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Monday, 8 April 2013

Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850)

Adophus, Duke of Cambridge  from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,   Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
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Prince Adolphus (24 February 1774 - 8 July 1850) was the seventh son of George III and Queen Charlotte. He was more economical than his brothers and was popular at court but did not get on well with his niece, Queen Victoria.

Early years

Prince Adolphus Frederick was born at Buckingham House on 24 February 1774. He spent his early years at Kew, sharing a house with his older brothers, Ernest and Augustus.

On 2 June 1786 (1), he was made a Knight of the Garter and, shortly after, went with Ernest and Augustus to the University of Göttingen. Here his studies included the classics and theology, and he learned to fence.

A career in the army

In 1790, Adolphus travelled to Berlin to study military tactics before becoming a Colonel in the Hanoverian army. He fought in Flanders in 1793, where he was wounded and captured temporarily by the French. After recuperating in England, he returned to the Hanoverian army where he served again in Flanders. He retreated back to Hanover with the Hanoverians, but when they refused to stand up to Napoleon in 1803, Adolphus was forced to return to England.

Back in England, Adolphus was made Military Commander of the Home District and Colonel in Chief of the Coldstream Guards, but these were empty titles and he saw no active service. On 26 November 1813, he was promoted to Field Marshal in the British army.

Governor General of Hanover

In 1813, Adolphus returned to Hanover where he served as Governor General. He was made Viceroy in 1831 which gave him the power to introduce a more liberal constitution in Hanover.

On the death of William IV in 1837, his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, acceded to the Hanoverian crown and, once more, Adolphus was forced to return to England.

Duke of Cambridge

On 27 November 1801 (2), Adolphus was made Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary and Baron of Culloden.

Arms and label of the Duke of Cambridge  from Debrett's Complete Peerage (1838)
Arms and label of the Duke of Cambridge
from Debrett's Complete Peerage (1838)
A popular prince 

Adolphus was described by a lady visiting Hanover in 1799 as being “extremely handsome, tall and finely formed with fair complexion and regular features, charming manners and a flow of amusing conversation”.(3)

Caroline, Princess of Wales, on the other hand, described him in less flattering terms: “The Duke of Cambridge looks like a sergeant, and so vulgar with his ears full of powder.”(4)

Adolphus was popular at court and with the public and was the only one of George III’s sons who successfully lived within his means and had a personal life that was free from scandal.

He was very fond of music and skilled at playing the violin. In later years, he was apt to join in impromptu at musical parties, either singing or on his violin. He became very deaf and was notorious for speaking out loudly during church services.

Adolphus was sympathetic towards the Jews and was criticised in the press for his religious tolerance after he went to the Great Synagogue in Duke’s Place in 1809 to see a Jewish service with his brothers the Duke of Cumberland and the Duke of Sussex.

A broken engagement

In 1797, Adolphus was unofficially engaged to his cousin Princess Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the widow of Prince Louis of Prussia, but George III did not want them to marry until the war was over. In the meantime, Frederica became pregnant by Prince Frederick of Solms-Braunfels whom she subsequently married. After she had been widowed a second time, she married the Duke of Cumberland.

Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland  from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
A successful marriage

On 7 May 1818, Adolphus married Princess Augusta Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Cassel in Cassel. The ceremony was repeated at Buckingham House on 1 June. Adolphus and Augusta had three children: George William Frederick Charles (1819), Augusta Caroline (1822) and Mary Adelaide (1833).

Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge  from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Augusta, Duchess of Cambridge
from La Belle Assemblée (1830)
Not the favourite uncle

Queen Victoria did not get on well with her uncle Adolphus or his wife. Adolphus’ son, George, spent much of his childhood at Windsor in the hopes that he would marry his cousin, but the match did not take place as neither Victoria nor George desired it. Moreover, Victoria seems to have been offended that it should ever have been suggested.

In addition, there was the matter of precedence. The Duke of Cambridge allowed Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, to take precedence over him. But instead of receiving this graciously, the Queen assumed this as a matter of course, offending the Duke and Duchess.

Prince George of Cambridge  from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
Prince George of Cambridge
from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
The Duchess retaliated by sitting during a toast to Prince Albert at a party; the Queen insulted the Cambridges by excluding them from a ball at Buckingham Palace. When Prince Albert failed to appear at a banquet to celebrate being given the freedom of the city of London, the Duke of Cambridge gave a rather coarse speech which was reported in the press, much to the Queen’s horror and embarrassment. Fortunately, their relationship improved over time.

Prince Albert and Queen Victoria  from portraits by Dalton after F Winterhalter  from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria
from portraits by Dalton after F Winterhalter
from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
Final years

Having left Hanover in 1837, Adolphus was obliged to start a new life in England, devoting much of his time to charitable works. Adolphus died at Cambridge House, Piccadilly, on 8 July 1850. He was buried at Kew on 17 July, but his remains were transferred to the royal vault in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, on 10 January 1930.(5)

Notes
(1) From Ernest Augustus (1771-1851), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Alan Palmer (2004)
(2) From Debrett's Complete Peerage (1838); Adolphus Frederick, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography by Alan Palmer (2004) states 24 November 1801 and Wikipedia states 17 November 1801.
(3) From Royal Dukes by Roger Fulford (1933, revised 1973)
(4) From George IV by Christopher Hibbert (1972, 1973)
(5) From College of St George's Chapel, Windsor, website.

Sources used include:
Courthope, William, editor, Debrett's Complete Peerage of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1838)
Fulford, Roger, Royal Dukes (1933, revised 1973)
Hibbert, Christopher, George III (1998, Viking, Great Britain)
Hibbert, Christopher, George IV (1972, Longmans, 1973, Allen Lane, London)
Hibbert, Christopher, Queen Victoria (HarperCollins, 2000, London)
Huish, Robert, Memoirs of her late royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Palmer, Alan, Adolphus Frederick, Prince, first Duke of Cambridge, (1774-1850), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 23 Mar 2013)
Palmer, Alan, Ernest Augustus (1771-1851), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 23 Mar 2013)
Victoria, Queen, The Girlhood of Queen Victoria, A Selection from Her Majesty's Diaries between the years 1832 and 1840, edited Viscount Esher 2 Volumes (1912)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)

8 comments:

  1. What a nice man he seems to have been, pity there were not more of the blood royal like him.

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    Replies
    1. Adolphus had the advantage over his brothers of not getting entangled in a relationship which his father would not sanction. He seems to have been genuinely happy in his marriage.

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  2. Please, tell me why Adolphus or his offspring didn't inherit the throne?

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    Replies
    1. Adolphus was the 7th son and so by the laws of succession, he would only inherit if he outlived all of his elder brothers and their legitimate offspring. George, Frederick and William all died without leaving legitimate offspring alive so the next in line would have been Edward had he still been alive, but as he was already dead, the throne went to his legitimate daughter, Victoria.
      However, Victoria could not inherit Hanover as they had a male-only succession policy, and so the throne of Hanover went to the next brother in line, Ernest and then to his son, George.
      After Victoria succeeded to the throne, the line of succession then went through her, to her numerous offspring.

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  3. Victoria was such a malicious, vindictive little woman. Nasty.

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    Replies
    1. Like most people, I think she had her good points and her bad points. And some of her faults might well be considered the result of her restrictive upbringing by her controlling mother.

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  4. What a nice man he seems to have been, pity there were not more of the blood royal like him.Thanks for sharing with us.

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    Replies
    1. I've always thought he sounded quite nice, but clearly Queen Victoria was not that keen on him!

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