George Washington, (1732-99). American general and first president of the US (1789-97). He began work as a land surveyor at the age of 14 and inherited his brother’s large Virginian estate in 1752. His life as a country gentleman was interrupted when he went to fight against the French (1754-58), his first military experience. By his marriage to a rich widow, Martha Custis, he gained a further estate and became one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. He spent the next 15 years managing these estates before commanding the American forces in the American War of Independence (1775). Remarkably, he managed to create, out of a mass of untrained and ill-equipped men, an army capable of defeating experienced British troops. After five years of fighting he captured Yorktown (1781), with French support, and the British surrendered. He was chosen as president of the Constitutional Convention (1787) and in 1789 was elected first president of the republic. He was re-elected in 1793 but refused a third term of of-fice. Queen Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of Washington’s great grandfather.