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Monday 1 October 2012

Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1767-1820)

HRH Edward, Duke of Kent  from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,   Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)
HRH Edward, Duke of Kent
from A Biographical Memoir of Frederick,
 Duke of York and Albany by John Watkins (1827)


Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, (2 November 1767 - 23 January 1820) was the the fourth son of George III and Queen Charlotte and a younger brother of George IV.

Early years

Prince Edward Augustus was born at Buckingham House on 2 November 1767, the fifth child of King George III and Queen Charlotte. He was named after George III’s brother Edward, Duke of York, who died shortly before the new Prince’s birth. He was tutored by John Fisher who later became Bishop of Salisbury.

Army career

In 1785, Edward was sent to Luneburg to begin his career in the army as a cadet in the Hanoverian foot guards. He completed his military training under Lieutenant Colonel Baron Von Wangenheim, a strict military tutor whom Edward described as “a mercenary tyrant”.

He served in Hanover, Geneva, Gibraltar, the West Indies and Canada. He was gazetted brevet Colonel in the British army and elected a Knight of the Garter in 1786, subsequently rising to Major General (1793), General (1794) and Field Marshal (1805).

Harsh disciplinarian or respected leader?

Edward gained the reputation of a stern disciplinarian, making him unpopular with his men. This was brought to a head in 1802, when he was made Governor of Gibraltar and asked to bring the garrison back into order. His harsh actions resulted in a mutiny, but having successfully quelled it, he was recalled to England.

The Duke of York condemned Edward’s behaviour as “from first to last as marked by cruelty and oppression”. His brother allowed him no opportunity to defend himself and they quarrelled violently.
Prince Frederick, Duke of York  from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
Prince Frederick, Duke of York
from La Belle Assemblée (1827)
However, it would appear that Edward’s leadership was respected by the officers at Gibraltar who gave a fete in his honour in May 1791 before he was transferred to Quebec. He was also commended for helping to repress St Lucia and Martinique whilst serving under Sir Charles Grey in the West Indies in 1794.

The least worthy of sons

George III seemed to have little interest in Edward and yet was very quick to criticise him. Edward received very few letters from home and was spied on by his valet, Rhymers.
George III   from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte  by WC Oulton(1819)
George III
 from Memoirs of Queen Charlotte
by WC Oulton(1819)
Wangenheim gave Edward a very meagre sum out of the £6,000 a year he was paid for his maintenance, forcing him to borrow in order to equip himself in the manner befitting a Prince. When his father learned that he was in debt, he was sent to Geneva in disgrace, but he was still not given an adequate allowance and his debts continued to amass.

Desperate for contact with home, in 1790 Edward escaped from his mentor and travelled to England. His father was furious. The King afforded Edward only a very short interview before effectively banishing him to Gibraltar. He was not allowed home on leave until he suffered a fall from his horse in October 1798.

Edward was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn on 24 April 1799 and parliament finally voted him an income of £12,000 a year. However, his monetary problems continued to haunt him throughout the rest of his life.


Despite his reputation for harsh military discipline, Edward was popular with his servants and Princess Charlotte’s favourite uncle, actively promoting the match between the Princess and Prince Leopold. He helped negotiate Mrs Fitzherbert’s return to the Prince of Wales in 1799 but also remained on friendly terms with Princess Caroline.

Princess Charlotte  from Huish's Memoirs of her late  royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
Princess Charlotte
from Huish's Memoirs of her late
royal highness Charlotte Augusta (1818)
His habits were remarkably similar to those of his father – he rose early, ate and drank sparingly and liked to spend time outside. He was very polite and attentive to women and placed a high value on his time. His conversation was intelligent and informed and he had a gift for public speaking. He was also a prolific correspondent.

He supported charitable works, such as the Literary Fund, and introduced regimental schools for the children of his men. He was interested in Robert Owen’s social experiments, supported anti-slavery and was in favour of Catholic emancipation, which may explain some of his father’s enmity towards him.

Madame de Saint-Laurent

Whilst serving in Gibraltar, Therese-Bernadine Mongenet became Edward’s mistress. She was known as Madame de Saint-Laurent and stayed with the Prince for almost 28 years, until the death of Princess Charlotte in 1817 prompted the royal Dukes to marry in order to secure the succession.


On 29 May 1818, Edward married Princess Victoria Mary Louisa of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld in Coburg. She was the widow of Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen and Prince Leopold’s sister. The ceremony was repeated in the Queen's drawing room in Kew Palace on 11 July 1818, at the same time as his brother William, Duke of Clarence, married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.

Victoria, Duchess of Kent  from La Belle Assemblée (1825)
Victoria, Duchess of Kent
from La Belle Assemblée (1825)
Parliament refused to grant an additional sum for the maintenance of his enlarged household, and so the couple lived mainly at Amorbach Castle, Leiningen, Victoria’s dower house, in order to economise.

The birth of Princess Victoria

The couple lived abroad until shortly before the birth of Queen Victoria. Despite the Regent’s refusal to fund the trip, they travelled to England in April 1819 so that their baby could be born in Kensington Palace.

Alexandrina Victoria was born on 24 May 1819 and christened a month later, on 24 June. “Look at her well,” her proud father said, “for she will be Queen of England.”

Queen Victoria   by Dalton after F Winterhalter from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)
Queen Victoria
  by Dalton after F Winterhalter
from The Girlhood of Queen Victoria (1912)

After the Princess’s birth, it was necessary for the Duke and Duchess once again to retrench. Bishop Fisher advised a sojourn in Devon for the sake of economy and health and they leased Woobrook Cottage in Sidmouth.

Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth from The Life of Field-Marshal His Royal  Highness, Edward, Duke of Kent by Erskine Neale (1850)
Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth
from The Life of Field-Marshal His Royal 
Highness, Edward, Duke of Kent
by Erskine Neale (1850)
Edward caught a cold, and subsequently became ill with pneumonia. He died in Sidmouth on 23 January 1820 and was buried on 12 February in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, in a huge coffin almost 7½ feet long and 3 foot wide.

Headshot of Rachel Knowles author with sea in background(2021)
Rachel Knowles writes clean/Christian Regency era romance and historical non-fiction. She has been sharing her research on this blog since 2011. Rachel lives in the beautiful Georgian seaside town of Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England, with her husband, Andrew.

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Sources used include:
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)
Longford, Elizabeth, Edward, Prince, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004, online edn, May 2009, accessed 10 Feb 2012)
Neale, Erskine, The Life of Field-Marshal His Royal Highness, Edward, Duke of Kent (Richard Bentley, 1850, London)
Oulton, Walley Chamberlain, Authentic and Impartial Memoirs of Her Late Majesty Charlotte, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland (1819, London)
Watkins, John, A Biographical Memoir of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1827, London)


  1. The most sympathetic comments on the Duke of Kent that I have ever read. Thanks, it makes him come alive a little better.
    I didn't know he was kept so short of money. I wonder why?
    I feel sorry for the poor woman with whom he had lived for 28 years
    It is surpriising that his father disliked him so, considering he was most like him in his domestic habits. He died 4 days before his father so even his death was overshadowed by that of the King..
    The 3 oldest sons of the king received the most attention even before 2 became King. Edward seems to have been noticed only when he messed up such as with harsh discipline-- though how can a country that hanged children really morally get upset about harsh discipline.
    Thanks for bringing one of the lesser known princes to our attention.

    1. Im reading a great book at the moment called Julie The Royal Mistress..if you enjoy reading I recommend this one for sure 😊

    2. Thanks for the recommendation - it must be a book with a very sad ending. :(

  2. Thanks for your comments - much appreciated. It does seem sad that George III neglected the Duke of Kent and would not even listen to his explanations about why he had got into debt when he escaped home in 1790.
    I wonder what it was that irked George III about him - Edward parading his mistress in public or his radical views and pro Catholic stance?
    And yes, I too feel sorry for Madame Saint-Laurent who was put aside for the sake of the succession.

  3. Who paid you? The man was a loser with a lucky sperm and did nothing to raise the Queen who named herself Victoria. The Regent wouldn't even permit Edward's selection of names and forced Alexandrina on the couple as the babys baptismal name as an insult. She became Victoria by TAKING the name after her accession to the throne. He became a talking point in history because Victoria honored his name and his character was largely hidden from her until the time she and her mother became close again later in life.
    I feel sorry for any woman who endured the insanity of the weird and immoral Hanover brothers.

    1. Edward did little towards raising his daughter because he died - there was not much he could do about that!

      The Regent was very difficult about naming Edward's daughter, but both Alexandrina and Victoria (or Victoire)were names suggested by her parents. It is perfectly normal for a monarch to choose any of their names to rule under - Victoria chose her second name.

      As for Edward's character, I have presented the facts as I have found them and leave my readers to draw their own conclusions.

  4. I'm still coming to grips with the Regency Period with all it's naughty goings on and your posts continue to intrigue me, for which I thank you.

    I assume that Edward had he have lived on a few more years would have preceded his daughter to the throne, am I correct in this.

    Edward seems to have been rather a decent sort of man compared to some of the royals back then and may well have made a good king.

    Thank you again for an interesting post.
    (It says I'm posting as Anonymous even though I'm commenting as why is this, do you know?)

    1. Edward would have become King instead of Victoria becoming Queen if he had been alive when William IV died in 1837. Of course, if he had lived after 1820, he may well have had a son who would have preceded Victoria as well.

      Edward has a reputation of being a very harsh man. I have found some justification for his behaviour, but I am not sure whether he was very nice! But he may have been a good king, who knows?

      Your post is coming up with lordbeariofbow on my blog. :)

    2. Edward Duke of Kent had a morganatic marriage with a Miss Smith daughter of a Reverend Smith in the Parish of Barnes. They has a son, John Selby-Smyth who became Colonel John Selby-Smith. As the registry records were destroyed by Queen Victoria, any information on this would be much appreciated.

    3. I am sorry - I have not come across any reference to this relationship. How do you know about it?

  5. Do you have any information on this? Would the mother of this child have been his mistress? Thank you!

    The cemetery connected with Buckskin Church at South Salem, Ross County, is one of the most historic little village cemeteries in Ohio. It is in this little cemetery that a half-sister of Queen Victoria of England has rested alone for over a century.
    The cemetery is back of an old stone building which was the South Salem Academy, where J. B. Foraker, a US Senator and Governor of Ohio, attended school. It is in this cemetery where veterans of nine wars are slumbering; where a former pastor of the little Presbyterian Church, which stood in what is now the cemetery, rests under the spot where the pulpit of his church was located; and another English subject, during his last moments, raised up in bed, and said, "Long live the King," and fell back dead. It is also in this little "God's Acre" that slabs cover many of the early graves, placed there to prevent wolves from digging up the bodies of the settlers. The stone at the grave of Queen Victoria's half-sister reads: "Mary A. MORTER, w/o B.J. MORTER. A native of England. Died April 16, 1852 aged 34 years, 1 mo and 4 days. She was d/o George, Duke of Kent, and father of Queen Victoria."
    Source: "South Salem Cemetery" from the Internat

    Mary A. Harriett, born 3/12/1818 was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent.
    Her mother was a member of the royal court at Buckingham Palace in
    England. Mary was also a half sister to Queen Victoria, a role she may
    have enjoyed if she hadn't married commoner Blythe Jagway Morter. After
    Mary received a marriage settlement believed to have been 3,000 pounds,
    the royal family washed their hands of the couple.
    The couple was unhappy living in England, so in 1850, Blythe sailed alone
    to America to establish a new home. Since South Salem, Ohio was just being
    developed and could use a good stone mason like himself, he decided to
    settle there.
    After about a year in which he had very little contact with his family, Blthe
    decided to go to England and bring them to South Salem. At the same time,
    Mary had decided to take what savings she had left and come to America. She
    sent a letter to Blythe to ask him to meet her and their six children in New York.
    Their ships apparently passed each other in mid-Atlantic because Blythe wasn't
    there to meet them. Mary didn't have enough money for a stagecoach or canal
    ride to Ohio, so she supported herself and family by sewing, lace making, and
    being a governess. Finally, in about four months, Blythe found them and brought
    them to Ohio.
    Apparently the journey and the stay in New York had left Mary weak because
    during the first winter she became very ill with the chills and fever. On April 16,
    1852, Mary died at the young age of 34 years old.
    It is believed that Blythe had carved her tombstone and left one single word,
    "THINK" at the bottom. It is a mystery as to what this means and why he put it
    Birth: 1818, England
    Death: Apr. 16, 1852, USA
    The stone at the grave of Queen Victoria's half-sister reads: "Mary A. MORTER, w/o B.J. MORTER. A native of England. Died April 16, 1852 aged 34 years, 1 mo and 4 days. She was d/o George, Duke of Kent, and father of Queen Victoria." (Info per Co. Gen. Soc.)
    Final resting place for many veterans. Veterans of 9 wars in fact. Many of the oldest burials have large heavy slabs over them, this was to protect the graves from the wolves. This is considered to be one of the oldest and most historic graveyards in Ohio.
    34y1m4d, native of England, wife of B J
    Note: Half sister to Queen Victoria
    South Salem Cemetery
    South Salem
    Ross County
    Ohio, USA

    1. I am afraid that I haven't come across any mention of a half-sister before. I wonder whether the word 'think' was written as Blythe recorded the details about his wife as far as he knew them, but he wasn't sure as to their accuracy.

      The date of the birth seems a little odd to me - I don't think Madame de Saint-Laurent could have mothered a child as they had been together for 28 years without doing so, and as Princess Charlotte did not die until November 1817, I think Edward would still have been with her.

      I wonder who the mother can have been? I am sorry I cannot help you more.

    2. Per my grandfather, whose family tree I have just come across in some old papers, Mary A., who married Blythe Jagway Morter, was the daughter of Edward, Duke of Kent and a woman whose first name he did not know, but last name was Harriet. This would have made her half-sister to Queen Victoria. She would also be my GGGmother.

  6. An enlightening article, and I appreciate the list of references at the end! I wonder if some his harshness came out of being overlooked so often in his childhood and youth. Or he could have just been born impatient. :)