Equestrian Bronze of George V of Hanover, 1855
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Height: 42cm (16.5in)
Provenance: H.R.H. The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974)
Patinated equestrian bronze depicting King George V of Hanover, 2nd Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, Earl of Armagh (1819-78), the last King of Hanover, in the uniform of Colonel of the Hanoverian Guard Hussars and wearing the breast star of the Hanoverian order of the Saint George.
In 1866 King George V of Hanover led his troops into action against the Prussians at the Battle of Langensalza. Against the odds, he emerged victorious - a feat impressive not just because the Prussian army was greater in size and materiel, but because George was completely blind. He was accompanied on the battlefield by his son, Ernest Augustus, but their celebrations were short-lived: the arrival of Prussian reserves compelled George V to surrender just two days later. The Prussian prime minister, Otto von Bismarck, annexed Hanover to bring about the North German Confederation, and ultimately the Unification of Germany in 1871.
The present bronze bears a close resemblance to a model of George V at Osterley Park (National Trust Collections) signed by Heinrich Hesemann (1814-1856) and dated 1855, and was cast in the Bernstorff und Eichwede foundry in Hanover. The Osterley model is thought to be a maquette made in connection with a monumental equestrian statue of George V’s father King Ernst August in hussar uniform that now stands outside Hanover’s main train station. The Osterley horse and present version however differ slightly while the figure of George V is is the same. The differences may be explained by George’s involvement in the conception of 1861 the monumental bronze which suffered at set back when Hessemann died causing the project to become the work of three sculptors over the course of a decade - Christian Daniel Rauch (1777-1857) and Albert Wolff (1814-1892) beiung the other two.
Born Prince George of Cumberland in 1819 in Berlin in an hotel where his parents were staying, George V of Hanover was a grandson of George III of Great Britain and was christened by the Rev. Henry Thomas Austen (brother of the novelist Jane Austen). His godparents included Prince Regent, King Frederick William III of Prussia, Emperor Alexander I of Russia, and a plethora of German royals. George spent his childhood in Berlin and in Britain, and s a young prince had his portrait (that today hangs on the Grand Staircase at Buckingham Palace) painted at Windsor Castle by Lawrence . He lost the sight of an eye following a childhood illness in 1828, and the sight of his remaining eye following an accident in 1833, dashing the hopes of his father that he might one day marry the his playmate and cousin Victoria, the future Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India.
Upon the death of King William IV of Great Britain and the accession of Victoria in 1837, the union of the British and Hanoverian thrones ended due to Hanover’s salic law barring the female line from the succession, and thus ending the personal union between Britain and Hanover that had existed since George I in 1714. As Prince George’s father, the ultra conservative 1st Duke off Cumberland, was the senior surviving legitimate descendant of George III in the male line, he succeeded to the Hanoverian throne as King Ernest Augustus I, causing George to become Crown Prince. The Duke’s political enemies in Britain spread a rumours that the Duke had not only murdered his valet and sired a child by his sister, Sophia, but that he also intended to murder Queen Victoria, and reunite the two thrones that way. Throughout this time Prince George was also second in line to the British throne until the birth of Queen Victoria's first child, Victoria, Princess Royal, in 1840. George married, in 1843, Marie, eldest daughter of Joseph, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg, and they had his son Ernst August and two daughters. Having been deposed after the Austro-Prussian War in 1866, George V expressed a wish to reside in Britain but was discouraged by Queen Victoria whose eldest daughter was by then married to tthe Prussian Prince Frederick William. George settled latterly with his son’s family in Upper Austria and damned the Prussians at any given oppourtnity. He died in Paris in 1878, and was buried as a Prince of Great Britain in St George's Chapel, Windsor.