Why did George I, a German, become King of England?

September 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

I called in at the National Portrait Gallery today and went up to the top floor, the old stuff. Here’s what I discovered about one bit of King and Queen history (for those of you interested but too busy at work to look into this for yourselves).

This is a picture of Henry, Prince of Wales, King James I’s elder son, painted by Robert Peake the Elder, who seems to have been the big portrait man in James’s Court.

Prince Henry

Henry didn’t always get on with his dad, who sounds a bit serious when it came to his son’s learning.  Apparently, Henry was popular, witty and so on, and his dad felt a bit threatened by this. Sometimes Henry looked like this:

More tricky clothes

Henry died aged 18, probably of typhoid, in 1612. James didn’t go to his son’s funeral because, well, he didn’t like funerals. This left younger son, Charles, as James’s successor – and we all know how that ended.

James had another child, Elizabeth. Here she is, aged about nine in 1606, again painted by Mr Peake.


Elizabeth went on to marry Frederick, who was briefly King of Bohemia, but ended up in exile in Holland. She died in 1662, while visiting her newly restored nephew, Charles II. In between, she had a daughter, Sophia, who was the mother of George I. Under the English Act of Settlement of 1701*, the succession was settled on Sophia and her issue, so that all monarchs of Great Britain are descendants of Elizabeth – i.e. THE GIRL.

And here’s a more racy picture of her, by Nicholas Hilliard.

Let that hair flow.

* After Queen Anne failed to produce an heir (poor woman had 18 miscarriages), there was seen to be a need for a new law that would guarantee that the line of succession would continue in the Protestant line, and excluding any possible claims by the deposed James II or his Catholic son and daughter.

§ 2 Responses to Why did George I, a German, become King of England?

  • Mary Collins says:

    There is a big red hair leitmotif for me this week. Met a zoologist from Oxford who also had the Rebbekah look. Has this always been popular? Xxxx

  • Some information:
    At St. Paul’s cathedral figurines tell the story of the fall in the Garden of Eden. Adam points one hand to the forbidden fruit and the other to a golden haired Eve. Then the arch angel drives them from the garden. Adam with his fig leaf loops his arm around Eve who is now cowering and sporting a main of long red hair.

    Similarly in the paintings of the Sistine Chapel in 1874, Michelangelo’s Temptation depicts a brown haired Eve being handed a red apple by a red headed bare breasted serpent woman (Satan manifested as woman with red hair). In the adjacent fresco Eve is thrown out of the garden with a shameful face and a twist of red hair.

    I guess this all suggests an air of wantonness about red hair. Queen Boudicca is represented as having red hair, but the fashion was probably to do with Queen Elizabeth I though, with her red, frizzy hair. Apparently, frizzy hair was fashionable, and wearing it long and flowing was a sign of virginity. Once you were married, it was tied up.

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