duke of Cumberland

Prince William, Duke of Cumberland

The Prince William, Duke of Cumberland (William Augustus; 26 April 1721[N.S.]31 October 1765) was a younger son of George II of Great Britain and Caroline of Ansbach, and a military leader.

Early life

He was born in Leicester House, Leicester Fields (now Leicester Square), London, where his parents had moved after his grandfather, George I, was invited to take the British throne. His godparents included The King and The Queen in Prussia (his paternal aunt), but they apparently didn't appear, probably represented by proxy/ies. On 27 July 1726, at only four-years-old, he was created Duke of Cumberland, Marquess of Berkhamstead in the County of Hertford, Earl of Kennington in the County of Surrey, Viscount of Trematon in the County of Cornwall, and Baron of the Isle of Alderney. The young prince was educated well (his tutor was his mother's favourite Andrew Fountaine), becoming his parents' favourite (so much so that his father would later consider ways of making him his heir in preference over his eldest brother, Frederick, Prince of Wales). At Hampton Court Palace, apartments were designed specially for him by William Kent.

Military career

From childhood, he showed physical courage and ability. He was intended, by the King and Queen, for the office of Lord High Admiral, and, in 1740, he sailed, as a volunteer, in the fleet under the command of Sir John Norris, but he quickly became dissatisfied with the Navy, and, early in 1742, he began an Army career. In December 1742, he became a Major-General, and, the following year, he first saw active service in Persia. George II and the "martial boy" shared in the glory of the Battle of Dettingen (27 June 1743), and Cumberland, who was wounded in the action, was reported as a hero in Britain, thus founding his military popularity. After the battle he was made Lieutenant-General.

Battle of Fontenoy

In 1745, having been made Captain-General of the British land forces, at home and in the field, the Duke was again in Flanders, as Commander-in-Chief of the allied British, Hanoverian, Austrian and Dutch troops. Advancing to the relief of Tournay, which was besieged by Marshal Saxe, he engaged the great general, in the Battle of Fontenoy, on 11 May 1745 in which he was decidely defeated by the French under Saxe. Cumberland lost several engagements on continental Europe against the French.

"The Forty-Five"

As the leading British general of the day, he was chosen to put a decisive stop to the successful career of Charles Edward Stuart, known as the Young Pretender, in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745.

Recalled from Flanders, Cumberland proceeded with his preparations for quelling the insurrection. He joined the midland army under Ligonier, and began pursuit of the enemy, but the Stuart's retreat from Derby disrupted his plans, and it was not until they had reached Penrith, and the advanced portion of his army had been repulsed on Clifton Moor, that Cumberland became aware of just how hopeless an attempt to overtake the retreating Highlanders would then be. Carlisle having been retaken, he retired to London, until the news of the defeat of Hawley at Falkirk roused again the fears of the English people, and centered the hopes of Britain on the Duke. He was appointed commander of the forces in Scotland.

"Butcher Cumberland"

Arriving in Edinburgh on 30 January 1746, he at once proceeded in search of the Young Pretender. He made a detour to Aberdeen, where he spent some time training the well-equipped forces now under his command for the peculiar nature of the warfare in which they were about to engage. He prepared his army to withstand the aggressive charges on which all Highland successes depended and he reorganised the forces and restored their discipline and self-confidence.

On 8 April 1746, he set out from Aberdeen, towards Inverness, and, on 16 April, he fought the decisive Battle of Culloden, in which the forces of the Young Pretender were completely destroyed. the Jacobite army, starving and exhausted, made a final desperate stand against the British army who were far better trained, equiped and in far better condition. Cumberland then proceeded to hound the remaining remnants into the abyss and ordered his troops to show no quarter against any remaining Jacobite soldiers. The highlands were ravaged in the years to come by the merciless British troops who showed no compassion and commited near genocide in the Scottish highlands. "Butcher Cumberland". This taunt was used for political purposes in England, and Cumberland's own brother, the Prince of Wales (who had been refused permission to take a military role on his father's behalf), seems to have encouraged the virulent attacks upon the Duke. Like Oliver Cromwell in Ireland, Cumberland dared to act in a way which would be held against him by some for the rest of his life, and terrorised an obstinate and unyielding enemy into submission. How real the danger of a protracted guerrilla war in the Highlands was may be judged from the explicit declarations of Jacobite leaders that they intended to continue the struggle. As it was, the war came to an end almost at once, and most of the populations of Scotland, England, and the colonies, however, lionised him as their deliverer from the Jacobite menace - for instance, he received an honorary degree from the University of Glasgow.

Cumberland preserved the strictest discipline in his camp. He was inflexible in the execution of what he deemed to be his duty, without favour to any man. At the same time, he exercised his influence in favour of clemency in special cases that were brought to his notice. Some years later, James Wolfe spoke of the Duke as "for ever doing noble and generous actions".

The Duke's victorious efforts were acknowledged by his being voted an income of £40,000 per annum, in addition to his revenue as a Prince of the Royal House. The Duke took no part in the Flanders campaign of 1746, but, in 1747, he again opposed the still-victorious Marshal Saxe and received a heavy defeat at the Battle of Lauffeld, or Val, near Maastricht, on July 2 1747.

Peacetime

During the ten years of peace from 1748, Cumberland occupied himself chiefly with his duties as Captain-General, and the result of his work was clearly shown in the conduct of the army in the Seven Years' War. His unpopularity, which had steadily increased since Culloden, interfered greatly with his success in politics, and when the death of the Prince of Wales brought the latter's son, a minor, next in succession to the throne, the Duke was not able to secure for himself the contingent regency, which was vested in the Dowager Princess of Wales, who considered him an enemy.

The Seven Years' War

In 1757, the Seven Years' War having broken out, Cumberland was placed at the head of a motley army of allies led by Great Britain to defend Hanover. At the Battle of Hastenbeck, near Hamelin, on 26 July 1757, he was defeated by the superior forces of d'Estrées. In September of the same year, his defeat had almost become disgrace. Driven from point to point, and at last hemmed in by the French, under Richelieu, he capitulated at Zeven monastery, on 8 September 1757, agreeing to evacuate Hanover. He played a major role as second-in-command to Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick later in the war.

Later life

His disgrace was completed on his return to England by the refusal of his father, George II, to be bound by the terms of the Duke's agreement. In chagrin and disappointment, he retired into private life, having formally resigned the public offices he held. In his retirement, he made no attempt to justify his conduct, applying in his own case the discipline he had enforced in others. For a few years, he lived quietly at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor and subsequently in London, taking but little part in politics. He did much, however, to displace the Bute ministry and that of Grenville, and endeavoured to restore Pitt to office. Public opinion had now set in his favour, and he became almost as popular as he had been in his youth. After the accession of his nephew, George III, he vied with his sister-in-law, the Dowager Princess of Wales, for the role of regent in times of emergency. Shortly before his death, the Duke was requested to open negotiations with Pitt for a return to power. This was, however, unsuccessful.

The Duke passed away suddenly on Upper Grosvenor Street in London, on October 31 1765 apparently from a myocardial infarction brought on by his life-long obesity, at the age of 44. He was buried beneath the floor of the nave of the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

Honours

British Honours

Cumberland Farms was named on his behalf.

Academic

Arms

On 20 July 1725, as a grandchild of the sovereign, William was granted use of the arms of the realm, differenced by a label argent of five points, the centre point bearing a cross gules, the first, second, fourth and fifth each bearing a canton gules. On 30 August 1727, as a child of the sovereign, William's difference changed to a label argent of three points, the centre point bearing a cross gules.

Legacy

The Scottish Highland town of Fort Augustus takes its name from a British Army fort which was named in his honour.

Many places in the American colonies were named after him, including the Cumberland River, the Cumberland Gap, the Cumberland Plateau, and the Cumberland Mountains, in addition to several counties and towns named "Cumberland" in the mid-18th century.

Biography

A Life of the Duke of Cumberland by Andrew Henderson was published in 1766, and anonymous (Richard Rolt) Historical Memoirs appeared in 1767. See especially A. N. Campbell Maclachlan, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1876).

Ancestors

References

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