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Recent reports in the British media claimed the royal baby would be the first ever Prince of Cambridge were incorrect.

Actually it was His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge, who was born 26 March 1819 in Hanover, Germany. His parents were Prince Adolphus, who was created Duke of Cambridge in 1801, and Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel.

Heir-Presumptive

by Henry Edward Dawe, after  Tielemann, mezzotint, published 1830

by Henry Edward Dawe, after Tielemann, mezzotint, published 1830

The little prince was named in honour of his grandfather and he was the heir-presumptive until his cousin Queen Victoria was born two months later.

The Prince Regent (later George IV), the Duke of Clarence and the Queen of Württemberg were chosen as godparents for George when he was christened, in a Church of England service, by Reverend John Sandford, the Duke’s chaplain. The Duke of Clarence represented the Prince Regent whilst the Earl of Mayo stood proxy for him!

George spent his childhood in Hanover, but he did not escape the usual childhood illnesses. Doctors feared for the little prince’s life when he became dangerously ill with scarlet fever. This devastating news was brought to his distraught father who did not know what else to do, except force the boy to drink a glass of Steinberger wine! To everyone’s surprise, Prince George’s health began to improve, his fever dropped, but he suffered from poor health for many years as a result of the illness’ effect.

However, George narrowly escaped being murdered in his sleep by one of his tutors, Mr Welsh, who was declared insane and immediately sent to an asylum. He was replaced by Reverend John Ryle Wood in 1828 for the next eight years, who also encouraged the prince to keep a journal.

George had two sisters: Augusta (born 1822) and Adelaide Mary (born 1833) whose eldest daughter, Mary, married George V.

William IV, when he became king, insisted Prince George continued his education in England, accompanied by Reverend Wood. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were not given a say in the matter. The Duchess was upset by this separation but she wrote regularly to George saying how much she missed him.

However, Queen Adelaide loved children and doted on young George, especially after the devastating loss of her own babies, and did her best to make the young prince feel at home.

A Brilliant Army Career

HRH Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge.

HRH Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge.

George served his country by joining the army. He had a very distinguished career for over fifty years, rising to the position of Commander-in-Chief in 1856 – a position he held for nearly forty years. He fought valiantly in the Crimean War as he battled the enemy as well as suffering from typhoid, running a fever and dysentery. The doctor ordered rest aboard HMS Retribution, anchored near Balaclava. However, George thought he was going to die when a ferocious storm struck the ship, thinking it was a Russian shell, around 6.00 am on 14 November. He returned to England to recover, despite initial opposition from the Queen and other relatives.

Despite being a traditionalist, George made valiant efforts to improve conditions for the troops and army music. However, the Duke faced political battles with the War Office, especially with “progressive officers” who were exasperated by his objections to reform. George’s rough and forthright manner, his tireless work,  and constant defence of regimental traditions and the men’s interests won respect by both officers and the men. He became known as the “soldier’s friend.

Personal Life

George had been considered as a future husband for his cousin, Princess Victoria. However, neither George nor Victoria particularly liked each other, and she preferred Albert.

George believed arranged marriages were destined to end in failure. However, he married an actress, Sarah Louisa Fairbrother, despite the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, on 8 January 1847 at St John’s Church, Clerkenwell.  His wife was known as Mrs FitzGeorge. He didn’t ask Queen Victoria’s permission and she would have refused, as she disapproved of Louisa who was never invited for official occasions. Louisa, who was largely ignored by society, was prone to jealousy, in which was otherwise a happy marriage.

They lived in separate households and George visited his family whenever he could between official duties and personal engagements. George and Louisa had three sons: George, Adolphus and Augustus. All three sons followed in their father’s footsteps by joining the army.

However, George, now the Duke of Cambridge, after his father’s death in 1850, was not faithful as he began  an affair with Louisa Beauclerk, from 1847. George was devastated when Louisa Beauclerk died from a blood clot in 1882.

In 1867, Louisa became so ill and crippled she had to be carried everywhere, and was in considerable pain. Both St Aubyn and Sheppard agree that Louisa “bore her sufferings with unprotesting courage.” By 1888, Louisa was seriously ill, and breathed her last on 12 January 1890. Louisa was buried in the Kensal Green Cemetery

In later years, George battled depression and despair – an age when most of his friends and relatives had already passed away, including his mother. He was “remarkably vigorous” for his years, despite suffering gout, partially losing his sight in one eye and going deaf.

He outlived his cousin Victoria by three years. George died from a stomach haemorrhage on 17 March 1904, aged 85, at Gloucester House in Piccadilly. He was buried beside his wife at Kensal Green, rather than the family vault at Windsor.

A statue of the Duke stands in Whitehall today, outside the War Office, looking towards the Cenotaph. His title, Duke of Cambridge, became extinct, and was not revived until Elizabeth II granted the title to her grandson, Prince William, on 29 April, when he married Catherine Middleton.

Statue of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, at Whitehall.

Statue of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, at Whitehall.

Sources

Plowden, Alison, The Young Victoria, The History Press, Stroud, 1981 [Reprinted 2010]

St Aubyn, Giles, The Royal George, Faber and Faber Ltd, London, 2011 [Originally published 1963]

Sheppard, Edgar, George Duke of Cambridge: A Memoir Of His Private Life, Volume I, Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1906

Sheppard, Edgar, George Duke of Cambridge: A Memoir Of His Private Life, Volume II, Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1906

Somerset, Anne, The Life and Times of William IV, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1980 (Reprinted 1993)

Weir, Alison, Britain’s Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy, Vintage Books, London, 2008

Royal Central, Media incorrectly reports royal baby’s title

The Telegraph, Royal baby: Duke and Duchess’s child to be first Prince or Princess of Cambridge

This article was originally published on 22 July 2013 by Carolyn M Cash.