Spare Dukes, Part II, or, What does one do with so many younger brothers?

The violence and in-feuding of royal brothers in the Middle Ages hardly ceased as the histories of England and Scotland transitioned into the Early Modern period. When we last left the Stewarts in Scotland, Robert III, the old king, had died in 1406; his eldest son and heir, the 1st Duke of Rothesay, was also dead; and the second son, James, now King James I, was a prisoner in England. Scotland was therefore ruled by the old king’s younger brother, the 1st Duke of Albany. When he died in 1420, he was immediately succeeded as Regent by his son, Murdoch, 2nd Duke of Albany. When King James I finally managed to liberate himself from English custody and return north across the border in 1424, he tried to offset the power of his cousin Albany by promoting his last remaining uncle, Walter Stewart of Atholl, as Grand Justiciar of Scotland and Earl of Strathearn (the valley of the river Earn, once part of the core of the early medieval kingdom of Alba, now part of Perthshire). The Albany clan was powerful and enjoyed international standing, not just Scottish, as the Duke’s brother, the Earl of Buchan, had just been named Constable of France. But Buchan was killed in battle in August 1424, and King James was thus able to turn the tables in 1425. He had Albany and two of his sons arrested and executed on a hill in front of Stirling Castle. His wife’s father was executed, and she was held in prison for 8 years. The Albany strongholds, Falkland Palace and the Castle of Doune, were confiscated by the Crown. The interfamilial bloodshed of the previous generation showed little signs of abating. Indeed, just over a decade later, the formerly loyal Walter, Earl of Atholl and Strathearn, participated in the murder of James I in 1437, and was then himself executed by the new king, James II.

Falkland Palace, Fife

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James II had no brothers, so he had no fraternal rivalries. He did have four sons, and some of the old antagonisms resurfaced in them. The eldest, James, was Duke of Rothesay as heir, then King James III from 1460. The second son, Alexander, was Duke of Albany from 1458, and established his seat at Dunbar Castle, the centre of his earldom of March (sometimes called the earldom of Dunbar). He was also Lord of the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, which gave him a lot of autonomy, though I wonder if he ever visited there. More close to home, Albany was appointed Lord High Admiral of Scotland and Warden of the Marches by his brother in 1464. A third son, David, was named Earl of Moray as an infant in 1456, but he died a year later. Finally, the fourth son, John, was named Earl of Mar, 1458, one of the most powerful and ancient earldoms in Scotland, situated on the edge of the Highlands west of Aberdeen, and based at Kildrummy Castle. In 1479, both Albany and Mar quarrelled with James III—Mar was accused by his brother of witchcraft and treason and soon put to death, but Albany escaped to France.

Dunbar Castle ruins

By 1482, Albany joined the court of Edward IV in England; he promised to hold Scotland in the name of the English king … if he could take it. And he did—later that year he took the title Lieutenant-General of the Kingdom, and King James was imprisoned. But this was an extremely brief reign, and by 1483, Albany was pushed out—he fled to England, then to France where he was killed in a duel with the Duke of Orléans in 1485. His son, John, became Duke of Albany and Earl of March, but was born in France and lived there much of his life. In 1504 he became heir presumptive of the Scottish throne, and he returned in 1514 to take up the post of Regent in the name of young James V (in opposition to the King’s very unpopular mother, Margaret Tudor). The Regent moved back and forth between Scotland and France in the next ten years, then was finally pushed out of government affairs when the King reached legal majority in 1524. He returned to France and died at his castle of Mirefleur in Auvergne in 1536.

John, 2nd Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland, drawn at the French court

James III had three sons. The eldest, James, was Duke of Rothesay. The youngest, John, was Earl of Mar. The second son, also called James, as a small child was given the forfeited lands of the powerful MacDonald clan, finally brought to heel in 1481, notably the earldom of Ross. Ross, the region to the north of Inverness, had been separated from the ancient earldom of Moray in the mid-12th century. He was also Marquis of Ormond—an early use of this title in Scotland—which referred to a castle (also called Avoch) on the Black Isle near Inverness (and not to Ormonde in Ireland, in case you were wondering). In 1488 he was elevated by his brother, now James IV, to a dukedom. In 1497, though still a minor, the Duke of Ross was named Archbishop of Saint Andrews, possibly to limit his ambitions for the throne. The Archbishop-Duke later served his brother loyally as Lord Chancellor of Scotland, from 1502 until his death in 1504.

the ruins of Ormond Hill, near inverness
the arms of the Duke of Ross, Stirling Castle

The dukedom of Ross was re-created in 1514 for the infant (and posthumously born) second son of James IV, Alexander, but he died only a year later. An illegitimate son, also called Alexander, succeeded his uncle as Archbishop of Saint Andrews in 1504, and as Lord Chancellor in 1510. It’s evident Scottish monarchs still made good use of royal bastards. But the Archbishop was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, alongside his father the King. The new king, James V, thus grew up without any full brothers, but did have an illegitimate half-brother, James, Earl of Moray, whose earldom since the early 14th century had been centred on Darnaway Castle in Morayshire, west of the town of Elgin. He was succeeded as Earl of Moray by another illegitimate James, a half-brother of Mary, Queen of Scots, who later served as regent for her son, James VI.

James Stewart, Earl of Moray
Darnaway Castle, seat of earls of Moray, in the early 19th century before its modern reconstruction

James V had two legitimate sons, and set up as usual as Duke of Rothesay (James) and Duke of Albany (Arthur, or perhaps Robert). The name of the second son is uncertain as he only lived a few weeks, and died within days of his elder brother, who was himself less than a year old, in April 1541. Mary, Queen of Scots, born a year later, was therefore the last of the main line of the House of Stewart (which she now started to spell the French way: Stuart). Besides Moray, she had other half-siblings, including Robert, to whom she granted lands and powers in the Orkney and Shetland islands. In the 1570s, he angled for a recognition of sovereignty, in collaboration with the king of Denmark-Norway (who was still interested in re-asserting his own sovereignty over these isles). Robert built a new princely palace at Birsay, the ancient seat of the Jarls of Orkney. His nephew James VI, reaching his majority in 1579, disliked these princely aspirations, and had Lord Robert imprisoned, but recanted and in 1581 granted him the earldom of Orkney outright. Orkney had also briefly been a dukedom granted by Queen Mary to her third husband, the Earl of Bothwell, in 1567.

the Earl’s Palace at Birsay, Orkney

Mary’s second husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, had also been given a dukedom, Albany, in 1565, which may seem an odd choice since he was a consort not a second son, but he was also lineally her heir before their son was born. He was murdered in 1567, and Albany vanished again as a title. It surfaced again for Prince Charles, James VI’s second son, created in 1600 just before the family moved to England and the young Charles added the dukedom of York to his titles. Similarly, Charles II added Albany to his brother James, Duke of York’s titles in 1660. Albany would be created again and again in the 18th century alongside the dukedom of York (see below); but it was also created—though not legally recognised in any British courts—for the illegitimate daughter of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, the ‘Young Pretender’. Charlotte, Duchess of Albany from 1784, did not have long to press her Jacobite claims to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland, dying a few years later in 1789. We’ve also seen, above, that there was a Dukedom of Albany created in 1881 for Prince Leopold, the fourth son of Queen Victoria, and it passed to his son, Charles Edward, who became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in 1900, fought on the German side during the Great War, and was thus deprived of his English and Scottish titles in 1919. The last person to bear the name Albany as a ‘surname’ (of sorts), was Charles Edward’s sister, Princess Alice of Albany, who, as Countess of Athlone, lived to be nearly 100, dying in 1981.

There were other ephemeral dukedoms created for younger royal sons in the Stuart century. James VI had a third son, Robert, whom he created Duke of Kintyre and Lorne in 1602, as an infant, but he died only a few weeks later. James II, as Duke of York, had a number of sons who only lived a few weeks or a few years in the 1660s and 1670s: four of these were called Duke of Cambridge, and one was Duke of Kendal, a unique title named for the town in Westmorland. James also had illegitimate sons who were created dukes of Berwick and Albemarle, as of course did Charles II, spawning the dukes of Monmouth and Buccleuch, Southampton and Cleveland, Grafton, Northumberland, Saint Albans, and Richmond and Lennox. There were thus half a dozen Stuart semi-princes in the early 18th century who offered a sort of social counter-balance to the newly arrived Hanoverian Dynasty. (I’ve already posted about one of these, Saint Albans; others will follow).

The first Hanoverian, George I, had several younger brothers, but most had died before his accession to the British throne in 1714, or in the case of Maximilian, had been disinherited and distanced from the family due to his conversion to Catholicism and service as a commander in the Imperial armies. The youngest brother, Ernst August, at first served as Regent of Hanover after George left for London in 1714, and guardian of his young grandson, Prince Frederick, who was left behind in Germany. In 1715, Ernst August was appointed Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, a curious family tradition by which this Catholic bishopric was governed by a Lutheran prince; a year later, he was integrated into the British peerage through the creation of the first of the ‘double duchies’ that became the norm for the Hanoverian era, as Duke of York and Albany, one for England, one for Scotland (and Earl of Ulster in the peerage of Ireland). He continued to govern the Electorate of Hanover and the Bishopric of Osnabrück until his death with no heirs in 1728.

Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of York and Albany

At roughly the same time, the dukedom of York was also granted in 1725 by the Old Pretender (‘James III’) to his younger son, Prince Henry. Henry later became a cardinal, and was known as the Cardinal-Duke of York (or to some, ‘Henry IX’), until he died in 1807. Disregarding the existence of a Duke of York in Rome, George II named his younger grandson, Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany in 1760. The King’s older grandson succeeded as king (George III) later that year, and York was his brother’s heir for a few years until an heir was born. He lived at a new house built on Pall Mall, York House, and started a career in the Royal Navy, before he died suddenly when travelling in Italy in 1767. York House would later be renamed Cumberland House, when it was taken over by the Duke’s younger brother (below), who expanded it. In the early 19th century it was sold and used by the government, first the Board of Ordnance, then the War Office, until it was demolished in the years leading up to World War I.

York House, later Cumberland House, before it was demolished

The next Duke of York and Albany was George III’s second son, Prince Frederick, created in 1784 when he was 21. Like his ancestor Ernst, he was also elected Prince-Bishop of Osnabrück, at the ripe old age of six months—this provided him with a sizeable income for life, and also inspired one of my favourite lines of dialogue in any historical film, when, in The Madness of King George, the actor playing the Duke of York (Julian Rhind-Tutt) mutters to the Prince of Wales (Rupert Everett): “Oh, I found out the other day that I’m Bishop of Osnabruck. [pause] Amazing what one is, really.” Prince Frederick is much more well-remembered, however, as ‘the Grand Old Duke of York’, as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army from 1795, a position he held throughout the Napoleonic Wars until forced to resign in 1809 due to a scandal involving his mistress (though he was reinstated in 1811). His formal country seat was Oatlands, near Weybridge in Surrey, a rebuilt version (following a fire in 1794) of a house that had existed in the grounds of a royal palace built by Henry VIII, long since demolished. This smaller house is now encapsulated within a grander modern building which is a hotel. Oatlands was the preferred residence of Frederica of Prussia, Duchess of York, who must be the most forgotten of all members of the British royal family (I’d never heard of her; had you?). Further afield, Prince Frederick purchased Allerton Castle, near Harrogate in Yorkshire, in 1786, rebuilt it in a fashionable neo-gothic style, then re-sold it in 1789. The Duke lived mostly in London, first on Whitehall (Montagu House, later called Dover House, now the Scottish Office), then purchasing Melbourne House in Piccadilly in 1791, renaming it York House, which he later sold to be developed as luxury flats (and is still known as The Albany). He then commissioned a new residence, another York House, in 1825—though construction was only getting started when he died in 1827. Later known as Stafford House, today it is called Lancaster House, and serves as an extension of the neighbouring Saint James’s Palace, to host formal government functions.

Frederick, Duke of York and Albany
Oatlands, the remaining monumental gateway
The Albany
York House, today Lancaster House

The last dukes of York were created without the Albany name attached: Prince George of Wales, second grandson of Queen Victoria (1892), who later became George V; Prince Albert, second son of the latter (1920), who became George VI; and most recently, Prince Andrew, second son of Elizabeth II (1986). All three were created with the subsidiary title Earl of Inverness. As a young man in the 1890s, George V had lived at York Cottage on the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and in Marlborough House in London. George VI as second son resided with his young family in a townhouse on Piccadilly, at White Lodge in Richmond Park, then also at York Cottage, which he received from his father in 1923. Prince Andrew lived at Sunninghill Park near Windsor until 2004.

York Cottage, Sandringham

There was also an earlier York House, built in 1736 as a wing of St James’s Palace for the residence of the eldest son of George II, Prince Frederick. Before he was created Prince of Wales in 1729, Frederick had been named Duke of Edinburgh (1726). The Prince of Wales soon moved out, however, to form his own opposition court at Leicester House (formerly dominating what’s now Leicester Square), and it was his younger brother, Prince William, who became the favoured son. William was created Duke of Cumberland in 1726. When the Prince of Wales quarrelled with their father in 1736, some historians have suggested that he proposed to his younger brother that they eventually partition the Hanoverian dominions, with Cumberland getting Hanover—an interesting foreshadowing of its 19th-century future.

York House, St James’s Palace

Cumberland had been a powerful earldom for the Clifford family from 1525 to 1643. A year later, it was given as a dukedom to Charles I’s nephew, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, one of his loyal commanders in the Civil War. After Rupert died, the title was given to Prince George of Denmark, husband of Princess Anne of York (later Queen Anne). Prince William’s dukedom of Cumberland was thus the third. As so often seems to be the case in the English and Scottish royal families, second sons managed to get along better with their fathers. In this case, while George II and the Prince of Wales clashed on nearly every issue, the King and his second son, the Duke of Cumberland, enjoyed soldiering together, for example at the Battle of Dettingen in 1743 in the War of Austrian Succession. In 1745, Cumberland was named Commander-in-Chief in Flanders of the allied forces of Britain, Hanover, Austria and the Netherlands. He suffered a major defeat by the French at Fontenoy in May 1745, but followed this up with a decisive victory at Culloden against the Jacobites in April 1746.

William, Duke of Cumberland

The Duke of Cumberland’s brutal tactics in suppressing Scottish clans earned him the admiration of Tories, but condemnation by the Whigs, and by his brother the Prince of Wales. As the years went on, he continued to advise the King on military matters, notably during the Seven Years War in America (ie, the French and Indian War), and was sent abroad one last time in 1757 to lead the defence of Hanover, threatened with invasion by French troops; he was badly defeated in July, and in September negotiated a highly disadvantageous peace (nearly a surrender), and was publicly disgraced upon his return to London. In 1760, he was denied the post of regent for his young nephew, George III, though he headed a committee created to advise and limit the authority of the King’s mother, the Dowager Princess of Wales. Many government meetings in this period were therefore held in his London house on Upper Grosvenor Street, or at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. The Lodge had been built in the 1650s and was named the official residence of the Ranger of the Great Park by Charles II in 1671. The Duke of Cumberland received this appointment in 1746, and since then Windsor Lodge has been known as Cumberland Lodge. It housed the next Duke of Cumberland, then the Duke of Sussex in the 1830s-40s, and finally Princess Helena (one of Victoria’s daughters) from 1866 to 1923. Since 1947 it has housed an educational charity. The Duke of Cumberland also built the nearby Fort Belvedere, as a folly or summer house I Windsor Great Park, in 1750. It has been expanded and leased out by the Crown numerous times, and most famously served as the country retreat for the Prince of Wales in the 1930s—the site of his famous weekend parties, the blossoming of his relationship with Wallis Simpson, and of his abdication as king in 1936.

Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park

The next Duke of Cumberland was Prince Henry, the youngest brother of George III (besides Prince Frederick who died at 15). The King created his brother Henry Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn—once more pairing an English and a Scottish dukedom—on his 21st birthday in 1766, and appointed him Ranger of Windsor Great Park, therefore granting him Cumberland Lodge which his uncle had lived in until his death a few years before. This younger brother of a king certainly did cause his share of familial strife, involved in a string of sexual scandals in the late 1760s and 1770s, and marrying in secret once, maybe twice—the second of these, in 1771, prompted George III to pass the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 requiring all marriages of potential heirs to the throne to be approved by the monarch. In the 1780s, Cumberland—probably trying to keep out of the way of his angry older brother—promoted Brighton as a new resort for high society (a cause soon taken up by his flamboyant nephew the Prince of Wales, builder of the Brighton Pavilion), and died, relatively young, in 1790.

Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn

Prince Ernest Augustus, 5th son of George III, was Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale from 1799. Teviotdale is the valley of the Teviot, one of the key rivers in the borderlands between England and Scotland. Initially Ernest had been sent to Hanover for his education, purportedly to keep him away from the influence of his eldest brother the Prince of Wales. He entered the army and served in the Napoleonic Wars under the command of his other older brother, the Duke of York, and he rose to the rank of a field marshal in 1813. Back in Britain, he lived for many years in York House (the wing of St James’s Palace), and, as brother to George IV (whose formal reign began in 1820), became an increasingly vocal conservative voice in the House of Lords. This went against the King’s long-term liberal sympathies, but he tolerated him. This changed when the next brother, Clarence, became king as William IV in 1830: Cumberland’s voice was increasingly limited at court and in government, and he left the United Kingdom altogether once Victoria succeeded in 1837. This was not due to his great unpopularity (which was evident), but because the laws of Hanover prevented female succession, so the Duke of Cumberland became the King of Hanover by law. Here he undid much of the liberalisation of government put in place by his two older brothers; but surprisingly, he was not greatly troubled by the political turmoil of the revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe, and he handed on his throne intact to his son George in 1851. George (V) lost the throne of Hanover in 1866, but he and his descendants retained the British title of Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, until it was taken away during World War I. Like Albany (above), this title hasn’t been re-created in the 20th or 21st centuries, I suppose on the off-chance that they are restored for their current claimants.

Ernst Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, in the 1820s
a medal commemorating Ernst August’s succession as king of Hanover

George III had another brother, William Henry. This prince was created Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh in 1764. Like Cumberland, he too married in secret, in 1766, but his brother the King didn’t find out about it until after the Royal Marriages Act, so the children were recognised as fully members of the royal family—but not, interestingly, according to the laws of Hanover, which required princes to marry someone of equal rank, which the Duchess of Gloucester was not (Maria Walpole, a grand-daughter of Britain’s first Prime Minister). Gloucester had a career in the army, rising to the rank of field marshal in 1793, but never really shining as a commander. In the 1770s he and his wife lived in Maria’s newly built house, St. Leonard’s Hill, which they renamed Gloucester Lodge, near Windsor. It was sold to another family in 1781 and mostly demolished in the 1920s. In 1767, the Duke was appointed Warden of Windsor Forest, which brought him Cranbourne Lodge as his residence. This house had existed in some form as early as the 13th century; it was later rebuilt in 1808 as the residence of Princess Charlotte (the heir to the throne as only child of the Prince of Wales), and was mostly destroyed in 1865, leaving just a tower.

William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Cranbourne Lodge, after the rebuild of 1808. The Tower on the left was part of the earlier structure, and is all that remains today

The dukedom of Gloucester and Edinburgh passed to William Henry’s son, William Frederick, who was apparently not very bright and was called ‘Silly Billy’ or ‘Slice of Gloucester’ (as in the cheese); nevertheless, he was considered as a candidate for the Swedish throne in 1810 when the Swedish nobles were looking for an heir to their childless king. He lived at Gloucester House in Piccadilly in London, and at Bagshot Park, south of Windsor. Bagshot had been a hunting lodge built for Charles I in the 1630s, and was later altered for the Duke of Clarence in 1798, before it passed to the 2nd Duke of Gloucester in 1816. The house was demolished in 1878 and completely rebuilt as residence for Queen Victoria’s third son, the Duke of Connaught, who lived there until 1942. Since 1998, it has been the residence of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, younger brother of the current king.

Bagshot Park, today

There was no new creation of the dukedom of Gloucester in the 19th century. Queen Victoria seemed more interested in creating new and interesting titles (there’s also no duke of York in this generation). But once these traditional titles came back into fashion in the early 20th century, it was re-created, again for a third son, after York. Prince Henry, third son of George V, was created Duke of Gloucester in 1928. He had a career in the Army, was active as colonel-in-chief of the Gloucester Regiment, and rose to the rank of field marshal in 1955. He supported his brother George VI through the Second World War as his aide-de-camp, then after the war, was Governor-General of Australia (1945-47). In London he lived in York House (adjacent to Saint James’s Palace), from 1936 until his death in 1974, and in the country he purchased Barnwell Manor, a house formerly belonging to his wife’s family (the Montagus), near Oundle in Northamptonshire. Barnwell was recently put up for sale by his son, the 2nd Duke of Gloucester, and he and his wife live in Kensington Palace. An interesting point from a dynastic point of view is that, although rule over the duchy of Saxe-Coburg passed to a junior line in the 1890s, by strict lineal succession, today’s Duke of Gloucester is the dynastic head of the House of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, since Elizabeth II would have been prevented from succeeding her father due to the traditional succession laws in Imperial Germany.

Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Barnwell Manor, Northamptonshire

But jumping back once more from the Saxe-Coburgs to the Hanoverians, there are still more younger brothers of King George IV to look at. We’ve looked so far at the dukes of York (no. 2, of the many sons of George III) and Cumberland (no. 5), which leaves Clarence (3), Kent (4), Sussex (6) and Cambridge (7), not to mention two young princes, Octavius and Alfred, who did not survive childhood. This was an era when royal princes could still be quite political, so it is interesting to see the clash between the liberal values of the older sons, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Clarence (and later the Duke of Sussex) and the more conservative stances of the Duke of Cumberland. The curiously named dukedom of Clarence was revived in 1789 for Prince William after a 200-year hiatus, and paired with Saint Andrews, in Scotland. He had a long naval career, then settled down at Bushy House, in Teddington on the river Thames west of London, in his capacity at Ranger of Bushy Park, a royal appointment (1797). The house had been built in 1715 by Lord Halifax, and later became the residence of Clarence’s wife, Adelaide, after his brief reign as William IV (1830-37). In the later half of the 19th century, Bushy House was an asylum for the Duke of Nemours, son of the exiled French king, Louis-Philippe, and since 1900 has housed the National Physical Laboratory. The Duke of Clarence and Saint Andrews also built Clarence House in London, near Buckingham Palace, in 1825. It has had a succession of royal residents over the centuries, including long periods of residence by the Duke of Edinburgh (1866 to 1900), the Duke of Connaught (1900 to 1942), and the Queen Mother (1952-2002). Princes William and Harry lived there in the following decade, and since 2012 it has been the residence of the Prince of Wales, and will apparently remain so while Buckingham Palace is refurbished for Charles III.

William, Duke of Clarence as Lord High Admiral, 1827
Bushy House
Clarence House, in the 1870s

The last use of Clarence was also as a joint dukedom, with Avondale, created in 1890, for Prince Albert Victor of Wales, the eldest grandson of Queen Victoria. Avondale refers to the Avon Water in South Lanarkshire, near the town of Hamilton. This Duke of Clarence and Avondale died only two years later. Curiously, there was also an earldom of Clarence, created only a few years before in 1881, as one of the subsidiary titles of the dukedom of Albany for Victoria’s fourth son, Leopold. Albany was given Claremont House, in Surrey, by his mother as a wedding present—it had been built in the early 18th century by the Earl of Clare (later the 1st Duke of Newcastle) and was then purchased by the Crown in 1816 for Princess Charlotte, the heir to the throne. Before being given to Prince Leopold, it had served as the residence for the exiled King and Queen of the French, from 1848 to 1866. Claremont was taken away from Leopold’s son, the 2nd Duke of Albany and Duke of Saxe-Coburg, when he was deprived of his British titles after the First World War; it was sold and now houses a school.

Leopold, Duke of Albany
Claremont House, Surrey

Continuing down the line of the younger brothers of George IV, and later William IV Prince Edward was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn, 1799. When we last encountered the Plantagenet earldom of Kent (created for Edmund of Woodstock in 1321) it was passing by marriage into the Holland family. It them passed to the Grey family, earls of Kent from 1465. The 12th Earl, Henry Grey, was created Duke of Kent in 1710, but died without heirs in 1740. The title (but not any Grey properties associated with it) was thus available to be re-created for a royal prince. George III’s fourth son, Prince Edward, had made a name for himself as Commander-in-Chief in British North America, 1791-1802 (and was an early advocate of the creation of Canada), then as Governor of Gibraltar, 1802-20. But he is mostly remembered today as the father of Queen Victoria, born when he was already in his fifties. He lived at Castle Hill Lodge in Ealing, west of London—he had bought the house from his brother’s secret former wife Mrs Fitzherbert in 1801, but left it in 1812, and it was eventually rebuilt, remodelled, and now serves as a home for wounded soldiers. When the Duke of Kent died in 1820, his double dukedom reverted to the Crown.

Clarence (left) and Kent (right) as boys
Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
Castle Hill Lodge, Ealing

An earldom of Kent was created for the Duke of Edinburgh (Victoria’s second son), in 1866, and years later, Kent was re-erected into a dukedom, in 1934 for Prince George, the fourth son of George V. The new Duke of Kent, the most dashing and sociable brother of George VI, was meant to act as Governor-General of Australia in 1938, but was prevented by the outbreak of war. He was an RAF officer and died in an air crash in Caithness in August 1942. From 1935, he and his family had lived at Coppins in Buckinghamshire, a 19th-century house first acquired by Princess Victoria, daughter of Edward VII. It would remain the family seat for the 2nd Duke of Kent and his family, until he sold it in 1972, and moved to Amner Hall, a Georgian House that became part of the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk at the end of the 19th century (later the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), and from 1990, Crocker End in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, until recently. The Kents now live at Wren Cottage, within Kensington Palace.

George, Duke of Kent
Coppins, Buckinghamshire

The Duke of Sussex was a new title when it was created for Prince Augustus, sixth son of George III, in 1801. Sussex had been a Saxon sub-kingdom in the 9th century, and was subsequently and earldom numerous times, from the 13th century to the 18th. The last earl died in 1799, and Prince Augustus received the elevated title just over a year later. Sussex was the complete opposite of his older politically active brother, Cumberland. He had no naval or army career, and was vocally liberal in the House of Lords, supporting the various reform movements of the early 19th century. He was also a noted patron of arts and sciences. But like some of his uncles, he also had a secret marriage, later annulled in 1794 since it contravened the Royal Marriages Act. He married again without permission in 1831, and eventually his niece Victoria (who considered him her favourite uncle) created his wife Duchess of Inverness so she could hold a high rank at court. His brother William IV had appointed him to be Chief Ranger and Keeper of St James’s Park in 1831, and later Victoria appointed him Governor of Windsor Castle, so he also resided at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park, as had several of his Hanoverian predecessors. Sussex died in 1843 with no children, and his dukedom remained ‘dormant’ until it was revived for Prince Harry of Wales in 2018. The new Duke of Sussex’s history is of course still being written, but it seems he will certainly be remembered as a younger brother who refused to be ignored in terms of the power dynamics of the British royal family. Like many before him, he has seen his position as the ‘spare’ dissolve into nothingness following the births of the two younger children of his older brother.

Augustus, Duke of Sussex

Finally, the last of the younger brothers of King George IV: Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. Cambridgeshire had given its name to an earldom as early as the 14th century, and was usually associated with the House of York. In the 17th century it was created as an earldom then a marquisate for the dukes of Hamilton, and then used for younger Stuart princes in the 1660s-70s, all mostly short-lived. Prince George Augustus, grandson of the Electress Sophia (the expected heir to the British throne after 1701), was created Duke of Cambridge in 1706, then became Prince of Wales in 1714 when his father became King George I. Prince Adolphus, the 7th son of George III, was given his dukedom in 1801. He was a field marshal in the army of Hanover from 1813, and acted first as military governor of the Electorate of Hanover, once it was liberated from the French in 1813, then Viceroy, once it was elevated to a Kingdom in 1815. He served in this capacity until 1837, when his brother the Duke of Cumberland succeeded as king of Hanover, though there were murmerings that the local people would have preferred to stay under the more liberal rule of the Duke of Cambridge. In London, he lived at Cambridge House on Piccadilly—one of the few grand mansions to have survived the bombings of World War II—and also held the royal post of Keeper of Richmond Park. His son succeeded him as Duke of Cambridge, until his death in 1904, and the title was revived, though at a lower rank (a marquisate) in 1917 for another Adolphus, Duke of Teck (George V’s brother-in-law, and a grandson via his mother of the 1st Duke of Cambridge). This title became extinct in 1981, and was revived once again as a dukedom in 2011 for Prince William of Wales, now the Prince of Wales.

Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge
Cambridge House, Piccadilly

From 1837, the surviving younger brothers of George IV and William IV acted as uncles to Queen Victoria. Victoria herself had no full brothers or sisters, just the shadowy figure (from a British perspective) of her older half-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen—who suddenly appears from nowhere in the TV series ‘Victoria’—and her brother Karl, Prince of Leiningen, whose links to the British sovereign helped favour his rise in German politics into the position of a liberal prime minister for a briefly united Germany in the summer of 1848.

Queen Victoria then had four sons, though only one, Arthur, lived long enough to act as a king’s younger brother when the Prince of Wales finally became Edward VII in 1901. Victoria’s choices for ducal titles ran counter to the Stuart and Hanoverian norm: no more York or Gloucester; now we have Edinburgh, Connaught and a final revival of Albany (see above). Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son, was also the ‘spare’ in line for the throne from 1844 to 1864. He had been considered as a potential successor to the deposed King Otto of Greece in 1862, but his mother blocked it, since it was already decided that he would succeed his childless uncle Ernst as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha—though this wouldn’t happen until 1893. In the meantime, Alfred was created a duke, 1866, and a captain in the Royal Navy in 1867. He sailed around the world and was the first royal prince to visit Australia, New Zealand, India and Hong Kong. Loads of places all across the British Empire are named for Alfred. By the 1880s the Duke of Edinburgh was an admiral, and was named Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet, and Admiral of the Fleet in 1893. He owned a house at Eastwell Park near Ashford in Kent—there had been a house here since Tudor times, rebuilt in neo-Elizabethan style at the end of the 18th century, and occupied by Alfred and his family in the 1870s and 80s. It was mostly destroyed by a fire in the 1920s. In London the Duke resided in Clarence House, but gave this up, as well as his seat in the House of Lords and his allowance of £15,000 when he became sovereign of the small duchies of Coburg and Gotha.

Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh
Eastwell Park, Kent, before it was demolished in the 1920s

The Duke of Edinburgh’s son had predeceased him, so the title died with him in 1900. The dukedom was re-created for Philip Mountbatten—formerly Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark—in 1947, and it was thought it would be passed on to Philip’s youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (since 1999). But although Edward currently does oversee the running of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, there’s no indication he is about to be given this title (maybe at the coronation, when such things historically happen).

The one Victorian prince who did live long enough to act as younger brother to Edward VII was Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. His title was created in 1874, and is the only ‘double duchy’ of this period, reflecting royal links with both Ireland and Scotland (and he was Earl of Sussex in England). A career army officer, Connaught represented his brother’s royal authority first as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Ireland from 1900, and then represented his nephew George V as Governor-General of Canada, 1911-16. He continued to represent the King all around the world in the 1920s. He took over Clarence House from his brother as his London residence and maintained his country seat at Bagshot Park near Windsor for over sixty years. On his death in 1942, the dukedom of Connaught and Strathearn passed to his son (who was also the heir to the dukedom of Fife), who died a year later at age 28.

Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn

There will certainly never be a revival of a dukedom in Connaught, firmly located within the Republic of Ireland. The future sovereign’s younger brother will be the Duke of Sussex, and it will be interesting to speculate what titles are revived for Prince George’s younger siblings—especially now that male princes no longer trump females in the order of succession. Spain has given dukedoms to kings’ sisters since the 1960s, and now so too does Sweden. Perhaps we can see a Charlotte, Duchess of Albany again? And maybe Louis, being a French name, could be called Duke of Aumale…or even Duke of Normandy!

Gee Beaver, you’re just a kid!

(images from Wikimedia Commons)

Published by Jonathan Spangler

I am a historian of monarchy and the high aristocracy of Europe. I focus primarily as an academic on the early modern period and France, but my interests range from early medieval Ireland to 20th-century Russia. I teach history at Manchester Metropolitan University in Manchester, England, and am the senior editor of The Court Historian, the journal of the Society for Court Studies. I am also a musician and an avid traveler. I love heraldry and genealogy. My ancestors came from Germany to the American colonies in the 18th century and I am a proud Virginian.

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