Friday, August 10, 2012
Consort Profile: Prince George of Denmark
When it came to family, Prince George certainly went above and beyond the call of duty. Within months of their marriage Anne was pregnant with the first of seventeen children. However, to their great sorrow, these many pregnancies resulted in miscarriage after miscarriage, stillborn after stillborn with only one child surviving infancy and that one did not live to see his twelfth birthday. When King Charles II died the Duke of York became King James II and Prince George, now husband to a King’s daughter rather than niece, was given a place on the Privy Council. His brother-in-law refused to attend, being offended at Prince George being given preference over him, which is somewhat ironic given how little Prince George thought of such things. He critics describe him as being fat and dull but, in truth, he was quite intelligent but simply had no desire to get involved in court drama. As a foreign spouse he was content to remain on the sidelines, assisting his wife when needed but preferring peace and quiet to cliques and schemes. When William of Orange was preparing to invade England to overthrow King James II, Prince George was forewarned by his contacts in Denmark and he let it be known that moral was low in the English army and he would accept no post from his father-in-law, correctly predicting that he would lose the contest.
Many of the accounts which dismiss Prince George as a nonentity can be attributed to the very different attitudes toward male consorts at a time when such were a rarity. The only previous examples had been Philip II of Spain and William of Orange, both of whom insisted on being granted the title of King and, in the case of William, the authority of a reigning monarch. Prince George, however, was ahead of his time in neither demanding nor desiring such a position. He was content to take second place to his wife the Queen, advising or assisting her when needed but making no effort to establish his own network of support and power base as so many expected. This does not, however, mean that he was unimportant. On the contrary, the moral support he gave to Queen Anne was vital. She had not had much preparation for becoming a reigning monarch and particularly after the loss of their only surviving child she was quite sad and became increasingly religious. This was something Prince George had in common with his wife and his own religious convictions are evident in the fact that, despite efforts to suppress non-conformists, he never joined the Church of England and remained a Lutheran throughout his life. He was a quiet and humble man but a devoted husband who was a great source of strength to his wife the Queen. He was, perhaps, overly fond of a well-set table but he was also friendly, trustworthy, honest and unassuming. A good man overall. In 1706 his health became noticeably worse and he had long suffered from asthma and dropsy. He died on October 28, 1708 at Kensington Palace at the age of only 55. Queen Anne was certainly worse off for his loss.