Prince George, Duke of Cambridge
Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (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.
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 Friedrich (III), Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, lord of Rumpenheim and Caroline Polyxena.
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 lieutentant general. He was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaklava 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."
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 resulting 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 Louisa Fairbrother (1816-12 January 1890), the ninth child and fifth daughter of John Fairbrother, a partner in a family printing firm in Bow Street. Louisa 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.
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.
The Duke of Cambridge died in 1904 at Gloucester House, Piccadilly, London. He was buried next to Mrs. FitzGeorge in Kensal Green Cemetery, London. With his death, the 1801 creation of the dukedom of Cambridge became extinct.
In 1904 his estate was probated at less than 120,000 pounds sterling.
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.
Titles Styles, Honours & Arms
- 1819-1850: His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge
- 1850-1904: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge
- Order of the Garter
- Order of the Thistle
- Order of St Patrick
- Order of the Bath
- Order of St Michael and St George
- Royal Victorian Order
- Order of St. John
- Aide de camp
The Duke of Cambridge and Mrs. FitzGeorge had three sons, two of whom were born before their marriage and all of whom pursued military careers
|Colonel George FitzGeorge||24 August 1843||2 September 1907||married Rosa Baring|
|Rear Admiral Sir Adolphus FitzGeorge, KCVO||30 January 1846||17 December 1922||married (1) Sofia Holden; had issue
married (2) Margaret Watson; no issue
|Colonel Sir Augustus FitzGeorge, KCVO, CB||12 June 1847||30 October 1933|
- Giles St. Aubyn, The Royal George, 1819-1904: The Life of HRH Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (London: Constable, 1963).
- Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London: Pimlico, 1996)
- "The Late Duke of Cambridge," The Times, 19 March 1904, p. 7.
The Viscount Hardinge
|Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
The Viscount Wolseley
The Duke of Cambridge
|Grand Master of the Order of St Michael and St George
The Prince of Wales
HRH Prince Adolphus
|Duke of Cambridge||Succeeded by: