Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

Infobox British Royalty|royal
name =Prince George
title =Duke of Cambridge

imgw =244
succession = Duke of Cambridge
predecessor =Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
spouse =Sarah Fairbrother
issue =George FitzGeorge
Adolphus FitzGeorge
Augustus FitzGeorge
titles ="HRH" The Duke of Cambridge
"HRH" Prince George of Cambridge
full name = George William Frederick Charles
royal house =House of Hanover
father =Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
mother =Princess Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
date of birth =26 March 1819
place of birth =Cambridge House, Hanover
date of death =Death date and age|1904|3|17|1819|3|26|df=yes
place of death =Gloucester House, Piccadilly
date of burial =22 March 1904
place of burial =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.

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). [LondonGazette|issue=17479|startpage=881|date=22 May 1819|accessdate=2008-06-19]

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.

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."

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.


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 ninth child and fifth daughter of John Fairbrother, a partner in a family printing firm in Bow Street. Sarah Fairbrother became an actress in 1830, performing at Drury Lane, the Lyceum, and Covent Garden Theatre. As the marriage did not exist in British law, the Duke's wife was never titled Duchess of Cambridge or accorded the style "Her Royal Highness". Instead, she was known as "Mrs. FitzGeorge." She was not regarded as a member of the British Royal Family. He was distraught by her death, leading the mourning at her burial in Kensal Green Cemetery, and regularly marking the anniversary of her death.

Later life

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. [cite web
last = Spiers
first = Edward M.
title = Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
publisher = Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
url =
accessdate = 2008-02-10

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).Fact|date=January 2008

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

*26 March 18198 July 1850: "His Royal Highness" Prince George of Cambridge
*8 July 1850–17 March 1904: "His Royal Highness" The Duke of Cambridge


*KG: Knight of the Garter
*KT: Knight of the Thistle
*KP: Knight of St Patrick
*GCB: Knight Grand Cross of the Bath
*GCMG: Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George
*GCVO: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
*KJStJ: Knight Justice of St John
*ADC(P): Personal Aide-de-Camp to the Sovereign


*Col, "November 1837–June 1854": Colonel, flagicon|UK British Army
**"October 1838–April 1839": Colonel, flagcountry|Gibraltar staff
**Colonel, 12th Royal Lancers
**"April 1842–?": Colonel, 17th Light Dragoons
**"1842–1845": Colonel, Ionian Islands staff
**"1852–March 1854": Inspector of the Cavalry
**"March 1854–?": I/C, 1st Division (Guards and Highland Brigades)
*LtGen, "June 1854–": Lieutenant-General, flagicon|UK British Army
**"March 1854–?": I/C, 1st Division (Guards and Highland Brigades)
**"5 July 18561 November 1895": Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, flagicon|UK British Army
*FM, "9 November 1862–": Field Marshal, flagicon|UK British Army
**"5 July 18561 November 1895": Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, flagicon|UK British Army

Honorary military appointments

*Colonel-in-Chief, of the 17th Lancers
*Colonel-in-Chief, of the Royal Artillery
*Colonel-in-Chief, of the Royal Engineers
*Colonel-in-Chief, of The Middlesex Regiment
*Colonel-in-Chief, of the King's Royal Rifle Corps
*Colonel, of the Grenadier Guards
*Honorary Colonel, of the 10th Duke of Cambridge's Own Lancers
*Honorary Colonel, of the 4 Batt. Suffolk Regiment
*Honorary Colonel, of the Middlesex Imperial Yeomanry
*Honorary Colonel, of the 1st City of London Volunteer Brigade

*Honorary Colonel, of flagicon|India|British the 20th Duke of Cambridge's Own Punjabis
*Honorary Colonel, of


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.


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1= 1. Prince George,
Duke of Cambridge

2= 2. Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
3= 3. Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel
4= 4. George III of the United Kingdom
5= 5. Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
6= 6. Prince Frederick of Hesse
7= 7. Princess Caroline Polyxene of Nassau-Usingen
8= 8. Frederick, Prince of Wales
9= 9. Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha
10= 10. Charles Louis Frederick, Duke of Mecklenburg-Mirow
11= 11. Princess Elizabeth Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen
12= 12. Frederick II, Landgrave of Hesse
13= 13. Princess Mary of Great Britain
14= 14. Prince Charles William of Nassau-Usingen
15= 15. Countess Caroline Felizitas of Leiningen-Dagsburg-Heidesheim
16= 16. George II of Great Britain
17= 17. Margravine Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach
18= 18. Frederick II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
19= 19. Princess Magdalena Augusta of Anhalt-Zerbst
20= 20. Adolf Frederick II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
21= 21. Christiane Emilie of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
22= 22. Ernest Frederick I, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen
23= 23. Sophia Albertine of Erbach-Erbach
24= 24. William VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel)
25= 25. Dorothea Wilhelmine of Saxe-Zeitz
26= 26. George II of Great Britain (= 16)
27= 27. Margravine Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach (= 17)
28= 28. Prince Charles of Nassau-Usingen
29= 29. Princess Christine Wilhelmine of Saxe-Eisenach
30= 30. Count Christian Charles Reinhard of Leiningen-Dagsburg-Heidesheim
31= 31. Countess Katherina Polyxene of Solms-Rodelheim



*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.

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