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Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850)

This article was written by Arthur Henry Grant and was published in 1885

Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge 1774-1850, the tenth child and seventh son of King George III and Queen Charlotte, was born at the Queen's Palace, St. James's Park (now Buckingham Palace) in the evening of 24 February 1774. On 2 June 1786 he was made a knight of the Garter, with three of his elder brothers; and on that occasion a new statute was read enlarging the number of the order, and ordaining that it should ‘in future consist of the sovereign and twenty-five knights, exclusive of the sons of his majesty or his successors.’ Having received his earlier education at Kew under Dr. Hughes and Mr. Cookson, he was sent, with his brothers Ernest and Augustus — afterwards severally Dukes of Cumberland and Sussex — to Göttingen, at the university of which they were entered on 6 July 1786. The three members of the ‘little colony’ sent by the king were ‘highly delighted and pleased’ with their academical pursuits and associations. ‘I think,’ writes the king to Bishop Hurd under date 30 July, ‘Adolphus for the present seems the favourite of all, which, from his lively manners, is natural; but the good sense of Augustus will in the end prove conspicuous'.

In 1793 Prince Adolphus Frederick, who had visited the court of Prussia to perfect his knowledge of military tactics, was appointed colonel in the Hanoverian army, and, after serving for a short time as a volunteer with the British forces before Dunkirk, arrived in England in September of the same year, towards the close of which he was appointed colonel of the Hanoverian guards. He served in the campaign of 1794-5 as colonel and major-general in General Walmoden's corps, and on 24 August 1798 was promoted to be lieutenant-general in the Hanoverian service, from which he was transferred, 18 June 1803, with the same rank, to the British army. On 17 November following he was appointed to be colonel-in-chief of the king's German legion, a force in British pay, and destined for the relief of Hanover, then menaced, together with the rest of eastern and northern Europe, by the French armies. Disappointed, however, at the indifference of the Hanoverians to the honour and advantage of their connection with England, the prince presently returned to this country, leaving the British forces under the command of Count Walmoden, who soon afterwards surrendered.

Peerages fell comparatively late to the younger sons of George III, and were conferred simultaneously on the Princes Augustus — whose principal creation was that of Duke of Sussex — and Adolphus on 24 November 1801, when the latter was created Baron of Culloden, Earl of Tipperary, and Duke of Cambridge. On 3 February following, 1802, the Duke of Cambridge was sworn a member of the privy council, and took his place at the board on the left hand of the king.

In 1804 the Duke of Cambridge was nominated to the military command of the home district, and on 5 September 1805 received the colonelcy of the Coldstream guards, to which was added, 22 January 1827, the colonelcy-in-chief of the 60th, or the King's Royal rifle corps. Several years previously, on 26 November 1813, he had been promoted, with his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, to be field-marshal in the British army.

The Duke of Cambridge again took the command in the electorate of Hanover on the recovery of its independence after its sometime annexation to the kingdom of Westphalia; and after the treaty of Vienna, October 1814, had elevated the electorate into a kingdom, the Duke of Cambridge was, in November 1816, appointed to the viceroyalty. He continued to discharge the important functions of the office until the year 1837, when the death of King William IV opened the throne of Hanover to the Duke of Cumberland. The administration of Hanoverian affairs by the Duke of Cambridge was characterised by wisdom, mildness, and discretion, and by the introduction of timely and conciliatory reforms. He successively weathered the storms, whether popular or academical, of the revolutionary period of 1831, and his prudent management of affairs is said to have gone ‘a great way to preserve the Hanoverian crown for his family.’

In July 1811 the Duke of Cambridge had been elected chancellor of the university of St. Andrews in succession to Viscount Melville; but held office only till April 1814, when he was succeeded by Lord Melville, the son of his predecessor, who accepted the distinction ‘vice the Duke of Cambridge resident in Germany’. After his return to this country the Duke of Cambridge acquired great popularity; and he was recognised as ‘emphatically the connecting link between the throne and the people’. He was an indefatigable supporter of public charities. In committee meetings he was accustomed to act as a peacemaker and healer of divisions, or else as a thorough and fearless investigator, who was determined to ‘put the burden and disgrace of the dispute on the right shoulders’ (Times, 9 July 1850). He was president of at least six hospitals, and the patron or vice-patron of more than a score of other beneficent corporations. ‘He was also a supporter of almost every literary and of scientific institution of importance in the empire’; and in the various manifestations of his devotion to the fine arts, especially painting and music, achieved in his day a fair reputation in the latter among amateur performers.

In politics the Duke of Cambridge was on the conservative side, having in early life withstood, not without being sensibly affected by their influence, the attractive overtures of the leaders of the whigs, Fox, Sheridan, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Sussex, and the Duchess of Devonshire. The duke's partisanship was modified, however, by a constant desire to support, whenever he could do so conscientiously, the measures of any government which for the time represented the choice of the sovereign. He was not an orator, either in the House of Lords or in any other place; but his earnestness and sincerity won from his audiences the tribute of attention and respect. He died at Cambridge House, Piccadilly, on the evening of Monday, 8 July 1850, and was buried at Kew, amidst the scenes of his childhood, and near his favourite suburban retreat.

The Duke of Cambridge married at Cassel on 7 May, and on 1 June 1818 in London, the Princess Augusta Wilhelmina Louisa, third daughter of Frederick, landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, by whom he left a son and two daughters — the Duke of Cambridge, the Princess Augusta Caroline, married to Frederick William, reigning grand duke of Mecklenburg Strelitz, and the Princess Mary Adelaide, the wife of the Prince and Duke of Teck.

The Duke of Cambridge was a prince of Brunswick-Luneberg; G.C.B. 2 January 1815; G.C.M.G., 1825; G.C.H. (grand cross of the royal Hanoverian Guelphic order); knight of the Prussian orders of the black and the red eagle; a commissioner of the Royal Military College and the Royal Military Asylum; ranger of Richmond Park 29 August 1835; ranger of St. James's Park and Hyde Park 31 May 1843; warden and keeper of the New Forest 22 February 1845; and honorary LL.D. of Cambridge, July 1842.

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