Double Titles, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, George III of Great Britain, Highness, House of Hanover, Merged With the Crown, Peerage of Great Britain, Royal Highness, William Frederick, William Henry
Last week I did a post on the history of the title of Duke of Edinburgh. In this post id like to discuss the one time the title was created jointly with the title Duke of Gloucester.
The double title of Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh was a British title in the Peerage of Great Britain; the sole creation carried with it the subsidiary title, of Earl of Connaught.
After the last holder of the title, the future King George III, became king and the title merged with the Crown, King George III created bestowed upon his brother, Prince William Henry.
There had been Dukedoms of Gloucester and of Edinburgh individually but their extinction gave the opportunity for them to be created together.
The dukedom of Gloucester and Edinburgh was a royal dukedom when the duke was entitled to the style “His Royal Highness”, as Prince William Henry was, but his son, Prince William Frederick, held the styke of “His Highness” and was only granted the style “Royal Highness” upon his marriage in 1816 to his first cousin, Princess Mary, daughter of King George III and Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Prince William Henry
Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, (November 25, 1743 – 25 August 25, 1805), was a grandson of King George II and a younger brother of King George III of the United Kingdom.
Prince William Henry was born at Leicester House, Westminster. His parents were Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales, eldest son of George II and Caroline of Ansbach, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, then Princess of Wales.
His father died in 1751, leaving the Prince’s elder brother, Prince George, heir-apparent to the throne. He succeeded as King George III of Great Britain and Ireland on October 25, 1760. George had inherited the title Duke of Edinburgh from his father but that title (along with his other titled) merged with the crown giving the King the opportunity to recreate the title anew.
King George III created his brother Prince William Henry with the double titled Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Earl of Connaught on November 19, 1764. He had been made a Knight of the Garter on May 26, 1762, and invested on September 22 of that year.
After the Union of Great Britain, the Hanoverian kings liked to grant double titles (one from one constituent country, one from another) to emphasise unity
In 1764 he began to court Maria Walpole, the Dowager Countess of Waldegrave, an illegitimate granddaughter of Sir Robert Walpole.
That same year he and Maria married in secret in his home on Pall Mall. This marriage only became known to the King after the passing of the Royal Marriages Act 1772.
The Duke and Maria lived at St Leonard’s Hill in Clewer, near Windsor and had three children, all of whom were styled Highness from birth and used the territorial designation of Gloucester in conjunction with their princely styles, as great-grandchildren in the male line of George II.
The Duke and Maria’s first child, Princess Sophia of Gloucester (1773 – 1844), was born in 1773. Princess Caroline of Gloucester (1774 – 1775) followed just over a year later and was christened privately on 22 July 1774.
However, Princess Caroline died aged just nine months following a smallpox inoculation, intended to protect her from the disease.
The Duke and Maria had a third and final child in 1776, Prince William Frederick (1776 – 1834).
The Duke died at Gloucester House in London in 1805 and was succeeded as duke by his son William Frederick.
Prince William Frederick
Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, (January 15, 1776 – November 30, 1834) was a great-grandson of King George II of Great Britain and Ireland in the male line and a nephew and son-in-law of King George III of the United Kingdom.
Prince William was born on January 15, 1776 at Palazzo Teodoli in via del Corso, Rome. His father was Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh, the third son of the Prince of Wales. His mother, Maria, was the illegitimate daughter of Edward Walpole and granddaughter of Robert Walpole. As a great-grandson of George II he held the title of Prince of Great Britain with the style His Highness, not His Royal Highness, at birth.
He was admitted to the University of Cambridge (Trinity College) in 1787, and granted his MA in 1790. He set up his London home at 31 Upper Grosvenor Street, Mayfair. On August 25, 1805, Prince William’s father died, and he inherited the titles Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Earl of Connaught.
From 1811 until his death he was Chancellor of the University of Cambridge. He was offered the position of king of Sweden in 1812 by some members of the Swedish nobility, but the British government would not allow it.
On July 22, 1816, he married Princess Mary, his first cousin and the fourth daughter of George III. The marriage took place at St. James’s Palace, London. On that day, The Prince Regent granted the Duke the style of His Royal Highness by Order in Council.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester lived at Bagshot Park in Surrey. They had no children together; they had married when both were 40. The Duke had been encouraged to stay single, so that there might be a suitable groom for Princess Charlotte of Wales, the heiress to the throne, even if no foreign match proved suitable; she had married Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg ten weeks earlier.
He was active in many walks of life but politics, however, was not among them; he entered the House of Lords rarely, and he voted on few of the great issues of his time. He did advocate the abolition of slavery, and he supported Caroline of Brunswick and the Duke of Sussex against George IV.
He kept more state than the King; he never permitted a gentleman to be seated in his presence (which King George did as an exceptional favour) and expected to be served coffee by the ladies of any party he attended, and that they would stand while he drank it. The general estimate of his capacity is given by his nickname, “Silly Billy”; he was also called “Slice of Gloucester” and “Cheese”, a reference to Gloucester cheese.
Because of the unequal character of his parents’ marriage, he was excluded from the House of Hanover, being considered only a British prince. For instance, he and his sister were not listed in the genealogical listing of the electoral house of Hanover in the Königlicher Groß-Britannischer und Kurfürstlicher Braunschweig-Lüneburgscher Staats-Kalender.
He was also not invited to sign the family compact of the house of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1831, which means that he was not considered an agnate of the royal (electoral) house in Germany.
The Duke died on November 30 1834 at Bagshot Park, and was buried in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. He left no heir.
With his death the double title of Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh became extinct and in the future these titles would be created separately.