Prince Frederick
Duke of York and Albany (more)

Frederick, Duke of York in Garter Robes.jpg
The Duke of York, painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the robes of the Order of the Garter, 1788.
Spouse Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia
Full name
Frederick Augustus
House House of Hanover
Father George III
Mother Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Born 16 August 1763(1763-08-16)
St. James's Palace, London
Died 5 January 1827(1827-01-05) (aged 63)
Rutland House, London
Burial St. George's Chapel, Windsor

The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (Frederick Augustus; 16 August 1763 – 5 January 1827) was a member of the Hanoverian and British Royal Family, the second eldest child, and second son, of King George III. From the death of his father in 1820 until his own death in 1827, he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, King George IV, both to the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Hanover.

As an inexperienced young military officer, he presided over the unsuccessful campaign against the forces of France in the Low Countries, during the war which followed the French Revolution. Later, as commander-in-chief of the British army, he reorganised the army's forces, putting in place administrative reforms. He also founded the United Kingdom's renowned military college, Sandhurst, which promoted the professional, merit-based training of future commissioned officers. In the opinion of Sir John Fortescue, York did "more for the army than any one man has done for it in the whole of its history.

Early lifeEdit

Prince Frederick Augustus, or the Duke of York as he became in later life, belonged to the House of Hanover. He was born on 16 August 1763, at St. James's Palace, London. His father was the reigning British monarch, King George III. His mother was Queen Charlotte (née Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz). He was christened on 14 September 1763 at St James's, by The Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Secker — his godparents were his great-uncle The Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (for whom The Earl Gower, Lord Chamberlain, stood proxy), his uncle The Duke of York (for whom The Earl of Huntingdon, Groom of the Stole, stood proxy) and his great-aunt The Princess Amelia.

On 27 February 1764, when Prince Frederick was six months old, his father secured his election as Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in today's Lower Saxony. He received this title because the prince-electors of Hanover (which included his father) were entitled to select every other holder of this title (in alternation with the Holy Roman Emperor), to which considerable revenues accrued, and the King apparently decided to ensure that the title remained in the family for as long as possible. At only 196 days of age he is therefore listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest bishop in history. He was invested as Knight of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath in 1767 and as a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 19 June 1771.

Even though he was the second son, Frederick was favoured over his elder brother The Prince of Wales.


George III decided that his second son would pursue an army career and had him gazetted colonel in 1780. From 1781 to 1787, Prince Frederick lived in Hanover, where he drank and fornicated immoderately yet still found time to earnestly attend the manoeuvres of the Austrian and Prussian armies and studied (along with his younger brothers, Prince Edward, Prince Ernest, Prince Augustus and Prince Adolphus) at the University of Göttingen. He was appointed colonel of the 2nd Horse Grenadier Guards (now 2nd Life Guards) in 1782, and promoted major-general and appointed colonel of the Coldstream Guards in 1784.

He was created Duke of York and Albany and Earl of Ulster on 27 November 1784 and became a member of the Privy Council. He retained the bishopric of Osnabrück until 1803, when, in the course of the secularization preceding the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the bishopric was incorporated into Hanover. In the summer of 1787, American newspaper accounts said that a government plot was under way to invite Prince Frederick to become "King of the United States". On his return to Britain, the Duke took his seat in the House of Lords, where, on 15 December 1788 during the Regency crisis, he opposed William Pitt's Regency Bill in a speech which was supposed to have been caused by the Prince of Wales.

In 1795 The Duke of York took command of the regular British Army, including the Ordnance Corps, the Militia, and the Volunteers, and immediately declared

"that no officer should ever be subject to the same disadvantages under which he had labored"

reflecting on the Netherlands campaigns of 1793-94. The Duke of York's participation in the Anglo-Russian invasion of North Holland in 1799 made a strong impression on him, and he was the single most responsible person in the British Army to institute reforms that created the force which later was able to serve in the Peninsular War, as well as the preparations for the expected French invasion of United Kingdom in 1803.

The Duke of York was his father's favourite son. He remained, however, somewhat in the shadow of his flashy elder brother, George, Prince of Wales, especially after the latter became Prince Regent due to the mental incapacity of the King. However, the two brothers continued to enjoy a warm relationship. They had many interests in common and they both enjoyed indulging their physical desires; but generally speaking, the Duke of York took a more diligent approach to the discharge of his public duties than did the Prince Regent.

The 72nd Regiment of Foot was renamed 72nd (Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot on 19 December 1823.


In 1793, the Duke of York was sent to Flanders in command of the British contingent of Coburg's army destined for the invasion of France. The Duke and his command performed well during the campaign under trying conditions, winning several notable engagements while tied to the overall strategy of Coburg and the British government, however the campaign ended with a humiliating retreat to Holland in the winter of 1794. On his return to Britain at the end of that year, George III promoted him to the rank of field marshal, and on 3 April 1795, appointed him Commander-in-Chief in succession to Lord Amherst. His second field command was with the army sent to invade Holland in conjunction with a Russian corps d'armée in 1799. Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell, in charge of the vanguard, had succeeded in capturing the Dutch ships in Den Helder. However, following the Duke of York's arrival with the main body of the army, a number of disasters befell the allied forces. On 17 October, the Duke signed the Convention of Alkmaar, by which the allied expedition withdrew after giving up its prisoners.

These military setbacks were inevitable, given the Duke's lack of moral seniority as a field commander, the poor state of the British army at the time, conflicting military objectives of the protagonists, and the intervention of pure bad luck during the campaign. Nonetheless, because of Flanders, the Prince was destined to be unfairly pilloried in the rhyme The Grand Old Duke of York, which goes:

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again.
And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only halfway up,
They were neither up nor down.

Historians such as Alfred Burne and Richard Glover have done much to reappraise York's military reputation.

Personal lifeEdit


On 29 September 1791 at Charlottenburg, Berlin, and again on 23 November 1791 at Buckingham Palace, the Duke of York married his cousin Princess Frederica Charlotte of Prussia, the daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia and Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Crown Princess of Prussia. The new Duchess of York received an enthusiastic welcome in London, but the marriage was not a happy one. The couple soon separated and the Duchess retired to Oatlands Park, Weybridge, where she lived eccentrically and died in 1820. Their relationship after separation appears to have been amicable, but there was never any question of reconciliation.


The Duke and Duchess of York had no children, but the Duke was rumoured to have sired several illegitimate offspring by different mothers over the years. Believed to be among the Duke's extra-marital children are:

  1. Captain Charles Hesse (circa 1786-1832), a British military officer
  2. Frederick George Vandiest (1800–1848)
  3. Louisa Ann Vandiest (1802–1890)
  4. Colonel John George Nathaniel Gibbes (1787-1873), who served as a commissioned British officer in the Napoleonic Wars and became Collector of Customs for the Colony of New South Wales, Australia, from 1834 until his retirement in 1859
  5. Army Captain John Molloy (1788/89-1867), a landowner and pioneer of Augusta in Western Australia

Later lifeEdit

Mindful of the poor performance of the British army that he had experienced in Flanders, the Duke of York carried out many significant structural, training and logistical reforms to the British military forces during his service as the army's commander-in-chief during the early 19th Century. These reforms contributed to Great Britain's subsequent successes in the wars against Napoleon. In these positive outcomes, the Duke was aided by the Duke of Wellington, who eventually would succeed him as commander-in-chief of the army. It should be noted that the Duke resigned for a time as commander-in-chief, on 25 March 1809, as the result of a scandal caused by the activities of his latest mistress, Mary Anne Clarke. Clarke was accused of illicitly selling army commissions under the Duke's aegis. A select committee was appointed by the British House of Commons to enquire into the matter. The parliament eventually acquitted the Duke of having received bribes by 278 votes to 196. He nevertheless resigned because of the high tally against him. Two years later, on 29 May 1811, after it was revealed that Clarke had received payment from the Duke's disgraced chief accuser, the Prince Regent reappointed the now exonerated Duke of York as commander-in-chief. The Duke would hold this post for the rest of his life. In addition, the Prince Regent created his brother a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order. In 1815 the Duke received parliament's acclaim for his services during the Napoleonic Wars.

The Duke of York maintained a country residence at Oatlands near Weybridge, Surrey; but he was seldom there, preferring to immerse himself in his administrative work at Horse Guards (the British army's headquarters) and, after hours, in London's high life, with its gaming tables and attendant vices. (The Duke was perpetually in debt due to his excessive gambling on cards and racehorses.) Following the unexpected death of his niece, Princess Charlotte of Wales, in 1817, the Duke became second in line to the throne, with a serious chance of inheriting it. This opportunity to become king improved further in 1820 when he became heir presumptive with the death of his father, the elderly and mentally ill George III.


The Duke of York died of dropsy and apparent cardio-vascular disease at the home of the Duke of Rutland on Arlington Street, London, in 1827. His dissipated lifestyle had no doubt led to his relatively early demise, thus denying him the throne. After lying in state in London, the Duke's remains were interred in St. George's Chapel, at Windsor. The funeral became notorious for the appalling discomfort endured by the mourners who were required to kneel on a damp stone floor in an unheated chapel on a winter night. Several of the frailer mourners succumbed to pneumonia and George Canning who became Prime Minister two months later became so ill after the funeral that when he took office he was already a dying man.


Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, was named after Prince Frederick. The city was originally named "Frederick's Town". Fredericksburgh Township, now part of Greater Napanee, Ontario, was named after the Duke of York. When Toronto was re-founded to be the capital of Upper Canada in 1793, it was named York after Prince Frederick. Although the city's name was changed back to Toronto in 1834, many surrounding localities still bear the name of York.

The Albany and Albany Street in London are also named after him.

The towering Duke of York Column on Waterloo Place, just off The Mall, London was completed in 1834 as a memorial to Prince Frederick. It was paid for by the soldiers of the British Army who each gave up one day's wages to pay for the column. A statue to Frederick's honor is also in Edinburgh. The inscription reads in main: "Field Marshal His Royal Highness Frederick Duke Of York and Albany KG Commander in Chief of the British Army". He founded The Duke of York's Royal Military School in 1803 in Chelsea, which relocated to Dover in 1909. Originally named the Duke of York's Royal Military Asylum, it was set up to look after orphans of military families. Now co-educational, the school remains exclusive to military children.

The 72nd Regiment of Foot was given the title Duke of Albany's Own Highlanders in 1823 upon its resumption as a Highland regiment, following its previous withdrawal of Highland status in 1809. In 1881, the regiment became 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's).

The only pub in the UK called The Prince Frederick is located at 31, Nichol Lane, Bromley, Kent, BR1 4DE.

The first British fortification in southern Africa, Fort Frederick, Port Elizabeth, a city in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, was built in 1799 to prevent French assistance for rebellious Boers in the short-lived republic of Graaff-Reinet. Its history and that of the city is interwoven and the fort was declared a national monument in 1936.

The Duke of York Bay in Canada was named in his honor, since it was discovered on his birthday, 16 August.

The City of Albany, Western Australia was initially named Frederickstown but later named Albany in tribute to him.

Titles, styles and honorsEdit

Titles and stylesEdit

  • 16 August 1763 – 27 November 1784: His Royal Highness The Prince Frederick
    • 27 February 1764–1802: The Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück
  • 27 November 1784 – 5 January 1827: His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Albany

His full style, recited at his funeral, was "Most High, Most Mighty, and Illustrious Prince, Frederick Duke of York and of Albany, Earl of Ulster, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, First and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order".


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