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Hanover

Hanover was in personal union with Britain from 1714, when George I succeeded Queen Anne under the terms of the Act of Settlement, until 1837 when the Salic Law prevented Victoria from retaining Hanover and it passed to her uncle, Ernest Augustus, duke of Cumberland.

The line of Brunswick-Lüneburg or Hanover had been chosen in 1701 because Sophia, electress of Hanover, was a granddaughter of James I, through her mother Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, and the nearest protestant heir. In 1692 Hanover had been granted electoral status within the Holy Roman empire and in 1705 it was reunited with the larger state of Celle, making it the leading second-line German power.

In 1714 it had a population of just over 500,000 and, with some 7,000 square miles, was rather bigger than Yorkshire. The chief town, Hanover, had about 10,000 inhabitants. In 1719, the acquisition of Bremen and Verden at the expense of Sweden gave the electorate access to the North Sea. George I had more authority as elector of Hanover than as king of England, but he did not rule Hanover autocratically. Most of the component territories had retained their assemblies, usually acting through committees, though executive power was firmly in the hands of the Privy Council, instructed by the Regierungsreglement promulgated by George before he left the country.

The connection with Hanover was regarded by most Britons with distaste or at best as a necessary evil. The Act of Settlement had indicated a marked distrust. The new monarch could not appoint Germans to any post in Britain, could not declare war to help Hanover without parliamentary consent, and could not even visit his native land without parliamentary approval. Though the last condition was soon dropped, as personally offensive to the sovereign, suspicion remained. Britons were afraid that the connection would mean continental entanglements and resented the evident pleasure their kings took in visiting their electorate. In December 1742, William Pitt gained great popularity by declaring that ‘this great, this powerful, this formidable kingdom is considered only as a province of a despicable electorate’.

But the main problem was strategic. Hanover was almost defenceless against French or Prussian attack and, if overrun, would have to be rescued at the end of the war by concessions elsewhere. In the War of the Austrian Succession, with France and Prussia in alliance, the situation was particularly tense. Britain put into the field the Pragmatic Army, under William, duke of Cumberland, the hero of Culloden. To avoid reproach, Hanoverian troops for the alliance were placed under Austrian command but paid for by British subsidies. With Prussia concerned mainly with Austria, and France bogged down in Holland, Hanover survived.

During the Seven Years War, Hanover's defence was easier, since Prussia had become a British ally. Indeed, the search for protection for Hanover had been an important factor in bringing about the reversal of alliances which preceded and precipitated the conflict. Cumberland, attacked in 1757 by superior French forces, was forced into the humiliating capitulation of Kloster-Zeven and Hanover occupied by the French. But the armistice was repudiated and the Army of Observation, under Ferdinand of Brunswick, succeeded in holding the French at bay, and even won a victory at Minden in 1759.

After 1760, British hostility to Hanover declined. The declaration by the new king, George III, that ‘born and educated in this country, I glory in the name of Britain’ played the nationalist card to some effect, and the swarms of Scots who clustered around Bute gave the English new people to hate. George III never visited Hanover, though at moments of crisis he mused on retiring there.

It was not possible for Hanover to escape the maelstrom of the Napoleonic wars. It gained Osnabrück in 1803 in one of the many reorganizations of Germany, but was occupied first by Prussia, then in 1806 by the French. Napoleon took the northern parts into his swollen French empire, giving the rest to a new kingdom of Westphalia, ruled by his younger brother Jerome. At the peace settlement in 1814, Hanover was given the status of a kingdom and gained important territories, including East Friesland, Hildesheim, and Lingen. The reign of Ernest Augustus from 1837 was turbulent. But his son, the blind George V, took the side of Austria in the war of 1866 and paid the penalty. Hanover was annexed to the new German empire.

The connection with Britain for well over a century left few traces. There was little attempt to develop trade between the two countries and little contact between the inhabitants, save for diplomats and soldiers. Though the University of Göttingen, founded by George II in 1737, soon acquired a fine reputation, few Britons went there. Though the British complained more fiercely, it is arguable that the Hanoverians suffered more. They were dragged into British struggles and had to put up with an absentee ruler and a diminished court at Herrenhausen. As a consequence, they welcomed Cumberland with joy in 1837, and his equestrian statue with an inscription ‘Dem Landes Vater sein treues Volk’ still stands outside the main railway station at Hanover.

J. A. Cannon

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Hanover

HANOVER

HANOVER. Hanover was one of the most important territories in the Holy Roman Empire, situated in the Lower Saxon region (Kreis) of northern Germany. It was ruled from the twelfth century by the Guelphs (Welfen), a once-powerful family that declined through frequent dynastic partitions. There were generally two major lines, designated by their principal duchies in Lüneburg and Wolfenbüttel. The latter was initially more important and became more generally known as Brunswick (Braunschweig) by the eighteenth century. Both lines frequently subdivided, with the Lüneburg branch splitting into the duchies of Celle and Calenberg in 1641. Hanover developed from the latter, taking its name from its principal town where the ruling branch set up residence in 1636. The entire area was flat and primarily agrarian, particularly with the decline of the Lüneburg salt springs and the mining region bordering the Harz Mountains after the sixteenth century.

The introduction of the Reformation was violently opposed by Duke Henry of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (ruled 15141568) until he was defeated by the Protestant Schmalkaldic League between 1542 and 1547. Thereafter, the Guelphs were solidly Lutheran and hoped to extend their regional influence by secularizing the neighboring prince bishoprics of Hildesheim, Osnabrück, and Paderborn. These ambitions drove them to ally first with Denmark, 16251629, and then with Sweden after 1631 during the Thirty Years' War, but they lacked the strength for a truly independent policy and shared the local defeats of their allies. Forced to make peace with the emperor in 1641, the Hanoverians had to be satisfied with partial control of Osnabrück, where their rule alternated with that of a local Catholic bishop.

The groundwork for Hanover's subsequent rise was laid by Duke John Frederick (16251679), who seized control of the duchy from his relations in 1665 and initiated a ruthless policy of military expansion, hiring troops to Venice, France, Spain, England, the Dutch Republic, and the emperor. His brother, Ernst August (16291698), continued this strategy after 1679, culminating in an alliance with Holy Roman emperor Leopold I. In return for substantial financial and military support against the Ottomans, Leopold made Ernst August an elector (Kurfürst), greatly increasing his prestige and influence within the empire. The ensuing controversy dominated imperial politics into the 1720s when an agreement was reached with the Wolfenbüttel line allowing them to inherit the new title if the Hanoverians died out. The other princes formally recognized it in 1708. Leopold also confirmed Ernst August's introduction of primogeniture, paving the way for his successor, George Louis (16601727), to inherit Celle when that line died out in 1705, doubling his territory. Within ten years, the new elector, whose mother was the granddaughter of James I of England, was catapulted into the front rank of European royalty when he inherited the British crown as George I with the backing of the English Parliament in 1714. He continued to pursue a primarily Hanoverian policy, joining the war against Sweden to capture its German possessions of Bremen and Verden in 1715. With the acquisition of the tiny county of Bentheim in 1752, Hanover reached its maximum extent of 10,214 square miles (26,455 square kilometers), and its population climbed slowly to 800,000 by 1803.

While the king-electors still visited Hanover, they became progressively more British than German, leaving government to the local nobles, who had a strong sense of responsibility, self-esteem, and corporate identity. Their rule was slow, orderly and mild. Although the new university at Göttingen, founded in 1734 and opened in 1737, rapidly became a model of enlightened learning, government remained conservative. Hanover remained a strategic liability for Britain until it was seized by France in 1803. The connection to Britain was severed in 1837 when Hanover became an independent kingdom until its annexation by Prussia in 1866.

See also George I (England) ; Hanoverian Dynasty (England) ; Saxony .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Birke, Adolf M., and Kurt Kluxen, eds. England und Hannover =England and Hanover. Munich, 1986.

Chance, John Frederick. George I and the Northern War. A Study of British-Hanoverian Policy in the North of Europe in the Years 1709 to 1720. London, 1909.

Dann, Uriel. Hanover and Britain 17401760: Diplomacy and Survival. Leicester, U.K., and Irvington, N.Y., 1991.

Hatton, Ragnhild. George I: Elector and King. Cambridge, Mass., 1978.

Hodgskin, Thomas. Travels in the North of Germany: Describing the Present State of the Social and Political Institutions . . . 2 vols. Reprint. New York, 1969. Originally published Edinburgh, 1820.

Schnath, Georg. Geschichte Hannovers im Zeitalter der neunten Kur und der englischen Sukzession 16741714. 5 vols. Hildesheim, 19381982.

Peter H. Wilson

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Hanover

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