Field Marshal HRH Duke of Cambridge

Prince George William Frederick Charles was born in Hanover on 26 March 1819, son of Adolphus Frederick, the youngest son of George III. Prince George's mother was Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel. He was educated in Hanover until he was 11 when he came to England and was privately educated by the Rev Wood, Canon of Worcester Cathedral. He never had a formal royal marriage even though he was earmarked as Victoria's future husband. He was pushed into a clandestine morganatic marriage by a servant's daughter, Sarah Fairbrother, on 8 Jan 1847, and had illegitimate children with her, and one son born in wedlock that was not recognised by the Royal family. He also had mistresses, Mrs Louisa Beauclerk being the principal one.

After brief service in the Hanoverian army, he was made a colonel in the British army in 1837 serving on the staff in Gibraltar, then attached to the 12th Lancers from 1839 to 1841. Other regiments that he served in were the 8th Hussars (1842) and the 17th lancers (1842-1852). 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 impede 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. He was the longest serving Colonel of the Grenadier Guards, 43 years. His Colonelcies were:

1852 Colonel Scots Guards 28 Sep
1860 Hon Colonel 1st (City of London) Rifle Volunteer Brigade 24 Feb
1861 Colonel Royal Artillery 10 May
1861 Colonel Royal Engineers 10 May
1861 Colonel Grenadier Guards 15 Dec
1862 Promoted to Field Marshal 9 Sepv 1869 Colonel-in-Chief King's Royal Rifle Corps 3 Mar
1876 Colonel-in-Chief 17th (Duke of Cambridge's Own) Lancers 21 June
1877 Hon Colonel 10th Bengal Lancers (Hodson's Horse) until 1878
1882 Hon Colonel 20th (Duke of Cambridge's Own) Punjab Infantry
1889 Chef 2nd Rhine Infantry Regiment no.28
1892 Hon Colonel 4th (Militia) Bn The Suffolk Reg 30 July
1894 Hon Colonel Duke of Cambridge's Middlesex Yeomanry 6 Jan
1895 Colonel-in-Chief Royal Artillery 1 Nov
1895 Colonel-in-Chief Royal Engineers 1 Nov
1895 Hon Colonel Royal Malta Artillery 22 May
1898 Colonel-in-Chief Middlesex Yeomanry 3 Aug

Regimental details | Colonels


Armed Forces | Art and Culture | Articles | Biographies | Colonies | Discussion | Glossary | Home | Library | Links | Map Room | Sources and Media | Science and Technology | Search | Student Zone | Timelines | TV & Film | Wargames | British Empire on Ebay

by Stephen Luscombe