George I was the great-grandson of King James I of England through his mother, and Elector of Hanover through his father. The remaining descendants of James I were all either dead or Catholic, and England would not accept another Catholic monarch, so George was the nearest Protestant heir. He succeeded his second cousin Anne to the throne on her death in 1714, after years in European armies as a young man and 16 years as Elector of Hanover.

George was married to his first cousin Sophia in 1682 (it had been earlier thought that he might marry Anne, but the two turned out to hate each other when they met) and the two had a son and daughter before losing interest in each other. Sophia's lover, Count Philipp Christoph von Konigsmark, disappeared suddenly and legend has it that his strangled body was discovered under the floor of an Electoral Palace room years later. Letters proving Sophia's and Konigsmark's relationship were found in her room, and a special tribunal of jurists and Lutheran Church officials gave George a divorce in 1694.

When George became king of England, he could speak very little English (his coronation was conducted in Latin so that he would understand it). George was "tolerated rather than popular" (David Williamson's The Kings and Queens of England) and preferred to spend time in his German territories. In June 1727, he left for Hanover and was seasick on the ocean voyage, but set out in a coach immediately anyway. At one evening stop, he ate a large amount of fruit, got violent diarrhea the next day, and apparently suffered a stroke at a roadside stop. He did insist that the coach go on, but lapsed into unconsciousness and was carried to his bed that evening; he died in the middle of the night, aged 67, and was succeeded by his son George II.

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