1787 engraving of the Duke of York
Frederick Augustus, Duke of York|
Born in 1763 and created Bishop of Osnabruck in Hanover
at the age of seven months, Frederick was George III's
favourite son. Initially educated with his older brother
George, Frederick was a bright student and was later sent
to Prussia to train for a military career.
In 1784 he married Princess Frederica of Prussia and was
created Duke of York. Frederick and the Prince of Wales
were firm friends, often drinking and womanising together,
and the Duke of York became a Mason in the same year as
his older brother. He was initiated in Britannic Lodge (now
No. 33), which also met at the Star and Garter and was made
a Past Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge soon after.
Naturally, he joined his brother's Lodge.
In 1789 he fought a duel with Lieutenant-Colonel Lennox,
who had insulted the Prince of Wales. The duel was a bit of
a Masonic affair, the Earl of Moira was Frederick's second
and Lennox, who survived the duel after the Prince refused
to shoot, later went on to become Duke of Richmond and
Provincial Grand Master of Sussex. For a number of years
the Prince of Wales's Lodge held an annual celebration to
honour Frederick's courage.
Like his older brother, Frederick's life was not short of
scandal. His military career was chequered. In 1793, revolutionary France had invaded Holland and Frederick was placed
in command of the British forces by his father. His campaign,
which was hindered by bad advice from older generals, could
have defeated France before the rise of Napoleon, but his
strategy of constant repositioning of troops led to Frederick
becoming the subject of the nursery rhyme "The Grand
Old Duke of York" after a second failed campaign in 1798.
Frederick did, however, as Commander-in-Chief, transform the organisation of the army, improve the training of
soldiers, especially officers, with the establishment of military
academies, and insist on better equipment and supplies for
the men in the field.
Unfortunately, his military career came to an end in 1809,
after one of his mistresses, Mrs Clarke, accused him of selling
commissions. Although cleared by a parliamentary enquiry,
he resigned his position. On his death in 1827, grateful
soldiers raised the funds to build a statue of him, which
still stands today at Carlton Terrace in London.