An engraving by J W Hunt from a photograph taken soon after the Crimean War. The usual image of the Duke of Cambridge is of a bloated, whiskered and Blimpish archetype. See 17th Lancers, Colonels.
Cambridge was the longest serving Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, 43 years. He was born in Hanover on 26th March 1819, son of Adolphus Frederick, the youngest son of George III. After brief service in the Hanoverian army, he was made a colonel in the British army in 1837. But his first taste of warfare did not come until 1854 when he commanded the 1st Division in the Crimean War. He was not a very good leader but it was not easy to retard his progress since he was Queen Victoria's cousin. After the war, in 1856, he was made Commander-in-Chief, to the dismay of the Military staff. If the war had taught the generals anything it was that the army was in desperate need of modernisation. Cambridge put every obstacle possible in the way of reform. His attitude to officer quality was that breeding had preference over ability. The purchase of commissions could only be abolished because Gladstone forced him to agree to it. His power up until then had been absolute because of his royal blood. It was almost a miracle that the Cardwell Reforms took place in 1881 in defiance of him. After nearly 40 years of obstinacy and obstruction he finally retired in 1895. He died on 17th March 1904 in London.
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