Anne became Queen of England on Wednesday 8th March 1702 and, on Sunday 1st May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain. Seven years later, on Wednesday 1st August 1714, she died in Kensington Palace in London.
Let us roll forward now to Saturday 20st October 1714. By the terms of the Act of Settlement, at her death Queen Anne, who had no surviving children, was to be succeeded by her second cousin; George, Elector of Hanover who was to be crowned King George I on this day in Westminster Abbey. However, the service was less than smooth!
George could not speak much English so the ceremonies had to be conducted mostly in Latin as his ministers could speak no German!
He was also not a choice of most people in the country and, on the Coronation day, banners mocking the new king were displayed throughout the country. When loyalists celebrated the Coronation they were disrupted by rioters in over twenty towns in the south and west of England. In addition to this, the Tory aristocrats and gentry absented themselves from the Coronation, and in some towns they arrived with their supporters to disrupt the Hanoverian proceedings.
Things were happening across parts of Britain on the night before the coronation.
In Taunton one Francis Sherry said that “on the morrow we must take up Arms against the King”.
In Birmingham a local rioter, John Hargrave, said they must “pull down this King and Sett up a King of our own”.
In Dorchester rioters attempted to rescue an effigy of the Catholic James Stuart, who had a strong claim to the throne, that was to be burnt by Dissenters and asked: “Who dares disown the Pretender?”.
The Anglican clergy mainly kept a low profile but at Newton Abbot the minister removed the bell-clappers so that the bells could not be rung in celebration of the Coronation. All in all it was a very unusual Coronation.
During George’s reign however, the powers of the monarchy diminished and Britain began a transition to the modern system of cabinet government led by a prime minister. Towards the end of his reign, actual political power was held by Robert Walpole, now recognised as Britain’s first de facto prime minister.
George died of a stroke on a trip to his native Hanover, where he was buried.