Biography

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Frederick, Prince of Wales ( 1707-1751)

Frederick Louis was the eldest son of George II and his wife Caroline of Ansbach, and was the father of George III. Having been educated in Hanover, finally Frederick was brought to England in 1728 and since then had been a source of trouble for his parents. The royal couple were desperately afraid of their eldest son gaining popularity at their expense so they tried to keep him under control. As Prince of Wales, George II considered a scheme for excluding Frederick from the English throne and sending him to rule Hanover so that George's second son, William, could succeed him as King. Frederick was neglected and despised by his parents so he found his friends in opposition circles where he was used as a means of attacking the government and monarchy.

Frederick's marriage to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha in 1736 was arranged by George II and the prince argued that, as a married man he should receive an allowance of £100,000 from the Civil List. He was still receiving the same sum of £50,000 that he had had as a bachelor, even though George II had been granted an extra £100,000 on condition that this was the amount given to Prince Frederick on his marriage. Frederick quarrelled with his father over the allowance and when the increase was denied him, he persuaded his political friends to introduce a motion into the House of Commons for an address to the King to increase the allowance.

George II saw Frederick's actions as a direct attack on the authority of the king; it resulted in every MP having to choose between father and son. The queen was furious: when she saw Frederick from her dressing-room window, she is reported to have said,

"Look! There he goes! That wretch! That villain! I wish the ground would open at this moment and sink the monster to the lowest hole in Hell!"

In the event, the motion was defeated - but only by thirty votes. However, the breach between Frederick and his parents was complete.

Queen Caroline pretended to believe that Frederick was impotent, despite evidence to the contrary. In 1737, when she was told that Princess Augusta was pregnant, Caroline expressed fears that a foundling child might be brought into the Royal Family. The king and queen wanted the baby to be born at Hampton court, their country residence. In what can be seen as little more than a determination to defy his parents, Frederick took his wife, already in labour with their first child (a girl), from Hampton Court to St James' to prevent the baby from being delivered under his parents' roof. As a result of this action, Frederick was banished from court and a public announcement was made that whoever continued to pay their court to the Prince and Princess would not be received by the King and Queen.

On 20 November 1737, Queen Caroline died. In life, she is reputed to have said of her eldest son,

"My dear first born is the greatest ass, and the greatest liar, and the greatest canaille, and the greatest beast, in the whole world, and I most heartily wish he was out of it."

As she lay on her death bed, she is reported as saying,

"At least I shall have one comfort in having my eyes eternally closed - I shall never see that monster again."

The king refused to allow Frederick to see his mother before she died, saying to Lord Hervey,

"Bid him go about his business for his poor mother is not in a condition to see him act his false, whining, cringing tricks now, nor am I in a humour to bear his impertinence; and bid him trouble me with no more messages, but get out of my house."

Hervey's memoirs show Frederick as little less than a monster: undutiful to his parents, unfaithful to his mistresses and disloyal to his friends.

Excluded from the royal palaces, Frederick set up establishments at Leicester House and Carlton Gardens. In his private life, Frederick seems to have been an affectionate husband and father. He was fond of amateur theatricals and took part in family plays. He was concerned about the welfare of his nine children, particularly about their progress at school.

Leicester House became the focus for the parliamentary opposition, centred on the "king to come". The political "outs" supported the Prince of Wales with a view to the future in mind when they might become members of the government: they became known as the "Leicester House Set". This group harried the government until Walpole was forced to resign in 1742 but the new PM, Henry Pelham undermined the parliamentary opposition by offering government posts to the leading members of the Leicester House Set. The last years of Frederick's life were spent in pointless opposition to the government and his party became the last home of the politically bankrupt. It is because of his failure in politics that Frederick became known as "Poor Fred".

In 1750, Frederick was planning his first ministry and drafts of his own speeches and political programme in anticipation of his father's death. However, fate overtook Poor Fred. On 6 March 1751 he told a friend that he had caught a cold - which caused no further comment. On 15 March, Frederick was reported to be "out of danger" but his illness continued. On 20 March, he died. It is believed that his death was connected to an accident he had whilst playing cricket: he was hit by the ball. His father, George II outlived his eldest son, dying in 1760.


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Last modified 5 January, 2011

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