George II at the palaces
As Prince of Wales, George felt that he was unfairly treated by his father – not given enough money and not entrusted with the regency when his father returned to Hanover. Relations between father and son were so sour that George and his wife Caroline were thrown out of court by George I and even, for a time, kept from their own children. In retaliation, they set up their own rival court filled with opposition politicians.
History was doomed to repeat itself. After George became King in 1727 (Handel’s Zadok the Priest was composed for his Coronation), George and Caroline’s glamorous son, Prince Frederick, arrived in England and in turn became embroiled in a battle of wills with his parents; he was eventually banished from court in 1737.
In the first ten years of George II’s reign, Kensington Palace was the glittering centre of court life where politicians, intellectuals and fashionable people vied for favour. George and Caroline used Hampton Court Palace regularly after their accession in 1727, especially during the summer when the palace would be alive with the flirtations, scheming and bickering of courtiers.
George II had many mistresses, most notably Henrietta Howard, one of his queen’s closest ladies-in-waiting who were known as Women of the Bedchamber. However, George was devoted to his wife and was devastated by her death in 1737. She had promoted writers, poets and philosophers and court life under her auspices was glamorous and engaging.
After Caroline’s death, the bright and fashionable crowd was gradually replaced by a homely, ageing court residing in Kensington Palace which was by now half shut up and George increasingly focussed on his obsessive love of all things military.
Earlier in his reign, George proved himself a good leader in battle and was the last British king to lead his troops into battle. Despite Kensington’s decline, it remained one of George’s favourite palaces right up until his death in 1760.
George II's grandson, George III, was the next monarch after Prince Frederick died in 1751 without ever repairing his relationship with his father.
George II, German School, (c.1735 - 40) Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014
George II on horseback (Battle of Dettingen) © National Army Museum / The Bridgeman Art Library