The Grand Old Duke of York - he had 10,000 men ...
Prince Frederick was made the Duke of York in 1784 when he was 21. He was the son of King George III and Queen Charlotte - being the second of their fourteen children. He lived a colourful life and was constantly in debt due to his passion for gambling, both on horses and cards.
Prince Frederick lived at his seaside retreat in Margate for some years, now Royal York Mansions on the seafront. The house was built for the prince in 1788, later becoming a hotel and is now luxury flats.
In 1791, Prince Frederick married his cousin Princess Frederica. Theirs was not a happy marriage - there were no children, he was unfaithful, and they soon went their separate ways, although never divorced.
The Duke of York was awarded many high up military roles, including Commander-in-Chief which made him the head of the English Army. The song the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ is attributed to Prince Frederick. During the ‘Flanders Campaign’, in the summer of 1794, the duke had no alternative than to retreat.
In 1803, Prince Frederick, then aged 40, began an affair with 27-year-old Mary Anne Clarke. She was a courtesan - a member of the royal social circles. She caught the attention of Frederick who took her as his mistress. He set her up in a lavish residence and lifestyle, but he was unable to keep up with the cost of their fancy way of life.
After two years they separated, in 1805, and he bought her silence with an annual pension. However, due to being short of money he cancelled this in 1808. Mary Anne Clarke sought payback!
In 1809, there was a national scandal when it was discovered that Mary Anne had been selling army commissions (taking payments in return for giving promotions in the army) and she testified to the House of Commons that this had been done with Frederick’s full knowledge. He resigned as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army.
The Duke of York passed away in 1827 at the age of 63.
Just off The Mall, by Buckingham Palace is The Duke of York Column which is 137ft tall (44 metres). The great height of the column caused contemporary wits to suggest that the duke was trying to escape his creditors, as the duke died £2 million in debt (about £115 million today).
Frederick’s older brother George, The Prince of Wales, (who later became King George IV), met his bride at the assembly rooms, now Margate Public Library in Cecil Street. Like Frederick, the Prince of Wales's debts mounted. His father refused to help him financially unless he married his cousin Princess Caroline of Brunswick - which he did in 1795.
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