The reality may be uncomfortable reading for some of the British population, but it’s an undeniable fact that many of our royals have been German.
Hanover’s rather bland modern appearance is a result of a lethal makeover by the RAF during World War II. The redesign gurus at Bomber Command barely gave a passing thought to the fact that this north German city shares some of our history, thanks to the House of Hanover. And despite the fact that they were specifically requested by the British Royal Family to try to avoid targeting the Castle at Herrenhausen, it was almost totally destroyed. Happily, it has since been rebuilt, and its reopening ceremony in early 2013 was attended by Princess Beatrice and Eugenie.
There’s a fair bit of Hanover in Britain, but there’s not a lot of Britain in Hanover
The aristocratic Brit-Hanover connection started with the King we know as George I, who was born here back in 1660 and ruled both Britain and Saxony simultaneously. He was the initiator of a bloodline which was to become Britain’s monarchy for 200 years. Although he didn’t become the English king until he was over 50, and his English was limited, he took the job seriously, and spent most of his time in England. Posh Brits thought he was uncouth and wooden in public, but he came to the throne at a time when the British parliament was flexing its muscles, so he didn’t have an easy ride.
But while there’s a fair bit of Hanover in Britain, there’s not a lot of Britain in Hanover. The city’s main street is Georgstrasse, named after George I himself. Locals call it Schorsenbummel, with Schorse the rather tipsysicated local pronunciation of George, and Bummel meaning stroll.
Otherwise the most English landscapes in the city are the glorious gardens of the former castle at Herrenhausen. Covering 50 acres, they were created by George’s mother, the Electress Sophia, who actually died here at the age of 83 rushing to shelter from a shower of rain. Key features are a giant fountain, baroque gardens, a hedge theatre, a maze, and quantities of formal flowerbeds and tree-lined pathways. There are lakes, temples, follies, close-mown lawns and statuary, and the gardens host a variety of concerts, firework displays and cultural festivals. More impressive than the gardens at Versailles, they simply don’t have the palace to go with them any more.
In fact the House of Hanover itself came to crunching halt with the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. It was then succeeded by the House of Windsor as we know it today, except back then Messrs Edward and George were Saxe-Coburgs, with George only making the name change to ‘Windsor’ in 1917, fearing backlash from anti-German feeling during the First World War. The present Queen Elizabeth II is George’s grand-daughter, so the Germans still win on penalties.
More on Herrenhausen.