After the birth of another child, a daughter, the family life of George fell apart, if it had ever been real in the first place. George took a succession of mistresses but when his wife did the same with a Swedish aristocrat, the man was eventually murdered and George himself did not escape suspicion. Their marriage was dissolved and George had his wife placed under house arrest and was not allowed to see her children, which certainly could not have helped the father-son relationship between George and George Augustus which would become extremely bad. However, in 1698 George’s father passed away and he became the ruler of Hanover and a Prince-Elector of the Empire. He made his court quite an attraction with a palace described as a smaller-scale Versailles and which was frequented by numerous prestigious intellectuals and artistic figures. The security of Hanover was, undoubtedly, George’s top priority but in 1710 he did send an agent to London, Baron von Bothmar, to represent his interests in the matter of the British succession. The idea that he would actually become King of England and Scotland was not really secured until the death of Queen Anne and the work of her minister the Duke of Shrewsbury to put the Act of Settlement into effect.
Becoming King of England and Scotland in August of 1714 (his mother had died earlier in the year), King George I wanted to make it clear from the outset that he asserted his right to the throne on the basis of heredity rather than an act of Parliament, as a way to show that he did not owe his Crown to politicians and to assert that he was not a usurper to the Jacobite supporters of the Stuarts. In truth though, he was only king because of an act of Parliament and if the Stuart heir had, as he was advised, abandoned Catholicism and become an Anglican, there was no doubt that he would have been able to take the throne and would have been head of a much more robust monarchy than George I was handed. However, Britain accepted King George I quietly, without much enthusiasm but also without much serious opposition beyond bitter words and ridicule at his rather scandalous private life. European politics, as well as religion, helped King George I in his cause. As well as being Catholic, the Stuarts were very closely allied with the French whereas King George, as Elector of Hanover, had opposed the French, allied with Britain and others, as commander of the (German) Imperial army on the Rhine during the recent War of Spanish Succession. The Dutch and other European Protestants were united in support of a Protestant monarch in Britain but many Catholics were supportive as well, even if not overtly, due to Austrian and Papal opposition to the power of France.
The first beneficiary of King George I was the Whig party. The Tories had tried to get the Stuarts to embrace Protestantism and thus ensure their own succession, so they were out of favor while the Whigs who rallied to him, along with his trusted German officials, were rewarded with high office. The King also baffled many of his new subjects by his behavior, which was unlike anything they had seen before. He disliked crowds and preferred meals in his private apartments to large state dinners. He lived in only two rooms of the palace and while royal mistresses were nothing new, George’s were known for being absurdly ugly which greatly amused the public. King Charles II had, at least, shown better taste in many mistresses. Most singled out were two German mistresses (they were invariably German), one of whom was extremely thin and the other extremely fat. He distrusted strangers, clever women and had little time for poets or painters though he was a great patron of music.
Although obliged to spend most of his time in England, the government was considerate enough, or willing enough to be rid of him, that they repealed the law requiring Parliamentary consent for the King to leave the country so that George I was able to take length leaves of absence in Hanover in 1716, 1719, 1720, 1723 and 1725. His son presided over a regency council while he was away and given that the King and his son thoroughly hated each other, government opposition tended to gather around the Prince. Since it often involved Hanover, King George I did take an active interest in foreign affairs and played a leading part in gathering an alliance of the British, Germans, French and Dutch against the Spanish who, in 1719, invaded Scotland and tried to spark their own Jacobite rebellion. However, only a few hundred Spanish troops managed to land successfully and they, along with barely a thousand Jacobites, were easily crushed. The King also saw to it that Hanover benefited by gaining territory at the expense of Sweden in the resolution of the “Great Northern War”, a Russian-backed war to destroy the dominance of the Kingdom of Sweden in northern and eastern Europe.
King George I died in Germany on June 11, 1727 which did not provoke a great deal of sorrow in the British Isles. All in all, about the best that can be said for George I, as King of England, is that he was not terrible. He was a very effective Elector of Hanover but as for the British Isles, the best that can be said is that the three kingdoms did not descend into chaos or poverty during his reign. He did have his good qualities. He was a good military leader, courageous on the battlefield, thrifty in economic matters and was fairly astute in political matters. His shyness led to some unfair criticism and he was not an unintelligent man, however he was far from a good man either. His treatment of his family was deplorable, he frankly did not care all that much about Britain and was from start to finish a German more concerned with events in Germany than in the British Isles. Brought to the throne by an act of Parliament rather than by birth, the political class became more entrenched under his reign as he was fairly disinterested in events that did not impact Hanover. The changes put in place in 1688 were not really fully felt until the reign of King George I when the King’s first minister first began to rise in prominence as being the real “leader” of the country, a trend which would (with one interruption named George III) continue and become more pronounced over time.