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Today is the 130th anniversary of the death of the Duchess of Cambridge, (born Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel), on April 6, 1889.

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Princess Augusta of Hesse-Cassel

Augusta was the Last holder of the title Duchess of Cambridge prior to the current Duchess of Cambridge. Augusta is the Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother of the current Duke of Cambridge.

Princess Augusta Wilhelmine Luise of Hesse-Cassel (July 25, 1797 – April 6, 1889) was the wife of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the tenth-born child, and seventh son, of George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The longest-lived daughter-in-law of George III, she was the maternal grandmother of Mary of Teck, wife of George V of the United Kingdom.

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HRH The Dowager Duchess of Cambridge

Princess and Landgravine Augusta of Hesse-Cassel, third daughter of Landgrave Friedrich of Hesse-Cassel and his wife, Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen, was born at Rumpenheim, Offenbach am Main, Hesse. Through her father, she was a great-granddaughter of George II of Great Britain, her grandfather having married George II’s daughter Mary. Her father’s older brother was the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. In 1803, her uncle’s title was raised to Imperial Elector of Hesse—whereby the entire Cassel branch of the Hesse dynasty gained an upward notch in hierarchy.

Marriage

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Prince Adolphus Frederick, The Duke of Cambridge

On May 7, 1818 in Cassel, and then, again, on June 1, 1818 at Buckingham Palace, Princess Augusta married her second cousin, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, when she was 20 and he 44. Their marriage was a result of the “rush to the alter” for the unmarried sons of George III after the death in childbirth of their niece Princess Charlotte of Wales the previous year. The death of Princess Charlotte meant there was no legitimate heir to the throne of the United Kingdom in the third generation.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had three children: George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904); Augusta of Cambridge (1822-1916)(who married Friedrich Wilhelm, Grand Duke of Mecklenberg-Strelitz); Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (1833-1897) (who married Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, the parents of Princess Mary of Teck wife of George V of the United Kingdom).

At this time in the history of the British Monarchy the King of the United Kingdom was also the King of Hanover, a state within the German Confederation of the Rhine. The union of these two crowns was a personal union and not a political union. Shortly after their marriage in 1818 the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge moved to Hanover where her husband served as viceroy on behalf of his brothers, George IV (1820-1830) and William IV (1830-1837). The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to Great Britain, in 1837 when Prince Ernest-Augustus, Duke of Cumberland became King of Hanover (1837-1851).

Since Hanover was ruled by the Salic Law which barred women from inheriting the throne, Victoria (1837-1901) inherited the British throne and her uncle Prince Ernest-Augustus, Duke of Cumberland inherited the Hanoverian crown. With the King of Hanover now living in Hanover there was no longer a need for a Viceroy and therefore the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge returned to Britain where they lived at Cambridge Cottage, Kew, and later at St. James’s Palace.

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Prince Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and King of Hanover

The Duke of Cambridge died on July 8, 1850 at Cambridge House, Piccadilly, London, at the age of 76 and was buried at St Anne’s Church, Kew. His remains were later removed to St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. His only son, Prince George, succeeded to his peerages. The 2nd Duke of Cambridge married privately and in contravention of the 1772 Royal Marriages Act at St. John’s Church, Clerkenwell, London, on January 8, 1847 to Sarah Fairbrother (1816 – January 12, 1890), the daughter of John Fairbrother, a servant in Westminster. As the marriage was contrary to the Royal Marriages Act, the Duke’s wife was not titled Duchess of Cambridge or accorded the style Her Royal Highness, nor was their son born after the marriage eligible to succeed to the Duke’s titles. This was why Augusta was the last Duchess of Cambridge until Kate Middleton married the current Duke of Cambridge, Prince William of Wales in 2011.

Death

The Duchess of Cambridge survived her husband by thirty-nine years, dying on April 6, 1889, at the age of ninety-one. Queen Victoria wrote of her aunt’s death: “Very sad, though not for her. But she is the last of her generation, & I have no longer anyone above me.”