Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Britain's Last Crusader King

On Thursday evening I'm giving a talk to the students of SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) on 'Should the Church Apologise for the Crusades and the Inquisition?', organised by their redoubtable chaplain, Fr Joe Evans of Opus Dei. I spent part of today (my dies non) going through my notes and, as is always necessary, making some changes based on recent reading.

Here's a bit of crusading trivia which isn't widely known (or, at least, I didn't know it until a few days ago): who, would you say, was the last British Crusading King?

We all know about Richard I (the Lionheart), who took such a prominent part in the 'Third' Crusade, and Edward I, who joined St Louis IX on the campaign of 1269-72. But what about the crusading credentials of this eighteenth century monarch?:

George I (r.1714-27) was the first Hanoverian King of Great Britain and Ireland, gaining the throne on the death of Queen Anne by virtue of the Act of Succession (1701). He was the closest living Protestant relative of the dead Queen, although many Catholics with a superior claim were passed over. Despite being a Lutheran, he had an important role in the Holy Roman Empire as one of the Prince Electors (who elected the Emperor) and Archtreasurer (from 1710).

George I was unsurprisingly involved in imperial politics and, as a young man, was present at the Siege of Vienna in 1683 , during which absence his first son, Georg August (the future George II), was born. He went on to command the Hanoverian troops in the consequent campains against the Turks in 1684 and 1685. These wars are often seen as the last gasp of the crusading spirit and demonstrated the real threat that the Ottoman Empire still posed to Christendom. And so, the Protestant George I, the great patron of Handel, could be said to be our last crusading King!

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Blogger Ttony said...

There is a bit of a qualitative difference between defending what was left of Europe, and reconquering Islamic lands for Christ, but well done George I!

8:36 pm  
Anonymous Edgar said...

He's not neccisarily our last crusader king - God might just see fit to grant us more in the future...

9:22 pm  
Blogger Cerimoniere said...

Perhaps it would be truer to say that he was Hanover's last crusading King than ours!

11:41 pm  
Blogger Jon said...

That troll-like Lutheran upstart a Crusader? What did he ride into battle, a Shetland pony?

That's a mighty stretch there, Father.

Jon the Jacobite, USA

2:55 pm  
Anonymous Old Dominion Tory said...

Please post on the event as well as on the thoughts that you present on the matter.
Good luck!

3:47 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Despite any personal dislike we might have of George I, I would still contend that he was involved in the crusading movement, seen in its fullest sense (and not simply the eight medieval campaigns which are numbered as crusades). The crusading phenomen could be said to stretch from the First Crusade right up to 1797, when Napoleon captured Malta, the last crusader stronghold. Lepanto and the Siege of Vienna were certainly important chapters in the story - and, in his minor way, the future King George was involved in the defence of Christian Europe in 1683-85.

5:46 pm  
Blogger Cerimoniere said...

This does seem to be generally right. I'm not quite sure that one can have a heretical Crusader, strictly speaking, but certainly he was fighting with crusading forces.

My only real quibble is that he wasn't a British King, but a Hanoverian one. There is surely no possible justification for recognizing any Hanoverian claimant in England before 1807.

8:34 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

He was, at least, King de facto if not de jure...

8:20 am  

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