George II was born at Herrenhausen Palace in Hanover, Germany, to George I and Sophia Dorothea. As a boy, George never expected to be King of Britain. In fact, he was already 30 years old when his father travelled to London and became king upon the death of Queen Anne.
George's life started with a rather sorry childhood. His father imprisoned his mother, Sophia, for alleged adultery when he was just 11. It's likely that he never got to see his mother again – he once tried to swim the moat surrounding the castle where she was kept but couldn't manage it. His father's treatment of Sophia was the first major event that sparked the disintegration of their awful father-son relationship.
George I and George II
After his father became the King of Britain in 1714, George was named Prince of Wales. Yet, the king kept him from having much involvement in Britain, which was yet another point on contention between the two.
George and his wife, Caroline of Ansbach, didn't try to hide their contempt. They openly kept what was essentially a rival royal court at their residence, Leicester House. It was here that a group of Whigs who opposed King George I gathered around the younger George, including Robert Walpole, who's considered to be Britain's first prime minister.
Walpole actually tried to forge a reconciliation between George and his father and ended up finding a place for himself within King George I's administration. Naturally, the younger George didn't like that Walpole had switched sides. When he became King George II in 1727, after his father's death, the only reason the minister ended up keeping his place within the administration was down to Caroline's intervention.
Walpole ended up proving very useful to the king. Not only did he grant him an allowance from Parliament that was far bigger than that of past monarchs but he also won over severalTories who'd previously supported the exiled Stuarts' right to the throne.
The Young Pretender
Just as it had for George I, the biggest challenge of George II's reign came in the form of the Jacobite threat. This time, it was James Stuart's son, Charles Edward, the Young Pretender, who wanted to fight for the throne.
In 1745, Charles Edward travelled from Paris to Scotland to lead a Jacobite Rebellion in England. George's son, William, led an army to quell the uprising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Many tories supported the Young Pretender, but thanks to Robert Walpole winning a number of them over to the king's cause, no senior Tories defected to Charles Edward's side.
Finally, this was to be the last attempt by a Stuart to take the British throne.
George II: A Brave King
Though he had faults, George II was a brave king and was actively involved in battles. He was very passionate about the military and influenced the government in funding the armed forces. In 1740, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI died, sparking the European War of Austrian Succession. At the age of 61, George led an army to victory over the french at the Battle of Dettingen, the last time an English reigning monarch fought in battle themselves.
Despite George's successful involvement in battle, however, it wouldn't be right to attribute the success of his 33-year reign to the king. The monarchy was enjoying less and less power in the running of the country, after all. Great Britain was growing and strengthening quickly, but it seems more correct to attribute this to figures like Robert Walpole and William Pitt, who became Prime Minister during the Seven Years War against France.
The last years of George's life were truly significant for Britain. The agriculture, coal and shipbuilding industries were blooming, the population was rising rapidly and Britain was fighting to control territory and trade, not just in Europe but in the Caribbean, the Americas, India and Africa too. Just the year before George died, England's military expansion led to important conquests. India was secured by Robert Clive at the Battle of Plassey and Quebec in Canada was won by General Wolfe.
The Death of King George II
After such a pivotal year for Britain, King George II died at the age of 76 of a heart attack whilst he was sitting on the toilet. He was the last king to be buried in Westminster Abbey – there wasn't much of a memorial, just an insignificant paving slab.
His son, Frederick, had died a few years before George, of which the king wrote, ‘I have lost my eldest son, but was glad of it' – George's relationship with his son hadn't been much better than that between George and his father. The throne now went, instead, to George's 22-year-old grandson, who became King George III.