Prince George Duke of Cambridge was the last holder of that title before Prince William. He led an extraordinary life for his time. He had a most successful army career; he had firm beliefs on how it should be run. He ran it accordingly and stuck to his preconceptions and prejudices without fail. His views on private life were no less firm and for a Royal Prince highly unconventional.
Prince George was born in Cambridge House in Hanover in 1819. He was the only son of Prince Adolphus, 1st Duke of Cambridge, Prince of the United Kingdom, Prince of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick and Luneburg, just to give him the full title once. He had two younger sisters, Princess Augusta who would marry Frederick William Prince Hereditary of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (later Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz), and Princess Mary Adelaide who would marry Francis Prince of Teck (later Duke of Teck).
Prince George received his education from a private tutor in Hanover where his father was acting as Viceroy for his brothers George IV and William IV. The Hanoverian line on the throne of the United Kingdom was part of the House of Guelph and they held the kingdom of Hanover in personal union. George entered the Royal Hanoverian Army but was called to the British Army two years later.
He served on Gibraltar, in Ireland, and on the Ionian Islands before taking part in the Crimean War. He was involved in the battles of the Alma, Balaclava, and Inkerman, and in the siege of Sevastopol. He was made chief of the army in 1856 under the title of general commanding-in-chief (the title was changed to Commander-in-Chief in 1887) and received the additional title of field-marshal in 1862.
He also invented deferred sentencing on probation in principle if not in name. He split the soldiers into first and second class soldiers; first class soldiers could not be flogged, but could be demoted to second class; second class soldiers were under threat of flogging, but would be reinstated to first class after a year’s impeccable behavior. It was in fact a one year’s probationary period under another name.
He was a stickler for proper equipment of the forces and was following developments in armament with a keen interest and went for early trials of any new weapon system coming from inventors sheds anywhere. He also promoted the idea of annual general military maneuvers to improve the army's records. As head of the army, he was not subject to the Secretary of State. As a consequence, he moved outside the government while having a role as adviser to the Secretary of State.
When he retired from his post as Commander-in-Chief in a huff in 1895, the army had been absorbed into the government, the head of the army had become a lackey of the Secretary of State, and a useless quango by the name of War Office had taken over mismanaging Britain’s manpower. The members of that body today are probably too brainless to appreciate it, but it is quite ironic that the statue of Prince George is facing their entrance.
Privately, his views were extreme to the point of being offensive. He didn't believe in arranged marriages and therefore refused them point blank. Instead, he married a Drury Lane actress named Sarah Fairbrother in a private ceremony. The marriage contravened the 1772 Marriage Act. To all purposes, the marriage was illegal and their children were illegitimate under British law. Under Salian law applicable in Hanover, the marriage was legal but morganatic. This meant that Sarah didn't participate in any of the German titles and their children were excluded from succession, too. Sarah took the name of her sons and called herself Mrs FitzGeorge.
Prince George died in 1904. With his death, the Duchy of Cambridge lapsed. The Duke of Cambridge and Mrs FitzGeorge are buried at Kensal Green Cemetery just yards from where Louisa Beauclerk was laid to rest.
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