The HANOVERIAN Connection
How the word “HANOVERIAN” converges meaning and connotation in the realm of Nobility, the field of music, and the world of horses.
When folks hear or read the name “Hanoverian” the first thing that comes to mind is the British monarchy. But closer inspection reveals that the term reaches further beyond palace walls.
The British Royal House of Hanover
Historically, the Tudor dynasty gave way to the Stuart dynasty when King Henry VIII’s last descendant, the Virgin Monarch, died without an heir in 1603. But, in 1714 the Stuart dynasty likewise came to an end when Queen Anne died childless despite her 17 pregnancies. Succession had to be decided. However, the Act of Settlement (1701) prohibited Catholics from ascending the British throne. And, with all of Anne’s closest blood relatives being Catholic, a more suitable Protestant heir was needed. The nearest suitable heir was a distant cousin found in Germany; over 55 closer-related blood relatives were bypassed because of their Roman Catholicism. On the other hand, George (then Prince and Elector of Hanover) was Protestant. Thus, the British throne was thereupon given to the House of Hanover in 1714, with King George I as Britain’s first monarch of the Hanoverian dynasty.
The Hanoverian monarchs were “imports” from Germany. George I, in fact, did not even speak English. And, while the Hanoverians ascended under difficult circumstances, their Royal House nonetheless helped to stabilize British society through their longevity of reign.
The Far Reach of the House of Hanover
Consider, for instance, that the Hanoverian dynasty comprised both the Georgian Era and the Victorian Era. After all, the monarchs George I, George II, George III, and George IV were Hanoverians. And, Queen Victoria was the great-great-great-granddaughter of George I. What’s more, both the longest-reigning king of Britain, George III, as well as the longest-reigning queen (so far), Victoria, are monarchs from the House of Hanover. In similar vein, the Hanoverians were instrumental in Britain’s development of the constitutional monarchy; Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole (later elevated to the House of Lords as the first Earl of Orford), even dates to the reigns of George I and George II. Then, too, the Hanoverian monarchy saw Britain acquire the majority of her overseas empire. While Britain might have lost the American colonies under the Hanoverian monarch George III, the 1800s with Queen Victoria (nicknamed “the grandmother of Europe” for having nine children that married into the major aristocratic families across the continent) more than compensated with an expansion that would later dub Britain as the “vast empire on which the sun never sets.”
The House of Hanover’s Influence on Music
Yet another remarkable legacy from the House of Hanover can be found in the world of music. George I is credited for having brought over from Germany to England his court musician (or Kapellmeister) Georg Friedrich Handel – one of history’s greatest Baroque era composers. It was Handel himself who bequeathed the world the masterpiece oeuvres of Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Messiah, and his coronation anthem Zadok the Priest.
Handel’s first performance of Water Music took place on the evening of Wednesday, 17 July 1717, aboard the royal barge as it traveled the Thames River, from Whitehall Palace to Chelsea and back again. King George I loved Handel’s Water Music so much on that first performance that he had it repeated at least three times during the trip. Chronicles have reported that the music was played continuously until the wee hours of the following morning. As for Music for the Royal Fireworks, the piece is set to accompany the outdoor display of pyrotechnic sparks and spectacle, and has continued to be a favorite for fireworks enthusiasts for over 285 years! Music for the Royal Fireworks was commissioned by George II in 1749 to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle for having ended the War of the Austrian Succession (which included King George’s War in North America – or what is known in the United States as the French and Indian Wars, events related to European dynastic wars in North American colonies). Meanwhile, Handel’s Messiah continues to be a mainstay of Christmas programs. And, finally, Zadok the Priest has been performed at every British coronation since that of George II.
Handel was highly esteemed by many of his contemporaries that the Handel Institute has even attributed Johann Sebastian Bach as having remarked that Handel “is the only person I would wish to see before I die, and the only person I would wish to be, were I not Bach.” The 18th century English composer William Boyce reinforced this with his quote that Handel “takes other men’s pebbles and polishes them into diamonds.” Even Ludwig van Beethoven, when goaded into naming the greatest composer, replied: “Handel, to him I bow the knee.”
And, how is Handel’s rise in celebrity credited to the House of Hanover? In his early years as a composer, he met Prince Ernst August of Hanover (brother of George). Ernst August invited Handel to Hanover, Germany. After being presented to George (who, at the time, was just Elector of Hanover), Handel eventually was appointed the post of Kapellmeister. As Kapellmeister, Handel was given a twelve-month mission to visit England in what historians describe as an informal espionage trip to survey the London musical, social, and political scene. During this visit to England Handel was favorably received in Queen Anne’s court, so that by March 1712 he was commissioned to produce an ode for her birthday. Handel, the Kapellmeister of the Hanover Prince George, had pleased Queen Anne so much that she granted him a pension of £200 a year for life. By the time George ascended the British throne two years later in 1714, Handel was already well-placed in Britain to make his appointment as music master to the princesses acceptable.
The House of Hanover and the World of Horses
The House of Hanover’s influence extends to the equestrian world as well. Horse breeding had long been a flourishing industry in Germany. The Germans established a system of maintaining large stud-farms with many brood mares. On 27 July 1735, George II (who was born and raised in Germany and so kept ties with his German roots) issued a decree that established the facility now known as the National State Stud (court stables and depot) of Celle for the purpose of breeding high-quality horses for agriculture, for carriage and coach harness, and especially for war. Understandably, the quality of cavalry horses often affected battle outcomes.
After the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815), horse populations declined in Germany, thus King George IV had to repopulate Celle’s State Stud with stallions from his private stables. As such, Great Britain and the German state of Hanover have had close ties in the equestrian world. Because the breed registry for Thoroughbreds began in 1791, the influx of Thoroughbred stallions to the Celle State Stud was recorded. Thoroughbred stallions from England were utilized to breed larger, energetic, enduring, and refined mounts at the Celle State Stud. The Hanoverian horse breed was thereby founded at the Celle State Stud. In 1888 the first Hanoverian stud book was published.
The Hanoverian horse in the late 1800s became one of the most popular equine breeds. However, their demand began to dwindle after World War I when cavalries became mechanized. But, after World War II, equestrian sports grew in prominence, thus creating increased demand for sport horses. The Hanoverian horse’s athleticism, adaptability, versatility, refinement, and disposition led to it being chosen as the favored horse for Olympic and World Championship equestrian events. And so, since the late 1940s, many in the equestrian world credit the House of Hanover for having contributed extensively to the breeding and husbandry that have produced the elegant and reliable Hanoverian Horse.
Photos: (1) George I, c. 1714. Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller — from Wikipedia.com; (2) Handel, 1748. Studio of Thomas Hudson — from ArtExpertsWebsite.com; (3) Hand-colored etching showing the Royal Fire Works and Illuminations in Whitehall, London, and on the River Thames on Monday 15 May 1749 — from MusicWithEase.com; (4) Oil painting of bay Hanoverian horse by artist Crista Forest — from ForestStudios.com; (5) Contender (Photo Credit: Holsteiner Verband, Germany) — from Hanoverian.org; (6) Parade of Hanoverian horses — from Landgestuetcelle.de; and (7) Hanoverian horse — from Landgestuetcelle.de