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!