Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, (November 2, 1767 – January 23, 1820) was the fourth son and fifth child of King George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.His only legitimate child became Queen Victoria.
As a son of the British monarch, he was styled His Royal Highness The Prince Edward from birth, and was fourth in the line of succession to the throne. He was named after his paternal uncle, Prince Edward, the Duke of York and Albany (1739 – 1767), who had died several weeks earlier September 17, 1767, and was buried at Westminster Abbey the day before Edward’s birth.
The Prince began his military training in the Holy Roman Empire in 1785. King George III intended to send him to the University of Göttingen, but decided against it upon the advice of the Duke of York. Instead, Edward went to Lüneburg and later Hanover, accompanied by his tutor, Baron Wangenheim.
On May 30, 1786, he was appointed a brevet colonel in the British Army. From 1788 to 1789, he completed his education in Geneva Switzerland. On August 5, 1789, aged 22, he became a mason in the L’Union, the most important Genevan masonic lodge in the 19th century.
In 1789, he was appointed colonel of the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers). In 1790, he returned home without leave and, in disgrace, was sent off to Gibraltar as an ordinary officer. He was joined from Marseilles by Madame de Saint-Laurent.
After suffering a fall from his horse in late 1798, he was allowed to return to England. On April 24, 1799, Prince Edward was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn and Earl of Dublin, received the thanks of parliament and an income of £12,000 (£1.21 million in 2020).
In May that same year, the Duke was promoted to the rank of general and appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. He took leave of his parents July 22, 1799 and sailed to Halifax. Just over twelve months later he left Halifax and arrived in England on August 31, 1800 where it was confidently expected his next appointment would be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.
Edward was the first member of the royal family to live in North America for more than a short visit (1791–1800) and, in 1794, the first prince to enter the United States (travelling to Boston on foot from Lower Canada) after independence.
On March 23, 1802, he was appointed Governor of Gibraltar. The Duke took up his post on May 24, 1802 with express orders from the government to restore discipline among the drunken troops. The Duke’s harsh discipline precipitated a mutiny by soldiers in his own and the 25th Regiment on Christmas Eve 1802.
His brother Frederick, the Duke of York, then Commander-in-Chief of the Forces, recalled him in May 1803 after receiving reports of the mutiny, but despite this direct order he refused to return to England until his successor arrived. He was refused permission to return to Gibraltar for an inquiry and, although allowed to continue to hold the governorship of Gibraltar until his death, he was forbidden to return.
As a consolation for the end of his active military career at age 35, he was promoted to the rank of field marshal and appointed Ranger of Hampton Court Park on September 5, 1805. This office provided him with a residence now known as The Pavilion. (His sailor brother, William, with children to provide for, had been made Ranger of Bushy Park in 1797.) The Duke continued to serve as honorary colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot (the Royal Scots) until his death.
Though it was a tendency shared to some extent with his brothers, the Duke’s excesses as a military disciplinarian may have been due less to natural disposition and more to what he had learned from his tutor Baron Wangenheim. Certainly Wangenheim, by keeping his allowance very small, accustomed Edward to borrowing at an early age. The Duke applied the same military discipline to his own duties that he demanded of others.
Though it seems inconsistent with his unpopularity among the army’s rank and file, his friendliness toward others and popularity with servants has been emphasized. He also introduced the first regimental school.
The Duke of Wellington considered him a first-class speaker. He took a continuing interest in the social experiments of Robert Owen, voted for Catholic emancipation, and supported literary, Bible, and abolitionist societies.