History of the House of Hanover by

History of the House of Hanover by CJB GaskoinThey are not the most popular monarchs in British history, especially in America. Queen Elizabeth II has even expressed disdain for the intelligence of her ancestor, George III. But the Hanovers were the first modern monarchs, when England was replaced by the United Kingdom as entity ruling the British Isles. George I was Queen Anne’s nephew, and so supplanted the Stuarts with the German Hanovers. However, George was more interested in the German kingdom from which his surname is derived. George II was not much better, more German than English, he found dealing with the newfound power of the prime minister too challenging for his taste.

But it would be the obstinancy of George III that would lose Britain half its foothold in North America and nearly end the British Empire before it got started. His son and regent, George IV upon accession to the throne, is remembered as little more than a playboy while his brother William IV is barely remembered at all.

CJB Gaskoin includes Victoria and Edward VII as Hanoverian monarchs, but with Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, the Hanovers really ended with William as Victoria married into what is now the House of Windsor, Mountbatten-Windsor, if you want to get technical about it.

But Gaskoin’s history of British kings (and queens) is more about the evolution of Parliament as the center of power in Britain. He begins with Walpole, George I’s main prime minister, and describes the emergence of the Whigs and Tories as political parties. He discusses North’s almost lapdog relationship to George III, which may have cost the Empire her American colonies, and how men like Wellington, Gladstone, and Disreali reshaped the power structure of Britain. While Edward VII retained some power, the crown had become pretty much a figurehead by his time.

The back half of the book is more a primer on British civics, describing how the government works and giving a quick overview of Britain’s former overseas dominions. While informative, the book lacks some of the personal connection that Dan Jones and Peter Ackroyd have imbued into their histories of England. But then this is a short book and not meant to be a comprehensive story of Britain’s first two centuries as the UK.