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patriot king

patriot king. The concept of a patriot king was largely an opposition device of the early Hanoverian period. It hinted that the first two Georges were more interested in Hanover than in Britain and deplored the exclusive confidence they placed in the Whigs. The concept was most fully worked out in Bolingbroke's treatise The Idea of a Patriot King, written in 1738 for Frederick, prince of Wales, who was then heading the opposition to Walpole. The ‘essential character’ of a patriot king was ‘to espouse no party but to govern like the common father of his people’. When the young George III in 1760 gloried in the name of Britain and declared war on parties, the patriot programme seemed to be fulfilled, though harmony did not noticeably follow. There is no evidence that George III read Bolingbroke and the ideas were commonplace in court circles. But they helped to persuade Horace Walpole and Burke that George had been brought up on prerogative notions and contributed to the interpretation of his reign as a reassertion of royal authority.

J. A. Cannon

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