Christian of Cumberland and Hanover

Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn

Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn (Henry Frederick; 7 November 174518 September 1790) was the sixth child of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and a younger brother of George III.

Early life

HRH Prince Henry was born on 7 November 1745, at Leicester House, London to Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, and his wife The Princess of Wales. He was christened at Leicester House twenty-three days later.

Royal Dukedom

On 22 October 1766, just prior to his twenty-first birthday, the prince was created Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn and Earl of Dublin.


On 4 March 1767 the Duke of Cumberland allegedly married Olive Wilmot (later Mrs Payne), a commoner, in a secret ceremony. There reportedly was one child, Olivia Wilmot (1772-1834) from this relationship, though the duke's parenthood was never proven. A landscape painter and novelist, Olivia Wilmot married John Thomas Serres, 1759-1825, and later, controversially, assumed the style of Princess Olivia of Cumberland.

Royal Navy

In 1768, at the fairly late age of 22, the Duke entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman and was sent to Corsica in HMS Venus. However, he returned in September when the ship was recalled following the French invasion of the Corsican Republic. He was promoted to Rear-Admiral the following year and Vice-Admiral in 1770.


The Duke's marriage to the commoner Anne Horton (or Houghton) (1743-1808) on 2 October 1771 caused a rift with the King, and was the catalyst for the Royal Marriages Act 1772, which forbids any descendant of George II to marry without the monarch's permission. There were no children from this marriage. Anne, though from a noble family - she was a daughter of the Viscount (later Earl of) Carhampton, and the widow of Christopher Horton of Catton Hall -- seems to have been rather loose with her favors, given one wag's comment that she was "the Duke of Grafton's Mrs Houghton, the Duke of Dorset's Mrs Houghton, everyone's Mrs Houghton."

The marriage between Anne Horton and Prince Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, was described as a “conquest at Brighthelmstone” (now Brighton) by Mrs. Horton, the widow of one Christopher Horton of Calton Park, Derbyshire, "who", Horace Walpole says, "had for many months been dallying with his passion, till (sic) she had fixed him to more serious views than he had intended."

Later life

In 1775, the Duke of Cumberland established the Cumberland Fleet, which would later become the Royal Thames Yacht Club. He was promoted Admiral in 1778, though was forbidden from assuming any command. The Duke was also instrumental in the development of Brighton (at the time called Brighthelmstone) as a popular resort; he had first visited in 1771 and in 1783 the Prince of Wales visited his uncle there. The Duke of Cumberland died in London on 18 September 1790. His widow died in 1808.

Titles, styles, honours and arms



Henry was granted use of the arms of the kingdom, differenced by a label argent of five points, the centre bearing a cross gules, the other points each bearing a fleur-de-lys azure.




Nancy Parsons

It is, however, notable that the Mrs Houghton to whom Walpole refers may be Nancy (“Anne”) Parsons, the daughter of a Bond Street tailor, a noted prostitute of wit and beauty. According to Walpole, Nancy had been a figurante in the opera when she began supplementing her income by working as a highly-paid prostitute. Her youth and undeniable beauty (as attested by later portraits by Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds) subsequently caught the attention of a member of the Haughton dynasty of West Indies slave merchants, who married her and took her to Jamaica. Upon his death she returned to London and resumed her profession.

Ironically, Nancy Parson’s beauty had outlived many of her aristocratic detractors. In addition to a grand-manner portrait by Reynolds, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, a portrait of Nancy Parsons in Turkish masquerade dress, painted by George Willison in 1769, is held by the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut. Nor was she bereft of attention after she spurned the Duke’s platonic love. At the age of 40, Nancy Parsons turned to the very young and impressionable, 24-year old John Frederick Sackville, Duke of Dorset. In 1776 Parsons captivated and married another young aristocrat, Charles Maynard, second Viscount Maynard. In old age, it is said, Nancy devoted herself to pious good works.

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