Duke of Cambridge dead at 84

Prince George, Duke of Cambridge

March 17, 1904  - The last surviving grandson of King George III, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge passed away this morning in his residence, Gloucester House, London.

The New York Times reports that the Duke, a few days shy of his 85th birthday, had been "confined to his house for weeks."

King Edward and Queen Alexandra had paid him regular visits, while his sons Admiral and Col. FitzGeorge were always at his bedside. Hearing the news of his death, the King and Queen went to Gloucester House to "offer their condolences" to the grieving family.

In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Balfour and Liberal Leader Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman delivered a eulogy, thanking the Duke for "his devotion to the service of his country," expressing the House's sympathy to the Royal Family.




The Duke was known for his staunchly conservative leanings on crucial issues during his days, but he remained a "popular figure." Not even his vocal opposition against modernizing and liberalizing the armed forces tarnished the respect "with which all ranks regarded their old Commander in Chief."

The death of the Duke puts the Court in mourning, although the King and Queen's trip to Ireland will not be postponed. However, flags on the buildings all throughout London have been already lowered to a half-mast.

The Duke's Fortune

A speculation on the Duke's fortune can reveal that he was a relatively wealthy man. Upon the death of his father and after inheriting the dukedom of Cambridge, Parliament granted him around $300,000 in annuity. As Commander-in-Chief, he received $22,500 until 1887. This figure increased to $33,160, and as Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, he was paid $11,000 a year. Other appointments also paid him well.

Marriage and Mrs. FitzGeorge

In 1837, the Duke fell in love and married the actress Sarah Fairbrother, despite the opposition of his family. Since Queen Victoria refused to grant consent on this marriage, the bride took the name Mrs. FitzGeorge. Nevertheless, she remained respected by her friends, including many members of the Royal Family and the Court and their marriage was a very happy one. She even went to Crimea to nurse the wounded duke after the Battle of Inkerman. The marriage produced three sons, George, Adolphus and Augustus, who all bore the surname FitzGeorge.

Mrs. FitzGeorge's death in 1890 took a hard blow on the Duke. Queen Victoria finally took her resentment aside and sent a letter of condolence to her grieving cousin. Her Majesty's equerry was present at the funeral.

Life and Career

The Duke of Cambridge was born on March 26, 1819. His father was Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, while her mother was Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel. Her sister, Princess Augusta became the consort of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, whose son was the last-reigning sovereign of the German grand duchy. Her youngest sister, Princess Mary Adelaide was the mother of the future Queen Mary, consort of King George V.

He was educated both in Hanover and England and at the age of 18, he joined the British Army. From 1838-1839, he was stationed in Gibraltar and later on in Ireland before he was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the 8th Light Dragoons and as colonel of the 17th Lancers in 1842.

From 1843-45, he was colonel on the staff in the Ionian Islands. He was promoted Major-General in 1845.
On July 8, 1850, he succeeded his father as Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary and Baron Culloden.

In 1852, he served as Inspector of the Cavalry.

 In 1854, he saw active service in the Crimean War, where he commanded the 1st Division of the British Army. He was promoted lieutenant-general the same year and was present at the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, as well as at the siege of Sebastopol. However, he fell ill and was forced to retreat to Malta and return home before the end of the war.

On July 5, 1856, the Duke was promoted general commanding-in-chief of the British army, which was later renamed into field marshal commanding-in-chief in 1862. By Letters Patent, his post was renamed commander-in-chief of the forces in 1887, serving as chief military advisor to the Secretary of State for War. 

He was promoted general in 1856 and field marshal in 1862. He held the post until 1895.

The duke was criticized for his bitter opposition in reforming the army, calling the plans as merely "fads," using "considerably stronger language when he talked of the various suggested changes to his brother officers." He also earned the reputation for promoting officers based on social standing rather than merit. In 1890, a royal commission headed by Lord Hartington criticized the administration of the War Office and proposed that the powers of the commander-in-chief be transferred to a number of army officers. The Duke forcibly resigned on Nov. 1, 1895 and was succeeded by Lord Wolseley.

The Duke was highly regarded as being the most imposing member of the royal family. A tall, handsome man with "soldierly bearing," he had always commanded attention whenever present in public.

(Image source: Wikimedia Commons)

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