"The Turbulent Thirties," The 19th Century: 100 Years of Revolution, Innovation, and Expansion
Written by Professor Abel Fisher of Cambridge University, 2021
"... Studying the events surrounding the Hanoverian Revolution often leads to the conclusion that the revolution was all but inevitable. However, this is a common error made due to historical foresight, which was not a tool at the disposal of European leaders in 1835. The Hanoverian Revolution is often compared to the Liege Revolution, which led to Liege's Prince-Bishop's downfall and annexation into the French Republic. This is due to the two entities' proximity and the ensuing French intervention that led to Coalition Wars for both revolutions. Even so, the forty or so years between the Liege Revolution and the Hanoverian Revolution led to a significant difference in both response and results. While the two revolutions shared similar circumstances, the Hanoverian Revolution was notably more complex and consequential than the Liege Revolution...
During the Anglo-American War, King George IV recruited numerous mercenaries from Hanover and surrounding German states to fight for the British crown on the American mainland. Approximately ten thousand Germans were recruited, a sizeable mercenary force that Britain had not utilized since the American Revolution sixty years prior. Compared to the British regulars, the German mercenaries were of questionable quality, but their service was exemplary and 'clean' compared to the mercenaries recruited by the French and Spanish Empires. Around three thousand German mercenaries employed by the British Empire were casualties during the Anglo-American War. The majority of these casualties were due to the intense anti-partisan campaigns carried out by the Alliance forces following the occupation of the American South, as German mercenaries rarely served on the front lines (unlike the Indian sepoys, which will be discussed in later chapters).
Unsurprisingly, when the Alliance withdrew from the American continent following the American counteroffensive in the latter half of 1834, many German mercenaries managed to flee before the devastating American ironclad blockade closed in. Even still, three thousand five hundred Germans were still captured due to the rapid American advance. Many of them were released within weeks, but many more remained as prisoners of the United States for months. The American government was unwavering in its determination to trial all potential 'war criminals,' which led to an extended imprisonment period for the remaining German mercenaries. When they finally managed to return home to Europe, they were greeted with unwelcoming news...
The British government and its finances were deeply in the red following the end of the Anglo-American War. While the new Whig ministry (led by Prime Minister Henry Petty-Fitzmaurice, the 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne) sought to pay all the soldiers that fought for Britain during the war, the tightening finances led to a controversial decision that was one of the key factors that led to the Indian Rebellion of 1835 and the Hanoverian Revolution. With the support of Parliament, Prime Minister Lansdowne decreed a full 'review' of the payment due to the soldiers and mercenaries and fulfill the payments on a case by case basis. While all British soldiers were paid their wages in full, the payments to mercenaries and sepoys were delayed, if not outright ignored, for the government to cut costs. The British government did attempt its best to compensate as many non-British regulars as possible. In the end, Britain's struggling finances made this feat impossible (though some descendants of the unpaid soldiers were compensated in the late 19th century).
Many returning German mercenaries, disillusioned by the bloody war on the North American continent and riddled with tropical diseases, responded to the British government's announcement with angry protests and riots. However, by this time, the British government was already in the process of withdrawing from Hanover, which had been in a union with Britain for over a century. Due to the Salic laws in place for the Electorate of Hanover, Queen Charlotte I was unable to inherit Hanover, which led to the Electorate being re-organized into an independent kingdom. Thus, Ernest Augustus, King George IV's younger brother and Queen Charlotte's uncle, became the new king of Hanover. Ernest Augustus proved to be controversial within days of stepping foot in Hanover.
Anti-British sentiments were swirling due to the British government's controversial decision and King George IV's disgraceful actions. Moreover, the new Hanoverian king dissolved the Hanoverian Parliament upon his arrival and dismissed a draft of a new Constitution the Hanoverian Parliament had been working on. Augustus feared that the local parliament and people would overthrow him, similar to King George IV's forced abdication in Britain. This fear was especially evident in his journal entry dated April 2nd of 1835, "[The locals] do not care about me, or my willingness to reign. Instead, they cry for my brother [the Viceroy of Hanover] Adolphus to rule and claim I am illegitimate as my father. Many have already been protesting for months; I can not give them any chance to oppose my rule." Instead of seeking a diplomatic solution, he sought to crush any resistance by force and royal decree to consolidate his power quickly.
By this time, the French Republic's and the Kingdom of Rhineland's influence and ideas had slowly penetrated nearby German states, including Hanover. Contrary to popular beliefs, the Hanoverian Revolution was not a republican revolution. The people of Hanover were keen on maintaining a monarchy, but a liberalized, constitutional monarchy that was not too dissimilar from the monarchy of the Rhineland. This sentiment was only reinforced after King George IV's scandal, which led to the British monarch becoming a symbolic figurehead instead of a government executive. King Augustus' actions only inflamed the situation, which turned into a full-scale revolution a mere week after his arrival. On April 7th, a group of former mercenaries raided a nearby armory and armed themselves in response to the king's absolutism. The rebels, who called themselves 'Vizekönner' (a reference to Vizekönig, the German word for viceroy), waved the Viceroy's Coat of Arms and rallied supporters to topple King Augustus from his throne.
Within two hours, they managed to locate and encircle the Viceroy, who was unaware of the uprising that was happening in his name. Prince Adolphus had publicly refused the crown to support Augustus' reign and refused again when the rebels begged him to become king. However, the rebels gathered thousands of locals who sought the Viceroy to rule and petitioned for his acceptance. Finally, after hours of relentless requests and petitions, Prince Adophlus caved and agreed to rule Hanover in front of a cheering crowd. He explicitly ordered that no harm was to befall upon 'King' Augustus and for his role as king to be purely ceremonial, which the rebels gladly accepted.
By this time, King Augustus had already caught wind of the revolt and attempted to crush the rebellion. However, his guards, who were Hanoverian locals, deserted en masse and opened the gates to the king's residence for the rebels. Realizing that his situation was futile and fearing for his life, Augustus fled the city with his family and servants. Instead of escaping to London, he traveled to Vienna due to Hanover's position within the Holy Roman Empire. There, he confided with Holy Roman Emperor Francis II and falsely reported that 'French radicals' were behind the rebellion in Hanover, which prompted an immediate reaction from Emperor Francis.
Since the turn of the century, the French Republic was the mortal enemy of Austria and Prussia. France's transformation into a liberal, democratic republic in the face of kingdoms and empires presented a threat to every emperor, king, and prince in Europe. The defeats suffered by the biggest European powers during the previous two Coalition Wars, exemplified by the independent and 'neutral' Rhineland Kingdom, were fresh in the minds of many. Added with the French Republic's territorial expansions following its short involvement in the Anglo-American War, it was unsurprising why Emperor Francis readily believed Augustus' claims. While Augustus only sought to restore himself to the Hanoverian throne with Austrian support, he unintentionally sparked a fire within the Holy Roman Emperor, who was keen on defeating the 'upstart, immoral, and radical republic.' The Emperor immediately called upon his brother-in-law, King Frederick William III of Prussia (who had married Emperor Francis' sister, Archduchess Maria Amalia, after the passing of his first wife in 1810), to 'defend the Holy Roman Empire and shield the people of Europe from French aggression.' The shy and timid Prussian king agreed and mobilized his soldiers alongside Austria's army to finally enact revenge on the ever-victorious French Republic...
As fate would have it, the Hanoverian rebels expected Vienna to respond with force and turned to the French for assistance, emulating the Liege revolutionaries decades before them. The French government, riding high off its swift victory and gains during the Anglo-American War, responded eagerly and positively. President Ange Rene Armand, who oversaw electoral and election reforms to centralize the presidency's power, rallied the National Assembly behind him and ordered the French Army to support the new King of Hanover. While the Hanoverian rebels were not republicans, they pledged to form a government that would align with the French Republic and turn Hanover into 'another Rhineland Kingdom,' which President Armand saw as a golden opportunity to further expand France's influence in Western Europe (and, in turn, weakening Austria and Prussia while creating another buffer state between France and the Holy Roman Empire). The French Republic strongly believed that it would easily win another Coalition War, especially since its military was already mobilized and the government had overwhelming support from its people. However, it did not expect to face a reformed and improved joint Austrian-Prussian Army, which had learned many harsh lessons from the previous wars and overhauled doctrines and weapons to bring the French Republic to its knees...