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Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany

British Royalty
House of Hanover

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His Royal Highness The Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (Frederick Augustus) (16 August 1763 – 5 January 1827) was a member of the British Royal Family, the second eldest child, and second son of King George III. From 1820 until his own death in 1827, he was the heir presumptive to his elder brother, King George IV. He was created Duke of York and Albany and Earl of Ulster in 1804.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York served as the commander-in-chief of the British Army, presiding over the unsuccessful 1793–98 Flanders campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars. He is now mainly remembered as the inspiration for the nursery rhyme, "The Grand Old Duke of York".

Table of contents

Early Life

Prince Frederick was born on 16 August 1763, at St. James's Palace, London. His father was the reigning British monarch, King George III, a grandchild of King George II through his eldest son, HRH Prince Frederick, Prince of Wales. His mother was Queen Charlotte (nee Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz). As a son of the sovereign, Prince Frederick was styled His Royal Highness

On 27 February 1764, when Prince Frederick was six months old, his father secured his election as Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück in Lower Saxony. He received this title because the Kings of Hanover (which included his father) were entitled to select every other holder of this title, and the King apparently decided to ensure 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 Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the Bath in 1767 and as a Knight of the Order of the Garter on 19 June 1771.


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 attended the manoeuvres of the Austrian and Prussian armies and studied (along with his younger brothers, Prince Ernest, Prince Edward, 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 29 November 1784 and became a member of the Privy Council. He retained the bishopric of Osanbrück until 1803, when, in the course of the secularization preceding the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the bishopric was incorporated into Hanover. On his return to Britain, the Duke took his seat in the House of Lords, where, on 15 December 1788, he opposed William Pitt's Regency Bill in a speech which was supposed to have been inspired by the Prince of Wales.

The Duke of York was his father's favorite son. He was very much in the shadow of his elder brother, the Prince of Wales, especially when the latter became Prince Regent. However, the two brothers enjoyed a close relationship.


On 29 September1791 at Charlottenburg, Berlin, and again on 23 November 1791 at Buckingham Palace, the Duke of York married his cousin Princess Frederica (7 May 1767 – 6 August 1820), the daughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia and Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. 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 died in 1820. The Duke and Duchess of York had no children. The Duke's only known child was an illegitimate son, Charles Hesse, and even this is uncertain.


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. On his return to Britain in the following 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'arm in 1799. Sir Ralph Abercromby and Admiral Sir Charles Mitchell, in charge of the vanguard, had succeeded in capturing the Dutch ships in the 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 Alkemaar, by which the allied expedition withdrew after giving up its prisoners.

His military failures led to his immortalisation in the rhyme:

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.

Later Life

The Duke of York carried out many reforms in the army which would lead to subsequent successes in the Napoleonic Wars. He resigned as commander-in-chief of the army on 25 March 1809 as a result of a scandal caused by the activities of his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke. A select committee appointed by the House of Commons to inquired into the matter. The full House acquitted the Duke of having received bribes by 278 votes to 196. Two years later, on 29 May 1811, the Prince Regent reappointed the Duke of York commander-in-chief, a post he held until his death, and created him Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order.

Following the death of his niece Princess Charlotte of Wales in 1817, the Duke of York became second in line to the throne, with a serious chance of inheriting it, and heir presumptive when George III died in 1820. However, he pre-deceased his elder brother, George IV, dying at the home of the Duke of Rutland on Arlington Street, London. He was buried at St. George's Chapel, Windsor.


Fredericton, the capital of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, was named after Prince Frederick. The city was originally named "Frederick's Town".

The Duke of York Column on 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 Fredricks honour is in Edinburgh, the inscription reads in main, "Field Marshall His Royal Highness Frederick Duke Of York and Albany KG Commander in Chief of the British Army".

Titles and Honours


  • His Royal Highness The Prince Frederick
  • His Royal Highness The Duke of York and Albany


Preceded by:
The Lord Amherst
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by:
Sir David Dundas
Preceded by:
Succeeded by:
Office Abolished
Preceded by:
Sir David Dundas
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by:
The Duke of Wellington

Preceded by:
New Creation
Duke of York and Albany
Succeeded by:

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