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Prince Frederick
The Duke of York, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the robes of the Order of the Garter, 1788.
Duke of York and Albany
Personal details
Born (1763-08-16)16 August 1763
St. James's Palace, London
Died 5 January 1827(1827-01-05) (aged 63)
Rutland House, London
Spouse(s) Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Rank Field Marshal

The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (Frederick Augustus; 16 August 1763 – 5 January 1827), was the second eldest child and second son of King George III of the United Kingdom and a member of the House of Hanover. From the death of his father in 1820 until his own death in 1827, he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, King George IV, both to the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Hanover.

Frederick was thrust into the British army at a very early age, appointed to high command at the age of 30, and commanded in a notoriously ineffectual campaign during the War of the First Coalition, which followed the French Revolution. Later, as Commander-in-Chief, he reorganised the British army, putting in place vital administrative and structural reforms.

Early life

Prince Frederick Augustus, or the Duke of York as he became in later life, belonged to the House of Hanover.[1] He was born on 16 August 1763, at St. James's Palace, London.[1] His father was the reigning British monarch, King George III.[1] His mother was Queen Charlotte (née Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz).[2] He was christened on 14 September 1763 at St James's, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker — his godparents were his great-uncle the Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (for whom the Earl Gower, Lord Chamberlain, stood proxy), his uncle the Duke of York (for whom the Earl of Huntingdon, Groom of the Stole, stood proxy) and his great-aunt the Princess Amelia.[3]

On 27 February 1764, when Prince Frederick was six months old, his father secured his election as Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in today's Lower Saxony.[1] He received this title because his father, as Elector of Hanover, was entitled to select every other holder of this title (in alternation with a Catholic prelate).[4] He was invested as Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath on 30 December 1767[5] and as a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 19 June 1771.[6]

Military career

The Duke of York in 1790.

George III decided that his second son would pursue an army career and had him gazetted colonel on 4 November 1780.[7] From 1781 to 1787, Prince Frederick lived in Hanover, where he studied (along with his younger brothers, Prince Edward, Prince Ernest, Prince Augustus and Prince Adolphus) at the University of Göttingen.[8] He was appointed colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards (now 2nd Life Guards) on 26 March 1782[9] before being promoted to major-general on 20 November 1782.[1] Promoted to lieutenant general on 27 October 1784,[1] he was appointed colonel of the Coldstream Guards on 28 October 1784.[10]

He was created Duke of York and Albany and Earl of Ulster on 27 November 1784[11] and became a member of the Privy Council. He retained the bishopric of Osnabrück until 1803, when, in the course of the secularisation preceding the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the bishopric was incorporated into Prussia.[4] On his return to Britain, the Duke took his seat in the House of Lords, where, on 15 December 1788 during the Regency crisis, he opposed William Pitt's Regency Bill in a speech which was supposed to have been influenced by the Prince of Wales.[4] On 26 May 1789 he took part a duel with Colonel Charles Lennox, who had insulted him; Lennox missed and Prince Frederick refused to return fire.[4]


On 12 April 1793 he was promoted to full general.[12] That year, he was sent to Flanders in command of the British contingent of Coburg's army destined for the invasion of France.[12] Frederick and his command fought in the Flanders Campaign under extremely trying conditions. He won several notable engagements, such as the Siege of Valenciennes in July 1793,[13] but was defeated at the Battle of Hondschoote in September 1793.[12] In the 1794 campaign he was successful at the battle of Willems in May but was defeated at the Battle of Tourcoing later that month.[12] The British army was evacuated through Bremen in April 1795.[12]


See also: Recruitment in the British Army

After his return to Britain, his father George III promoted him to the rank of field marshal on 18 February 1795.[12] On 3 April 1795, George appointed him effective Commander-in-Chief in succession to Lord Amherst[14] although the title was not confirmed until three years later.[15] He was also colonel of the 60th Regiment of Foot from 19 August 1797.[16]

On appointment as Commander-in-Chief he immediately declared, reflecting on the Flanders Campaign of 1793–94,

"...that no officer should ever be subject to the same disadvantages under which he had laboured".[14]

His second field command was with the army sent for the Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland in August 1799. On 7 September 1799, he was given the honorary title of Captain-General.[17] Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell, in charge of the vanguard, had succeeded in capturing some Dutch warships in Den Helder. However, following the Duke's arrival with the main body of the army, a number of disasters befell the allied forces, including shortage of supplies.[18] On 17 October 1799, the Duke signed the Convention of Alkmaar, by which the allied expedition withdrew after giving up its prisoners.[18]

These military setbacks were inevitable given Frederick's lack of moral seniority as a field commander, the poor state of the British army at the time, and conflicting military objectives of the protagonists. After this ineffectual campaign, Frederick was mocked, perhaps unfairly, in the rhyme "The Grand Old Duke of York":

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.[19]

"The modern Circe or a sequel to the petticoat", caricature of Frederick's lover, Mary Anne Clarke by Isaac Cruikshank, 15 March 1809. The prince resigned as head of the British army ten days after the caricature's publication.

Statue of Frederick Duke of York in Waterloo Place, Westminster, London

Frederick's experience in the Dutch campaign made a strong impression on him. That campaign, and the Flanders campaign, had demonstrated the numerous weaknesses of the British army after years of neglect. Frederick as Commander-in-Chief of the British army carried through a massive programme of reform.[20] He was the person most responsible for the reforms that created the force which served in the Peninsular War. He was also in charge of the preparations against Napoleon's planned invasion of the United Kingdom in 1803. In the opinion of Sir John Fortescue, Frederick did "more for the army than any one man has done for it in the whole of its history."[21]

In 1801 Frederick actively supported the foundation of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, which promoted the professional, merit-based training of future commissioned officers.[18]

On 14 September 1805 he was given the honorary title of Warden of Windsor Forest.[22]

Frederick resigned as Commander-in-Chief on 25 March 1809, as the result of a scandal caused by the activities of his latest mistress, Mary Anne Clarke.[18] Clarke was accused of illicitly selling army commissions under Frederick's aegis.[18] A select committee of the House of Commons enquired into the matter. Parliament eventually acquitted Frederick of receiving bribes by 278 votes to 196. He nevertheless resigned because of the high tally against him.[18] Two years later, it was revealed that Clarke had received payment from Frederick's disgraced chief accuser,[23] and the Prince Regent reappointed the now-exonerated Frederick as Commander-in-Chief on 29 May 1811.[24]

Frederick maintained a country residence at Oatlands near Weybridge, Surrey; but he was seldom there, preferring to immerse himself in his administrative work at Horse Guards (the British army's headquarters) and, after hours, in London's high life, with its gaming tables: Frederick was perpetually in debt because of his excessive gambling on cards and racehorses.[4] Following the unexpected death of his niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales, in 1817, Frederick became second in line to the throne, with a serious chance of inheriting it.[25] In 1820, he became heir presumptive with the death of his father, George III.[4]

Frederick died of dropsy and apparent cardio-vascular disease at the home of the Duke of Rutland on Arlington Street, London, in 1827.[18] After lying in state in London, Frederick's remains were interred in St. George's Chapel, at Windsor.[4]


On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg, Berlin, and again on 23 November 1791 at Buckingham Palace, Frederick married his cousin Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, the daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Lüneburg.[12] The marriage was not a happy one and the couple soon separated. Frederica retired to Oatlands, where she lived until her death in 1820.[4]

The Duke of York in 1822.

The Duke of York Column seen from The Mall.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 16 August 1763 – 27 November 1784: His Royal Highness The Prince Frederick
  • 27 November 1784 – 5 January 1827: His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Albany

His full style, recited at his funeral, was "Most High, Most Mighty, and Illustrious Prince, Frederick Duke of York and of Albany, Earl of Ulster, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order".[26]


His honours were as follows:[26]


As a son of the sovereign, Frederick was granted use of the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of three points, the centre point bearing a cross gules. The quarter/inescutcheon of Hanover had an inescutcheon argent charged with a wheel of six spokes gules for the Bishopric of Osnabrück.[27]


Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, was named after Prince Frederick. The city was originally named "Frederick's Town".[28]

The towering Duke of York Column on Waterloo Place, just off The Mall, London was completed in 1834 as a memorial to Prince Frederick.[29]

The 72nd Regiment of Foot was given the title Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders in 1823 and, in 1881, became 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross–shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's).[30]

The first British fortification in southern Africa, Fort Frederick, Port Elizabeth, a city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, was built in 1799 to prevent French assistance for rebellious Boers in the short-lived republic of Graaff-Reinet.[31]

The Duke of York Bay in Canada was named in his honour, since it was discovered on his birthday, 16 August.[32]


References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Heathcote, p. 127.
  2. "Family Tree for Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz". Royal list on-line. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  3. "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Christenings". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 "Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  5. Cokayne, p.921
  6. Weir, p. 286.
  7. "No. 12132". 31 October 1780. 
  8. "Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany". Regency History. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  9. "No. 12281". 23 March 1782. 
  10. "No. 12590". 26 October 1784. 
  11. "Yvonne's Royalty: Peerage". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 Heathcote, p.128
  13. "No. 13552". 1 August 1793. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Glover, (1973), p.128
  15. "No. 15004". 3 April 1798. 
  16. "No. 14038". 19 August 1797. 
  17. "No. 15177". 3 September 1799. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 Heathcote, p.129
  19. Opie, pp. 442–443
  20. Glover, (1963), p.12
  21. The Oxford Illustrated History of the British Army (1994) p. 145
  22. "No. 15842". 10 September 1805. 
  23. The Duke of York Scandal, 1809
  24. "No. 16487". 21 May 1811. 
  25. Heathcote, p.130
  26. 26.0 26.1 "No. 18328". 24 January 1827. 
  27. Fox-Davies, p.498
  28. "Fredericton – Capital City". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  29. "Victorian London – Buildings, Monuments and Museums – Duke of York's column". Victorian London. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  30. "Old Scots Regiments". Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  31. "Fort Frederick". Nelson Mandela Bay. Retrieved 21 April 2012. 
  32. Taylor, p.300


Further reading

External links

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
House of Hanover
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 16 August 1763 Died: 5 January 1827
Religious titles
Regnal titles
Title last held by
Clemens August of Bavaria
Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück
as Protestant Administrator
Title next held by
Paul Melchers
as bishop
Military offices
Preceded by
The Lord Amherst
Captain and Colonel of the
2nd Troop Horse Grenadier Guards

Succeeded by
Earl Percy
Preceded by
The Earl Waldegrave
Colonel of the Coldstream Guards
Succeeded by
The Duke of Cambridge
Preceded by
The Lord Amherst
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir David Dundas
Colonel-in-Chief of the
60th (Royal American) Regiment of Foot

Succeeded by
The Duke of Cambridge
Title last held by
The Duke of Cumberland
Office abolished
Preceded by
The Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards
Succeeded by
The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by
Sir David Dundas
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Honorary titles
Title last held by
The Duke of Montagu
Great Master of the Bath
Succeeded by
The Duke of Clarence and St. Andrews
later became King William IV
Preceded by
The Prince of Wales
later became King George IV
President of the Foundling Hospital
Succeeded by
The Duke of Cambridge

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