The Welf Dynasty on England’s Throne
William III who had remained without heirs signed the “Act of Settlement” in 1701 which named Sophie of Hanover (1630-1714) heiress to the English throne. Sophie had been chosen because she was the closest protestant relative of the English Royal Family and the Act sought to ensure a protestant succession. Her son Georg Ludwig (1660-1727) was elector of Hanover and became the first Hanoverian king of England as George I in 1714. His mother Sophie had died two months earlier.
George II (1683-1760) and George III (1738-1820) followed. The latter became known as “Mad King George” towards the end of his life due to his recurring fits of mental illness. Although Britain lost its American colonies during his reign, it became one of the leading powers in Europe. George I and George II both visited Hanover regularly but George III never stepped foot on Hanoverian soil. His sons George IV and William IV both brought the dynasty in disrepute and when William died without surviving children in 1837, it was his niece Victoria who succeeded him to the English throne. The succession laws in the House of Welf forbade the succession of a female to the Hanover throne and so Victoria became Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but she couldn’t claim the title of Queen of Hanover. Hanover had been established a kingdom in 1814. It was Victoria’s Hanoverian Uncle Ernst August I who succeeded to the crown of Hanover in 1837. The union between the two kingdoms which had lasted for 123 years had been severed by the rules of succession.