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George II
George II

[q.v.], speaker of the House of Commons (Coxe, Walpole, i. 116-33, 271; Parl. Hist. vii. 594-624; Lady Cowper, 129 et seq.; Boyer, 1720, pt. i. 450, 660; Hervey, ii. 475-9; Suffolk Corresp. i. 53;Walpole, Reminiscences, cvi et seq.; Lebensbeschreibung, 51-5). On the death of George I, the news was carried to the prince at Richmond by Sir Robert Walpole (14 June). The new king received the intelligence without any display of emotion, and curtly told Walpole to go to Chiswick and take his instructions from Sir Spencer Compton, whom he thus designated prime minister. The king forthwith proceeded to Leicester House, where he held his first council the same day. At the meeting the archbishop of Canterbury produced the late king's will, in the expectation that it would be read. The king, however, put it in his pocket, and it was seen no more. A duplicate had been deposited with the Duke of Brunswick, and rumours of its contents got abroad. It contained a legacy to the queen of Prussia, no part of which was ever paid, though Frederick the Great, soon after his accession, endeavoured to recover it by diplomatic action (Glover, p. 55; Hervey, i. 30 et seq.; Marchmont Papers, ii. 412; Walpole, Reminiscences, cxvi et seq.; Frederick the Great, Polit. Corresp. i. 38).

Compton declined to form an administration. The king, by the advice of the queen, continued Walpole in office, who in return arranged that the civil list should be settled on a scale of unprecedented liberality, 830,000l. in lieu of a previous 700,000l., that 50,000l. should be allowed for the queen's establishment, with Somerset House and Richmond Lodge for her residences, and that her jointure should be fixed at 100,000l. The king replaced Lord Berkeley by Sir George Byng, Viscount Torrington, at the admiralty, but made no other material change in the administration. The coronation ceremony was performed on 11 Oct. with great magnificence, the queen being ablaze from head to foot with jewels, most of them hired. On his birthday (30 Oct.) the king went in state with the queen and royal family to dine with the lord mayor at Guildhall. In April 1728 he visited Cambridge, and received from the university the degree of D.D.; on 29 Sept. he assumed his stall as sovereign of the order of the Garter at Windsor. The continuance of Walpole in office disappointed many hopes both at home and abroad. The party which had gathered round the prince during his disgrace tried vainly to regain favour by paying court first to Mrs. Howard, and then to Mrs. Clayton, afterwards Lady Sundon. Lord Scarborough remained master of the horse, Sir Spencer Compton was created Lord Wilmington (1728), Lord Hervey became the favourite of the queen, Argyll and Chesterfield gradually drifted into opposition. Abroad it had been generally anticipated that the king's accession would be followed by a change of policy. Articles had been signed preliminary to a congress of the great powers to arrange a general pacification, but pretexts were found by the Spanish court to defer the ratification. Meanwhile the emperor menaced Hanover, the siege of Gibraltar was not raised, Spanish men-of-war and privateers continued to harass English commerce. The continuity of Walpole's policy, however, remained unbroken. By retaining in British pay the twelve thousand Hessians hired by the late king, and subsidising the Duke of Brunswick, he defeated the emperor's designs on Hanover, and Spain at length ratified the articles. The congress met at Soissons on 14 June (N.S.) 1728, and broke up without any material result except the detachment of the emperor from Spain. Spain, thus isolated, was reduced to conclude a separate peace with Great Britain by the treaty of Seville, 9 Nov. (N.S.) 1729 (Hervey, i. 59, 89, 94, 100, 103, 107, 131, 164; Coxe, Walpole, i. 301-3; Hist. Reg. 1728, p. 312; Nichols, Lit. Anecd. ii. 454 n.; Walpoliana, i. 86; Parl. Hist. viii. 642, 680; De Garden, iii. 145; Jenkinson, ii. 306). On 17 May 1729 the king, having previously appointed the queen regent of the realm, left England for Hanover, where he had many affairs to settle. The king's divorced mother, Sophia Dorothea, had died 22 Nov. 1726, leaving a will by which she bequeathed her allodial estate to her friend the Count von Bar. This being by German law invalid, the property devolved upon George and his sister, the queen of Prussia. The Count von Bar had deposited the will in the imperial court at Vienna, and George took proceedings in concert with the king of Prussia to recover it, and there was much tedious litigation before the estate was realised and partitioned, nor was the king of Prussia altogether satisfied with the share which he obtained in right of his wife. He was also annoyed when his wife's uncle, Ernest Augustus, bishop of Osnabrück, who died 14 Aug. 1728, left George his entire estate, except his jewels, which he bequeathed to the queen of Prussia. The two sovereigns had never been on good terms. They had met as boys at Hanover and fought; they had been rivals in love, Frederick William having been passionately attached to Queen Caroline before her marriage; their characters were antipathetic, Frederick William scornfully nicknaming George 'the comedian,' and George returning the compliment