- King James II
The Stuarts became the royal family of England when in 1603 King James VI of Scotland united the British Isles, and became King James I of England. James had a lot of ambition to strengthen his power, but never pushed things too far. On his death in 1625 he was succeeded by King Charles I, who tried to overthrow the constitution and was duely executed in January 1649.
In the interregnum Lord protector Oliver Cromwell ruled England. In 1658 he was succeeded by his son Richard Cromwell. This second Lord Protector could have instituted a new dynasty, but probably lacked the will as well as the talent to do so, and events led to the restoration of the Stuarts.
Upon the restoration of the monarchy Charles II became king of England in 1660. Charles II was probably a Catholic and certainly one of the smartest English monarchs. He kept his faith private, balanced his international politics, led a a sinful private life and survived all the crisis occurring during his reign.
- Queen Mary II
The next Stuart to acceed to the English throne was James II, who became king in 1685. With him the Stuarts brought an openly Catholic and less talented monarch on the throne of England. His daughters Mary and Anne were however raised as Anglicans and so the English thought this problem would solve itself in time.
By a second marriage James II did however get a son who was raised in the Catholic faith. The English people answered to this by inviting Mary's husband Willam III to intervene. This led to the Glorious Revolution, which deposed James II in 1688.
With the accession of Queen Mary II and King William III the Stuart family split in a Catholic and a Protestant branch. The reign of William III and Queen Mary II was very successful. William III was never popular, but his acceptance of the limits on royal power laid the foundation for the current survival of the British monarchy. On Mary's death in 1694 (aged 32), the couple had no surviving offspring and William continued to rule alone till 1702.
After Mary's death the hopes of the Protestant Stuarts rested with Anne Stuart (1665-1714). Anne and Prince George of Denmark got a lot of children that died in infancy, but William of Gloucester survived longer and it seemed he would solve the pending crisis. With his death in July 1700 the eventual succesion to Queen Anne did become problematic.
In March 1702 the reign of Queen Anne started. Under her rule England flourished in science, arts, the military and the economy. She also succeeded in bringing about the union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland in 1707. She is not deemed to have been a very intelligent or witty monarch, but she was at least clever and skilled in ruling.
The chances of Anne getting another viable child were already dim on her accession and therefore the act of settlement had provided for her eventual succession by the Hanovers. Prince George of Denmark died in 1708, Queen Anne was plaqued with bad health and died in 1714.
The succession to the throne had been regulated with the Act of Settlement which had passed in 1701. In it Electress Dowager Sophia of Hanover (1630-1714) and her offspring had been designated as successor. Sophia's mother was Elizabeth of Bohemia, eldest daughter of King James I Stuart. Sophia was herself only the tenth child of Elizabeth that survived into adulthood, but by 1701 she was Elizabeth's nearest Protestant and legal offspring. In 1714 it seemed that the 83 year old Sophia should prepare to cross the North Sea for her coronation, but she died in June 1714, shortly before Queen Anne (on 1 August), and never inherited the English crown.
The history and family tree of the Hanovers is rather complicated. The most simple and correct representation is that in medieval times the territory of Braunschweig-Lüneburg ruled by the Welfs had split in a lot of territories. Each duke then styled himself Herzog von Braunschweig und Lüneburg. The 3 most important territories were:
- Fürstentum Braunschweig-Wolffenbüttel with its capital Wolffenbüttel;
- Fürstentum Lüneburg with capital Celle;
- The Fürstentum Calenberg with its capital Calenberg.
Ernst I (1497-1546) was Duke of Lüneburg from 1520. His son Franz Otto (1530-1559) from 1555. Ernst's third son Wilhelm the younger (1535-1592) first ruled together with his older brother Heinrich for 10 years, and then alone from 1569. Ernst II (1564-1611), son of Wilhelm ruled from 1592-1611. His younger brother Christian (1566-1633) ruled from 1611 and gained Grubenhagen. He was succeeded by his younger brother August (1568-1636), who was in turn succeeded by another younger brother Friedrich (1574-1648). After him the government could have gone to another younger brother Georg (1582-1641), but he had died before. In stead it went to Georg's eldest son Christian Ludwig (1622-1665).
The Dukes of Calenberg would prove the most successful of the rivalling houses. In 1495 Erich I got the Fürstentum Calenberg and Fürstentum Göttingen in a division of lands. During Erich's rule Calenberg also got some territory from Hildesheim. In 1582 the county of Hoya largely came to Calenberg. In 1584 Diepholz. Calenberg was then united to Wolffenbüttel, but became independent after the death of Friedrich Ulrich (1591-1634). His territory was split between Georg, who got Calenberg and Grubenhagen (and made Hannover residence), and Augustus (1579-1666) who got Braunschweig-Wolffenbüttel.
Georg's eldest son Christian Ludwig (see above) started to govern Calenberg in 1641, but after inheriting Celle too, he left Calenberg to his younger brother Georg Wilhelm (1624-1705) the second son of the above Georg. Georg Wilhelm wanted to marry the beautiful Eleonore d'Olbreuse of lower Huguenot nobility, but this would mean a morganatic marriage. To get his way he persuaded his younger brother Ernst August (1629-1698, fourth son of Georg) to marry his fiancee Sophie von der Pfalz (known as Sophia von Hanover in England). In 1665 Georg Wilhelm went to govern Celle and there lived with Eleonore. With her he had one daughter Sophia Dorothea von Celle (1666-1726), legitimized in 1674. His younger brother Johann Friedrich (1625-1679 third son of Georg) governed in Calenberg (incl. Göttingen and Grubenhagen).
- King George I
In 1679 Ernst August, who was already prince-bishop of Osnabrück since 1648, succeeded to Calenberg. In 1683 he ordered that from then on the first son should inherit everything (primogenitur). He also arranged the marriage of his son Georg Ludwig (1660-1727) with Sophia Dorothea in 1682. In 1692 he became the ninth elector of the empire. On his death he was succeeded by his son Georg Ludwig.
Elector George of Hanover (1660-1727) had become Elector of Hanover and Fürst of Calenberg on 23 January 1698. In 1705 he inherited the principality of Lüneburg, also known as Celle. On the death of Queen Anne he acceded to the throne of the United Kingdom as George I. Later he also succeeded in annexing Verden and the Duchy of Bremen.
As King George I he never succeeded in gaining the affection of his subjects. He did however succeed in suppressing Jacobite revolts and stabilizing the succession in the House of Hanover. During his reign and for centuries after he was not deemed a successful king, but unbiased and scientific research research have by now led to a more favorable judgment.
The Stuart Pretenders
The dispossesed Stuarts produced pretenders to the crown. The first was the Old Pretender Prince James of Wales (1688-1766), son of James II and Mary of Modena. He attempted a failed invasion of Scotland in 1708, but could nonetheless have acceded if he had been prepared to become Protestant. After George I had become king the Scottish Highlands rose in August 1715 and the Old Pretender landed in Scotland. The rebellion was however defeated and the Old Pretender returned to France. Another attempt was made in 1719 but failed too.
The Young Pretender Charles Edward Stuart (1720-1788), who was also known as Bonnnie Prince Charles would make another attempt to regain the throne. It led to another rebellion in Scotland in 1745. This was defeated in 1746 and so the last serious attempt to restore the Stuarts came to an end.