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Hanover- the millstone around Britain's neck

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To many English revisionists Anne was the last English sovereign. They hold that with the expulsion of James II in 1688, England lost its independence to foreign lords: first to the Dutch William III, and after Anne, the last Stuart, to the Hanoverians. This of course ignores the fact that the Stuarts were Scots, but this has been a powerful idea in British politics during the last two hundred years or more. It has to be remembered that the Jacobite Party still exists, and it is only in recent times that it has lost its influence in English politics.

One of the most hated words in the Jacobite lexicon is Hanover. To the Jacobite, Hanover guided British politics for the greater part of two centuries, embroiling the English in German affairs and sapping the national strength. This is not an entirely fair assessment: the British people, especially represented by Parliament, continued to exercise political power independent of the monarch throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as it did in the seventeenth. It is however true that the attachment of the Hanoverians to Germany did present challenges to the cause of British democracy. And yet it might have been different. In May 1818, Victoria, the only child of Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent and heir to his brother, King William IV, and Princess Victoria of Saxe Coburg-Saafeld, died in childbirth. Kent died in 1820. Had Victoria survived, she would have become queen. Salic Law would have forbidden Victoria from becoming ruler of Hanover. Thus Britain might have lost its interest in Germany.

Ernest Augustus I

As it happened, Ernest Augustus the Duke of Cumberland, and brother of Edward Augustus, succeeded as King of Great Britain and Hanover. A more unpopular succession could scarcely be imagined. During his reign Britain crept closer to becoming a republic than anytime since Charles I. An arch-conservative, he opposed the Catholic Emancipation Bill and the Reform Bill. He wanted Britain to join the reactionary Holy Alliance on the continent. He insisted on being present at cabinet meetings, something which had not been done since George I, and upon being consulted on every issue. He had no hesitation on dismissing ministers who failed to seek his advice, and would sometimes confer with the representatives of foreign powers without the knowledge of the government. While the King acted within the constitution he could be managed by strong ministers and by Parliament. Yet a constitutional crisis came in 1848.

In that year, the continent was swept by revolution. Germany was no exception, and Hanover, where Ernest Augustus ruled as an absolute sovereign, revolted too. When his own Hanoverian troops failed him,he took the unprecedented step of using British troops stationed in Hanover to put down the revolt. Now he could not use British troops without the consent of Parliament. However, he issued the command to Lord Raglan to advance upon the city of Hanover. When he communicated his decision to the House of Commons both sides rose in protest. There was unrest in the streets, which became panic when the news came that a ship of British and Hanoverian troops had left Germany and was approaching England.

In fact there was a ship, but there were no Germans in it. The soldiers in it were simply returning from their tour of duty of Hanover, albeit with blood on their hands. Nevertheless the people believed their own King was reimposing absolute rule by force. Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minister, advised the King to abdicate, but was dismissed. No person could be found to lead a majority in the Commons, so the King prorogued Parliament and ruled personally for two days, the last monarch of England since James II to do so. But after his commanders refused to fire upon rioting London crowds, Ernest Augustus recalled Melbourne and Parliament and fled to Hanover. The Settlement Parliament did not seriously consider republicanism. That was still a difficult concept for 1848. The ghost of Oliver Cromwell still haunted Parliament. So the monarch was not deposed, or asked to abdicate, as Melbourne had wanted. Instead, a Law was passed forbidding Ernest Augustus to set foot in Britain. His son George assumed all the powers of the King in Britain as Prince Regent. Ernest Augustus continued to rule in Hanover, and communicated regularly with his son, who, however, had better sense than to follow his advice. Parliament made no new laws to prevent the constitutional crisis of 1848. These Parliamentarians were not revolutionaries: they were members of the established elite. They had no radical agenda. So they let things coast along. And then, in 1851, the King died, and the Prince Regent became King George V of Great Britain and Hanover. George V

George V shared the autocratic political views of his father. Nevertheless, as Regent and King he took care not to be seen to interfere in the political process in Britain, even though he did insist on advising his ministers and protesting discretely to legislation he objected to. He consented to the Catholic Emancipation Act in 1850 and the First Reform Bill in 1852.

In Hanover however, it was an entirely different matter. Following the lead of Prussia, George V sought to head off further revolution by imposing a constitution of his own making. The 1853 Constitution provided for a Consultative Assembly whose members were partly nominated by the King and in part elected by a restricted electorate of nobles, landowners and bishops. This Assembly had the power to advise but not to initiate legislation. Its consent was not necessary for any legislation and it met only when the monarch called it.

In foreign affairs the King of Hanover was committed to the German Confederation but opposed to a Germany dominated by Prussia. He supported France as a check on Germany. In terms of foreign policy Hanover was an embarrassment to the government of Great Britain; the foreign policies of the two states were frequently at odds with each other. The one was decided by a democratically elected Parliament; the other, by an absolute monarch. Constitutionally, Parliament could not challenge the King's status in Hanover. In 1852, when the Crimean War broke out, Hanover did not declare war on Russia with Great Britain and France. Fearing Prussian militarism, George kept Hanoverian troops in Germany.

What would the King do is the foreign interests of Great Britain and Hanover so clashed as to bring the two states to the verge of war? Absurd as this sounds, it almost happened. --Gazzster 12:57, 11 October 2006 (UTC)

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