King George II and the politicians: The struggle for political power

David Douglas Flaten, Fordham University


In traditional Whig historiography of eighteenth-century Great Britain King George II (r. 1727–1760) was an incompetent puppet of his wife and Sir Robert Walpole. Formed by a highly selective use of documents from the reign, this conclusion emphasized the power of the politicians and denigrated the royal family. In reading the fuller texts of the available documents there is abundant primary and secondary evidence to support the view that George functioned as the center of the unwritten British constitution and deployed his family members in pursuit of his political goals. He utilized his wife as his unofficial prime minister and second son as head of the army practicing a conception of family monarchy unique in early modern British history. George chose to direct government verbally and left few autographed records to demonstrate his command. Politicians left the bulk of written records, which have been selectively quoted to show their control of government. The delegation of authority by George to his family members and his verbal orders to his servants have been misinterpreted by Whig historians. They denote a decline of regal authority and the ultimate triumph of Parliament as the leader of government during his reign. This thesis redresses the conflict between the substantial evidence for the strong authority of the king and the older interpretation of him as a puppet of his ministers.

Subject Area

European history|History|Biographies

Recommended Citation

Flaten, David Douglas, "King George II and the politicians: The struggle for political power" (1999). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9926903.