revolution. In 1689, William and Mary came to power after they agreed to Parliaments conditions. They continued to rule until 1714, when Queen Anne died.
2. The House of Hanover
In 1714, the new house, the Hanoverians of Germany came to the throne of Britain. This House presided over England during the American and French Revolutions. Of all the Kings of this House, George III, actually tried to rule as King of the British Empire. George III was also known as the "Mad King."
By looking at each monarch, and a few of their accomplishments, gives you an idea of the state of political affairs in the world at this time. However, by no means complete, it will give you an idea on how the world was beginning to view politics. We will begin with the House of Stuart.
House of Stuarts
William III and Mary II (until her death in 1694)
Parliament was careful to lay down conditions for the new sovereigns. William and Mary accepted its Declaration of Rights, and Parliament speedily enacted it into law as the famous Bill of Rights.
The act made the king responsible to Parliament and subject to the law and provided that henceforth no Roman Catholic could wear England's crown. Parliament, and not inheritance or divine right, would determine the succession to the throne.
This was the fruit of the so-called
Glorious Revolution, a revolution without bloodshed. John Locke published a defense of the Revolution in which he proclaimed the supremacy of the legislative assembly as the voice of the people.
During their reign, they had resided over the war of the Spanish Succession. Here is William's address to Parliament on the "French Question."
The most notable event during Anne's reign was The Act of Union (1707), which united England with Scotland into a single kingdom, called Great Britain, and joined their Parliaments. Thereafter the government and the Parliament in London was called British rather than English. Since 1603, the two nations had been loosely associated under the same king.
To learn more about this act read this article from the Highlander Web Magazine.
House of Hanover
George did not speak English, and he was involved in his beloved Hanover that he took little interest in British affairs. He soon began to stay away from meetings of his inner council, or cabinet, and left the government in the hands of Sir Robert Walpole, the able Whig leader.
George II, who ruled 1727-60, also stayed away from meetings of his ministers. Walpole, who became the first Prime minister of the government, selected his colleagues, and insisted they work with him or leave the cabinet.
Before the Seven Years' War ended, George III began his 60-year reign, 1760-1820. Determined to "be a king" and quite unfit to be one, he got rid of Pitt and put his own Tory friends in power.
The Tory government imposed new taxes on the American Colonies. The colonists insisted the British Parliament had no right to tax them without their consent. Pitt and Edmund Burke counseled compromise, but George III and his ministers obstinately insisted on their course.
He sent troops to enforce the decrees, and the colonists met force with force. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a Declaration of Independence. Two years later France entered the war on the side of the colonists. The Americans finally won their independence, and Britain lost the most valuable part of its colonial empire.
George III's attempt at personal rule was completely discredited. Parliament regained its leadership. William Pitt, second son of the earl of Chatham, became prime minister in 1783 and held the position for 17 years.
For an interesting look into these Monarchs and others that were a part of the British government you can visit Monarchs of Britain at Britannia.com.
This list of famous, or infamous if you prefer, individuals will help you get started.
Portions of this article are Excerpted from Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia Copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton's NewMedia, Inc.