Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, who was initiated by the Grand Master, Earl Moira
Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland|
Born in 1771, Ernest Augustus became the black sheep of the
family, which was no mean feat considering the reputation
of most of his brothers. Initially things looked good for Ernest.
He was tall, fit, handsome and destined to do great things in
the Hanoverian cavalry, which he joined in 1791.
By 1792 he was a Colonel in the Hanoverian Dragoons
and eventually rose to the rank of Field Marshal. In 1793
he was wounded in action whilst fighting under the Duke
of Yorkís command.
At this point in his life everything was going well. The Earl
of Moira, Acting Grand Master and another military Mason,
initiated the Prince at a special Lodge in 1796 at the Earlís
house. He was immediately made a Past Grand Master and
joined Britannic Lodge two years later.
In 1799 Parliament made him Duke of Cumberland
when he married Princess Frederica of Mecklenberg-Strelitz.
Unfortunately, from this point his reputation in Britain began
to suffer a series of setbacks. Rumours began to circulate in
the British press and society about the Duke.
His sister, the unmarried Princess Sophia, had a child in
1800 and Cumberland was believed to be the father, when
in fact it was General Thomas Garth, who later brought up
the child. In 1810, one of Ernestís servants Sellis tried to kill
the Duke with a sword, giving him a near fatal head wound,
then committed suicide.
Rumour had it that the Duke was either having an affair
with Sellisí wife or with Sellis, but neither could be proven.
He was accused of assaulting the wife of the Chancellor, Lord
Lyndhurst, when in fact they had only argued about politics
and, in 1829, Lord Graves killed himself when he was told
Ernest was having an affair with his wife.
This rumour was again untrue, but Ernestís character
and actions did not endear him to the public. He preferred
Hanover and made that quite obvious to everyone. In 1827
he became Grand Master of the Orange Order at a time when
Parliament was condemning it for its bad effect on Irish politics.
He opposed Catholic emancipation, even trying to form his
own Tory government, but was defeated by the Whigs and
the majority of the Tories led by Wellington.
He lined up against the Reform Bills with the Tories in the
House of Lords against his brother the Duke of Sussex, who was
a Whig. Disgruntled, Ernest spent less and less time in England.
He had joined Lodge Frederick of the White Horse (Hanover)
in 1813 and became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of
Hanover in 1828. In 1837, on the death of William IV, Ernest
became King of Hanover, as Victoria was ineligible as a woman.
True to form, Ernest scrapped Hanoverís liberal constitution
and set about ruling the country as an absolute monarch.
He died in 1851, handing the throne to his blind son George,
who was deposed after 15 years when Hanover was annexed