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Prince George
Duke of Cambridge
Duke of Cambridge
Predecessor Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
Spouse Sarah Fairbrother
Issue
George FitzGeorge
Adolphus FitzGeorge
Augustus FitzGeorge
Full name
George William Frederick Charles
House House of Hanover
Father Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
Mother Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
Born 26 March 1819
Cambridge House, Hanover
Died 17 March 1904 (aged 84)
Gloucester House, Piccadilly
Burial 22 March 1904
Kensal Green Cemetery, London
Occupation Military

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (George William Frederick Charles; 26 March 1819 – 17 March 1904) was a member of the British Royal Family, a male-line grandson of King George III. The Duke was an army officer and served as commander-in-chief of the British Army from 1856 to 1895. He became Duke of Cambridge in 1850.

Contents

Early life

Prince George was born at Cambridge House in Hanover, Germany. His father was Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the 10th child and 7th son of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. His mother was The Duchess of Cambridge (née Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel), the daughter of Prince Frederick of Hesse, lord of Rumpenheim and Caroline Polyxena of Nassau-Usingen.

He was baptised at Cambridge House on 11 May 1819, by the Reverend John Sanford, his father's Domestic Chaplain. His godparents were The Prince Regent (represented by The Duke of Clarence and St Andrews), The Duke of Clarence and St Andrews (represented by The Earl of Mayo) and The Dowager Queen of Württemberg (represented by The Countess of Mayo).[1]

He succeeded to his father's titles of Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary, and Baron Culloden in 1850.

Military career

Prince George of Cambridge was educated in Hanover by the Rev. J. R. Wood, a canon of Worcester. Like his father, he embarked upon a military career. In November 1837, after he had served for a short time in the Hanoverian army, he received the rank of colonel in the British Army. He was attached to the staff at Gibraltar from October 1838 to April 1839. After serving in Ireland with the 12th Royal Lancers (the Prince of Wales's), he was appointed colonel of the 17th Light Dragoons (now Lancers), in April 1842. From 1842 to 1845, he served as a colonel on the staff in the Ionian islands.

Collodion of Prince George, 1855, by Roger Fenton

The Duke of Cambridge became Inspector of the Cavalry in 1852. He held that post until 1854, when, upon the outbreak of the Crimean War, he received command of the 1st Division (Guards and Highland brigades) of the British army in the East. In June 1854, he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant-General. He was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol. On 5 July 1856, the Duke was appointed general commanding-in-chief of the British Army; a post that was retitled commander-in-chief of the forces by Letters Patent in 1887. In that capacity he served as the chief military advisor to the Secretary of State for War, with responsibility for the administration of the army and the command of forces in the field. However, the commander-in-chief was not subordinate to the secretary of state. He was promoted of the rank of field marshal on 9 November 1862.

The Duke of Cambridge was the longest serving head of the British Army, serving as commander-in-chief for 39 years. Although he was deeply concerned about the welfare of soldiers, he earned a reputation for being resistant to doctrinal change and for making promotions based upon an officer's social standing, rather than his merit. Under his command, the British Army became a moribund and stagnant institution, lagging far behind its continental counterparts. In the late 19th century, whereas 50 per cent of all military literature was written in Germany and 25 per cent in France, just one per cent came from Britain. It is said that he rebuked one of his more intelligent subordinates with the words: "Brains? I don't believe in brains! You haven't any, I know, Sir!" He was equally forthright on his reluctance to adopt change: "There is a time for everything, and the time for change is when you can no longer help it."

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge - statue on Whitehall, London

Despite his reputation as a hidebound traditionalist, however, the Duke took a keen interest in army reform. Under his influence, the army trialled various breech-loading carbines for the cavalry, one of which- the Westley-Richards- was so effective that it was decided to investigate the possibility of producing a version for the infantry. In 1861, 100 were issued to five infantry battalions; in 1863, an order of 2,000 was placed for further trials. He was also involved in the creation of the Staff College, and became governor of the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich: he further sought to improve the efficiency of the army by advocating a scheme of annual military manoeuvres. In 1860, he introduced a new system to restrict corporal punishment: soldiers were now eligible for flogging only in case of aggravated mutinous conduct in time of war, unless they committed an offence serious enough to degrade them to the second class and make them once again subject to corporal punishment. A year's good behaviour would return them to the first class, meaning that only a hard core of incorrigible offenders tended to be flogged: the number of floggings fell from 218 in 1858 to 126 in 1862.

In the wake of the Prussian victory in the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, the Liberal Party government of Prime Minister William Gladstone and Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell called for major army reforms. The Duke was extremely worried about the nature of these reforms, which struck at the heart of his view of the army. He feared that the newly-created force of reservists would be of little use in a colonial conflict, and that expeditionary forces would have to strip the most experienced men from the home-based battalions in order to fill the gaps in their ranks. His fears seemed to be confirmed in 1873, when Wolseley raided battalions for the expedition against the Ashanti: by 1879, the 59 battalions remaining at home were hard pressed to send replacements to the 83 abroad. In 1881, when the historic numbers of regiments were abolished and facing colours standardised for English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish regiments, the duke protested that regimental spirit would be affected: the majority of facing colours were restored by the First World War, although the numbers were not.

The reforming impetus, however, continued. The War Office Act, which Parliament passed in 1870, formally subordinated the office of commander-in-chief of the army to the secretary of state. The Duke of Cambridge strongly resented this move, a sentiment shared by a majority of officers, many of whom would not have gained their posts on merit alone. Under the Order-in-Council of February 1888, all responsibility for military affairs was vested in the office of commander-in-chief. An 1890 royal commission led by Lord Hartington (later the 8th Duke of Devonshire) criticized the administration of the War Office and recommended the devolution of authority from the commander-in-chief to subordinate military officers. The Duke of Cambridge was forced to resign his post on 1 November 1895, and was succeeded by Lord Wolseley, whose duties were considerably modified.

Marriage and Mistress

The Duke of Cambridge made no secret of his view that "arranged marriages were doomed to failure." He married privately and in contravention of the 1772 Royal Marriages Act at St. John's Church, Clerkenwell, London on 8 January 1847 to Sarah Fairbrother (1816-12 January 1890), the daughter of John Fairbrother, a servant in Westminster, by whom he had already had two illegitimate children and who previously had had two children by other men. Sarah Fairbrother had been an actress since 1827, performing at Drury Lane, the Lyceum, and Covent Garden Theatre. As the marriage did not exist in British law, the Duke's 'wife' was not titled Duchess of Cambridge or accorded the style Her Royal Highness. Indeed, her very existence was ignored by the Queen. Instead, Sarah called herself "Mrs. Fairbrother" and later "Mrs. FitzGeorge." The Duke was a very weak man where women were concerned and it seems likely that he had been cajoled into marriage by Sarah (then pregnant for the fifth time), she herself obtaining the licence. Legend has created for the couple an idyllic relationship that is far from the reality, the Duke having other affairs and being quite unworthy of her steady attachment[2].

From 1837 the Duke had known Mrs. Louisa Beauclerk whom he later described as 'the idol of my life and my existence'. He saw much of her in 1847 and she was his mistress from at least 1849 until her death in 1882. As early as 1849 he had decided that he would be buried near Mrs. Beauclerk and it was solely on her account that Mrs. FitzGeorge and he were deposited in the mausoleum in Kensal Green Cemetery, about sixty feet away from Mrs Beauclerk's grave[3].

Later life

British Royalty
House of Hanover
Quarterly, I and IV Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or; II Or a lion rampant within a double tressure flory-counter-flory Gules; III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent; overall an escutcheon tierced per pale and per chevron, I Gules two lions passant guardant Or, II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure, III Gules a horse courant Argent, the whole inescutcheon surmounted by crown
George III
   George IV
   Frederick, Duke of York
   William IV
   Charlotte, Queen of Württemberg
   Edward, Duke of Kent
   Princess Augusta Sophia
   Elizabeth, Landgravine of Hesse-Homburg
   Ernest Augustus I of Hanover
   Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex
   Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
   Mary, Duchess of Gloucester
   Princess Sophia
   Prince Octavius
   Prince Alfred
   Princess Amelia
Grandchildren
   Charlotte, Princess Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
   Princess Charlotte of Clarence
   Princess Elizabeth of Clarence
   Victoria
   George V, King of Hanover
   George, Duke of Cambridge
   Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
   Mary Adelaide, Duchess of Teck
Funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London

The Duke of Cambridge served as colonel-in-chief of the 17th Lancers, Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers; the Middlesex Regiment and King's Royal Rifle Corps; colonel of the Grenadier Guards; honorary colonel of the 10th Duke of Cambridge's Own Lancers, 20th Duke of Cambridge's Own Punjabis, Royal Malta Artillery, 4 Batt. Suffolk Regiment, Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry, and 1st City of London Volunteer Brigade. He became the ranger of Hyde Park and St. James's Park in 1852, and of Richmond Park in 1857; a governor of the Royal Military Academy in 1862, and its president in 1870.

Cambridge's strength and hearing began to fade in his later years. He was unable to ride at Queen Victoria's funeral and had to attend in a carriage. He paid his last visit to Germany in August 1903. He died of a haemorrhage of the stomach in 1904 at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London. He was buried five days later next to Mrs. FitzGeorge in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. With his death, the 1801 creation of the dukedom of Cambridge became extinct.

Six years after his death, his niece Mary, daughter of his sister Mary Adelaide, became Queen Consort.

In 1904, his estate was probated at under 121,000 pounds sterling.[4]

The Duke is today commemorated by an equestrian statue standing on Whitehall in central London; it is, somewhat ironically, positioned outside the front door of the War Office that he so strongly resisted.

Several pubs in England are named in his honour (most notably in London and Oxford).

His Royal Highness was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Order (GCH) in Privy Counsellor in 1856.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

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Titles and styles

  • 26 March 1819–8 July 1850: His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge
  • 8 July 1850–17 March 1904: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge

Honours

Military

  • Col, November 1837–June 1854: Colonel, United Kingdom British Army
  • LtGen, June 1854–: Lieutenant-General, United Kingdom British Army
  • FM, 9 November 1862–: Field Marshal, United Kingdom British Army

Honorary military appointments

British

Empire

Issue

The Duke of Cambridge and Mrs. FitzGeorge had three sons, two of whom were born before their marriage, invalid as a result of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, and all of whom pursued military careers.

Name Birth Death Notes
George FitzGeorge 24 August 1843 2 September 1907 m. Rosa Baring; had issue
Adolphus FitzGeorge 30 January 1846 17 December 1922 m. (1) Sofia Holden; had issue; (2) Margaret Watson; no issue
Augustus FitzGeorge 12 June 1847 30 October 1933 Col Sir Augustus FitzGeorge, KCVO, CB

Ancestors

Notes

  1. ^ London Gazette: no. 17479, p. 881, 22 May 1819. Retrieved on 2008-06-19.
  2. ^ Anthony J. Camp, Royal mistresses and bastards: fact and fiction 1714-1936 (London, 2007) 330-38.
  3. ^ Camp, op.cit., 339.
  4. ^ Spiers, Edward M.. "Prince George, Duke of Cambridge". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33372?docPos=4. Retrieved 2008-02-10.  

References

  • Giles St. Aubyn, The Royal George, 1819-1904: The Life of HRH Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (London: Constable, 1963).
  • Edward M. Spiers, ‘George, Prince, second duke of Cambridge (1819–1904)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 10 Feb 2008
  • Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London: Pimlico, 1996)
  • "The Late Duke of Cambridge," The Times, 19 March 1904, p. 7.

External links

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 26 March 1819 Died: 17 March 1904
Military offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Hardinge
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
1856 – 1895
Succeeded by
The Viscount Wolseley
Other offices
Preceded by
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
President of the Foundling Hospital
1851 – 1904
Succeeded by
Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
Grand Master of the Order of St Michael
and St George

1850 – 1904
Succeeded by
George, Prince of Wales
later became King George V
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Prince Adolphus
Duke of Cambridge
4th creation
1850 – 1904
Extinct

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