Engraving of George I
Engraving of George I
Armour used for the figure of George II in the Line of Kings 1768 -1826. English, Greenwich, about 1560 (II.82)
‘Interior of the Horse Armoury’, anon engraving, The Penny Magazine, 1836 © Royal Armouries 2013
George I came to the British throne in August 1714; his succession was the result of an Act of Parliament in 1701 to ensure a Protestant monarchy in Britain. However, as can be seen in Roger Morrice’s Entering Books, which cover the years 1677 to 1691, Catholic rebellions were a serious concern and during this time and afterwards the Tower of London held many Jacobite prisoners. This left George I’s reign vulnerable to Catholic claimants with a stronger connection to the British throne and one year after his succession he faced the first of a number of Jacobite rebellions.
However, from the 25-year delay in the display of the figure of George I in the Line of Kings, it would not appear obvious that the addition of the first Hanoverian king was a response to the unsettled feeling across the country. One of the earliest references to George I’s figure featuring in the Line was in a Tower of London guidebook from 1753. In 1768 he is described as ‘in a complete suit of armour, sitting with a truncheon in his hand on a white horse’. By 1801 this description had been elaborated to include ‘a fine Turkey bridle gilt, with a globe, crescent; velvet furniture laced with gold and gold trappings’. The choice of a white horse for George I’s figure was an acknowledgment of the heraldic device of Hanover. It is not known which suit of armour was used for George I, but probably it was a composite 16th century example.
Thus from about 1750 George I was accorded a very fine display, affirming his position and his family’s succession as the House of Hanover.
This was clearly significant in the 18th century, but by the 19th century, when the Hanoverian dynasty had established strong roots, there was little need to assert the legitimacy of the dynasty. Consequently in 1826-7 there was no problem when the appointed armour expert, Dr Samuel Meyrick, removed the figures of George I and his son, George II, from the Line of Kings, focusing on historic armour within the collection.
George I is not represented in the current Line of Kings display.