Catalogue description Secretaries of State: State Papers Regencies, George I and George II

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Details of SP 43
Reference: SP 43
Title: Secretaries of State: State Papers Regencies, George I and George II

The Secretaries of States' correspondence with each other, and with the Lords Justices, when one of them attended the King George I or King George II on the Continent and the other remained in Whitehall. The series contains more foreign than domestic material of importance, being the product of the periodic absences of those Kings in their Electorate of Hanover.

Date: 1716-1755

Most pieces were bound into volumes during the nineteenth century, and it is clear that the Hanover/Whitehall dichotomy was the arrangement made before the binding.

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 128 bundles and volumes
Publication note:

This series is uncalendared except for extracts in Records relating to Ministerial meetings in the reign of George I 1714-1727 (List and Index Society, volume 224, 1987). The usefulness of the series for Hanoverian history has been indicated by: Uriel Dann, Hanover and England 1740-1760 (Quellen und Darstellungen zur Geschichte Niedersachens, Band 89), Hildesheim, 1986 Philip Konigs, The Hanoverian Kings and their Homeland (Lewes, 1993).

Administrative / biographical background:

To provide for the absence of the King, regencies were formed. The Lords Justices, officeholders who formed a council under the royal personage chosen as regent or guardian of the realm, acted on behalf of the King.

The Lord Justices were themselves managed by Select Lords. George I appointed his son and heir Guardian and Lieutenant of the Realm during his five sojourns in his electoral dominion of Hanover (1716, 1719, 1720, 1723, 1725) and again in 1727 when he died on his way there. George II appointed his wife Queen Caroline as Regent until her death in 1737, and his sons Frederick (d 1751) and William subsequently. He paid twelve visits to Hanover, his last in 1755 being also the last paid by a British sovereign before the severance of the Personal Union between this country and Hanover in 1837.

Both kings took a Secretary of State with them to Hanover, leaving one in Whitehall, and the two secretaries were constantly in communication. Normally the Secretary for the Northern Department proceeded to Hanover. The exceptions were as follows: in 1716 Townsend declined to travel, and his colleague Stanhope replaced him, and went on to eclipse his power; in 1723 Townsend went - but so did his colleague Carteret; in 1736, the Prime Minister's brother Horatio Walpole was substituted for secretary Harrington as being more congenial to the King; and in 1748 the Duke of Newcastle, who did not wish to travel and would not let his colleague Bedford do so, substituted his Under-Secretary Andrew Stone, only to change his mind and chase after him.

The secretary at Whitehall activated the King by soliciting the exercise of his powers of appointment, commission and execution, such as he normally requested of the King in the course of his domestic secretarial duties. The Secretary in Hanover conveyed the King's responses to these applications, and any requests of the King's in the domestic sphere, or evaluated news of foreign affairs gleaned in London which might feed the King's diplomatic initiatives on the Continent.

George I laid claim to control of foreign policy, for which Hanover gave him a springboard; his initiatives were often taken there. George II believed that he knew more about foreign policy than his ministers, so the effect was much the same, not least because he was prepared to lead his troops on the battlefields of Europe. Once in Hanover, however, the Georges had also to be fully informed of public affairs in their island kingdom, and had to approve the proceedings of the Lords Justices and issue, through their secretaries, all the usual royal instruments of appointment and execution.

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