Ernst-August, King of Hanover (June 5, 1771 – November 18, 1851) was King of Hanover from June 20, 1837 until his death. As the fifth son of King George III of the United Kingdom and Hanover, and Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was the youngest daughter of Duke Charles-Ludwig-Friedrich of Mecklenburg (1708–1752; known as “Prince of Mirow”) and of his wife Princess Elisabeth-Albertine of Saxe-Hildburghausen (1713–1761). Mecklenburg-Strelitz was a small north-German duchy in the Holy Roman Empire.
Ernst-August, King of Hanover
Initially Ernst-August seemed unlikely to become a monarch, but none of his elder brothers had a legitimate son. Ernest succeeded in Hanover under Salic law, which debarred women from the succession, ending the personal union between Britain and Hanover that had begun in 1714.
Ernst-August was born in London but was sent to Hanover in his adolescence for his education and military training. While serving with Hanoverian forces near Tournai against Revolutionary France, he received a disfiguring facial wound.
After leaving the nursery, he lived with his two younger brothers, Prince Adolphus-Frederick (later Duke of Cambridge) and Prince Augustus (later Duke of Sussex), and a tutor in a house on Kew Green, near his parents’ residence at Kew Palace. Though King George III never left England in his life, he sent his younger sons to Germany in their adolescence.
George III, King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of Hanover. (Father)
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Mother)
This was done to limit the influence Ernest-August’s eldest brother George, Prince of Wales, who was leading an extravagant lifestyle, would have over his younger brothers. At the age of fifteen, Prince Ernst-August and his two younger brothers were sent to the University of Göttingen, located in his father’s domain of Hanover. Ernst-August proved a keen student and after being tutored privately for a year, while learning German, he attended lectures at the university.
The King’s eldest son, George, Prince of Wales (later King George IV), had one child, Charlotte, who was expected to become the British queen, but she died in 1817, giving Ernest some prospect of succeeding to the British throne as well as the Hanoverian one. However, his older brother Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent, fathered the eventual British heir, Victoria, in 1819.
Ernst-August married Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Friederike Louise Caroline Sophie Charlotte Alexandrine) (3 March 3, 1778 – June 29, 1841). She was a German princess who became, by marriage, Princess of Prussia, Princess of Solms-Braunfels, Duchess of Cumberland in Britain and Queen of Hanover (in Germany) as the consort of Ernst-August, King of Hanover (the fifth son and eighth child of King George III).
Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was born in the Altes Palais of Hanover as the fifth daughter of Charles II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and his first wife, Frederica, daughter of Prince Georg-Wilhelm of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her father assumed the title of Grand Duke of Mecklenburg on June 18, 1815. Duchess Frederica was the niece of her future mother-in-law, Queen Charlotte, through her father.
Charles II, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Frederica’s parents were anxious to arrange advantageous marriages for all their daughters, and used family connections to bring this about. Queen Frederika-Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, wife of King Friedrich-Wilhelm II, was a first cousin of Frederica’s mother. Frederica’s parents broached with the Prussian royal family the idea of marriage between their children, and the Prussians were not averse. On March 14, 1793, the Princesses of Mecklenburg-Strelitz “coincidentally” met the Prussian King Friedrich-Wilhelm II at the Prussian Theatre in Frankfurt-am-Main. He was immediately captivated by the grace and charm of both sisters, Frederica and Louise. The pending marriage negotiations received traction, and within weeks, the matter was settled: Frederica’s elder sister Louise would marry Crown Prince Friedrich-Wilhelm (King Friedrich-Wilhelm III of Prussia) and Frederica would marry his younger brother Prince Ludwig.
Prince Ludwig of Prussia.
Louise and Friedrich-Wilhelm and Frederica and Prince Ludwig of Prussia were all married at the same venue. Unlike her sister, Frederica did not enjoy a happy marriage. Although her husband died from diphtheria in 1796, only three years after the wedding, Ludwig was said to have preferred the company of his mistresses and completely neglected his wife.
Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (sister of Frederica)
King Friedrich-Wilhelm III of Prussia
In 1797, Frederica and her cousin Prince Adolphus-Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, seventh son of King George III of Great Britain by his wife Queen Charlotte (Frederica’s paternal aunt), became unofficially engaged. The Duke of Cambridge asked the consent of his father to the marriage. The King did not refuse his consent but asked his son to wait until the ongoing war with France was over. The relationship eventually ended, with rumors circulating that either Adolphus had offered to release Frederica from the engagement, or – as Queen Charlotte believed – Frederica had jilted him for another man.
In 1798 Frederica became pregnant. The father was Prince Frederick William of Solms-Braunfels, perhaps the man she jilted the Duke of Cambridge for? The prince recognized his paternity and requested her hand in marriage, a proposal that was quickly granted in order to avoid scandal. On December 10, of that year, the couple was married in Berlin and immediately moved to Ansbach.
In May 1813, during a visit to his uncle Duke Charles in Neustrelitz, Prince Ernst-August, Duke of Cumberland, the fifth son of King George III of Great Britain, met and fell in love with Frederica.
Some time later Frederica asked the Prussian king for approval for her divorce from Prince Friedrich-Wilhelm of Solms-Braunfels. All parties agreed, including the Prince of Solms-Braunfels, but Friedrich-Wilhelm’s sudden death on April 13, 1814 precluded the need for a divorce. The prince’s demise was considered by some as a little too convenient, and some suspected that Frederica had poisoned him.
In August, the engagement with Ernst-August was officially announced. After the British Prince Regent gave his consent to the wedding, Frederica and Ernst-August were married on 29 May 29, 1815 at the parish church of Neustrelitz. Some time later, the couple traveled to Great Britain and married again on August 29, 1815 at Carlton House, London.
Ernst-August, King of Hanover.
Queen Charlotte bitterly opposed the marriage, even though her future daughter-in-law was also her niece. She refused to attend the wedding and advised her son to live outside England with his wife. Frederica never obtained the favor of her aunt/mother-in-law, who died unreconciled with her in 1818. During her marriage to Ernest Augustus she gave birth three times, but only a son survived, who would eventually become King Georg V of Hanover.
On April 23, 1799, George III created Prince Ernst-August, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh, and was granted an allowance of £12,000 a year. Though he was made a lieutenant-general, of both British and Hanoverian forces, he remained in England and, with a seat in the House of Lords, entered politics. Ernst-August was an active member of the House of Lords, where he maintained an extremely conservative record. There were persistent allegations (reportedly spread by his political foes) that he had murdered his valet, had fathered a son by his sister Sophia, and intended to take the British throne by murdering Victoria. Following the death of his brother King William IV, Ernst-August became Hanover’s first resident ruler since George I.
Ernst-August had a generally successful fourteen-year reign but excited controversy near its start when he dismissed the Göttingen Seven, including the two Brothers Grimm, from their professorial positions for agitating against his policies. A revolution in 1848 was quickly put down in Hanover. The kingdom joined the German customs union in 1850 despite Ernest’s reluctance. He died the next year and was succeeded by his son Georg.