Sir Godfrey Kneller, King George II
Sir Godfrey Kneller, 1st Baronet (8 August 1646 – 19 October 1723) was the leading portrait painter in England during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and was court painter to English and British monarchs from Charles II to George I. His major works include The Chinese Convert (1687); a series of four portraits of Isaac Newton painted at various junctures of the latter’s life; a series of ten reigning European monarchs, including King Louis XIV of France; over 40 “Kit-cat portraits” of members of the Kit-Cat Club; and ten “beauties” of the court of William III, to match a similar series of ten beauties of the court of Charles II painted by his predecessor as court painter, Sir Peter Lely.
George II (George Augustus; German: Georg II. August; 30 October / 9 November 1683O.S./N.S. – 25 October 1760) was King of Great Britain and Ireland, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (Hanover) and Archtreasurer and Prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire from 11 June 1727 (O.S.) until his death.
George was the last British monarch born outside Great Britain. He was born and brought up in Northern Germany. In 1701, his grandmother, Sophia of Hanover, became second-in-line to the British throne after about fifty Catholics higher in line were excluded by the Act of Settlement, which restricted the succession to Protestants. After the deaths of Sophia and Anne, Queen of Great Britain, in 1714, his father George I, Elector of Hanover, inherited the British throne. In the first years of his father’s reign as king, George was associated with opposition politicians, until they re-joined the governing party in 1720.
As king from 1727, George exercised little control over British domestic policy, which was largely controlled by Great Britain’s parliament. As elector, he spent 12 summers in Hanover, where he had more direct control over government policy. He had a difficult relationship with his eldest son, Frederick, who supported the parliamentary opposition. During the War of the Austrian Succession, George participated at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743, and thus became the last British monarch to lead an army in battle. In 1745, supporters of the Catholic claimant to the British throne, James Francis Edward Stuart (“The Old Pretender”), led by James’s son Charles Edward Stuart (“The Young Pretender” or “Bonnie Prince Charlie”) attempted and failed to depose George in the last of the Jacobite rebellions. Frederick died unexpectedly in 1751, leaving George’s grandson George as heir apparent and ultimately king.
For two centuries after his death, history tended to view George II with disdain, concentrating on his mistresses, short temper, and boorishness. Since then, some scholars have re-assessed his legacy and conclude that he held and exercised influence in foreign policy and military appointments.