His son and enemy received the news as an unreasonably delayed act of justice on the part of Providence. When the Archbishop of Canterbury presented George Augustus with the late King’s will, he stuffed it into his pocket, and he never let it be made public. Some said it was concealed because it proposed to put Hanover and England under separate heads; others claimed that it left to grandson Frederick Louis, to mistress or wife the Duchess of Kendal, and to his daughter the Queen of Prussia substantial sums that would thin the royal purse.15 History does not know.
Like his father, George II was a good soldier. At twenty-five he had fought valiantly under Eugene and Marlborough at Audenaarde (1708); at sixty he was to lead his own troops to victory at Dettingen (1743). Often he carried the manners of the camp into the court, ranting irascibly; upon his ministers he lavished such terms as “scoundrels,” “stinking blockheads,” and “buffoons.”16 But he worked industriously at the king trade, spoke English correctly though with a thick Westphalian accent,17 observed impatiently but carefully the limits placed upon his powers and income by Parliament, and for thirteen years firmly supported Robert Walpole in keeping John Bull solvent and peaceful. Like his father, he retired frequently to Hanover, to the delight of all concerned. Like his father, he quarreled with the Prince of Wales, for “it ran a little in the family,” as Horace Walpole put it, “to hate the eldest son.”18 Like his father, he took mistresses, if only to be in the fashion; unlike his father, he dearly loved his wife.
Caroline, daughter of Margrave John Frederick of Brandenburg-Ansbach, had been brought up at the Charlottenburg court of George I’s sister, Sophia Charlotte, first Queen of Prussia. There she had met Leibniz, had enjoyed the debates of philosophers, Jesuits, and Protestant divines, and had developed a scandalous degree of religious liberalism and tolerance. Charles VI, “Holy Roman” Emperor, offered her his hand and creed; she refused both, and married (1705) George Augustus, the “little red-faced”19 Electoral Prince of Hanover; to him, with all his temper and hers, through all his mishaps and mistresses, she remained faithful and devoted to the end. George treated her harshly, and wrote her long letters about his liaisons; but he respected her mind and character enough to let her rule England (with Walpole’s help) in his long absences, and to let her guide his policies when he returned.
After her plump, fresh-colored youth she had no charms of body except lovely hands, and few graces of manner or speech, to hold her husband; however, he admired the architecture of her bust, and ordered her to expose it convincingly.20 She grew stouter with each pregnancy, her face was scarred with smallpox, her voice was loud and guttural, she loved intrigue and power. But gradually the English began to like her hearty humor; they came to understand what sacrifice she was making of health and happiness to be a good wife and queen; and the intellect of England saw with surprise that this blunt Brandenburger had an appreciative mind and ear for the literature, science, philosophy, and music of the age.
Her court became almost a salon. There she welcomed Newton, Clarke, Berkeley, Butler, Pope, Chesterfield, Gay, and Lady Mary Montagu. She supported Lady Mary’s initiative in vaccination. She saved a daughter of Milton from poverty; she supported Handel through all the changing moods of the public and the King. She contributed from her private purse the means to encourage young and needy talent;21 she rescued the heretic Whiston with a pension; she secured religious liberty for the Scottish Jacobites. She arranged the appointment of Anglican bishops on the ground of their learning rather than their orthodoxy. She herself was a deist with a hesitant belief in immortality;22 but she thought that the Established Church should be financed by the government as an aide to popular morality and calm.23 “This princess,” said Voltaire, “is certainly born for the encouragement of the arts, and for the good of the human race.… She is an amiable philosopher seated on a throne.”24
She had enough philosophy to see, even in her last hour, the humor in life’s tragedies. Suffering mortally from a rupture that she had long concealed from all but the King, she advised him, then fifty, to marry again after her death. His answer, sincere in his grief, revealed the time: “Non, j’aurai des maîtresses [No, I will have mistresses].” “Ah, mon Dieu,” she exclaimed, “cela n’empêche pas [that will not interfere]!”25 He mourned her loss with unwonted feeling: “I never yet saw a woman worthy to buckle her shoe.”26Twenty-three years later, in pursuance of his will, her coffin in Westminster Abbey was opened so that his remains might lie by her side.