Monday, May 27, 2019

The Cumberlands have a son

Three days after the Duchess of Kent gave birth to a daughter,  the Duchess of Cumberland joined the succession race with the birth of a healthy son in Berlin.  

This was the 14th child for the 41-year-old Duchess, who was born Princess Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  She had three children by her first husband, Prince Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia, who died in 1796.  

Friederike was the niece of Queen Charlotte, the consort of King George III.  After Friedrich Ludwig's death,  Friederike's first cousin, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, proposed marriage.  His father gave his consent but suggested that the marriage not take place until the war with France was over.   

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It appears that Friederike was not willing to wait.  Queen Charlotte was right in her belief that Friederike jilted her son for another man.   She was having an affair with Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Solms-Braunfels and by the summer of 1798, she realized she was pregnant.  Prince Friedrich Wilhelm proposed as he knew he was the father of the child.  They were married in December 1799.  Two months later, she gave birth to a daughter who lived for only eight months.

The marriage was not a success as the Prince was an alcoholic and preferred a  self-indulgent lifestyle.   After the birth of their seventh child in 1812, the couple lived largely separated lives.  Friederike's family advised that she obtain a divorce.  In May 1813, she met her first cousin, the Duke of Cumberland, and they fell in love.    Seeing the advantage of a marriage with a member of the British royal family, Friederike's father, Duke Karl, gave his support to a divorce, as did the King of Prussia and the Prince of Solms-Braunfels. 

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Prince Friedrich Wilhelm died on April 13, 1814, thus rendering the need for a divorce.  Some believed that Friederike poisoned her husband to be free to marry the Duke of Cumberland.

The couple became engaged in August 1814.  The marriage had the assent of Ernest August's brother, the Prince Regent, but their mother, Queen Charlotte never approved of the relationship, perhaps due to Friederike's jilting of Adolphus or her own immoral behavior by getting pregnant before marriage or even the rumors about the convenient death of her second husband... or even a combination of all three.

Queen Charlotte who died in 1818 never welcomed her niece into the family.  The couple were married in Neustrelitz in May 1815 and then traveled to England for a second marriage ceremony which took place at Carlton House in London, in August 1815.

This marriage produced three children: a stillborn daughter, Frederica, on January 27, 1817, followed by an unnamed stillborn daughter in April 1818, and then a son and heir. HRH George Frederick Alexander Charles Ernest Augustus of Cumberland.

The infant was baptized on July 8, 1819, in Berlin, by the Rev. Henry Thomas Austen, the brother of Jane Austen.   His godparents were the Prince Regent (represented by the Duke of Cumberland), King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia,  Emperor Alexander I of Russia,  Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, Prince Friedrich Ludwig of Prussia, Prince Heinrich of Prussia,  Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Duke Carl of Mecklenburg, the Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, the Queen of the Netherlands, Princess Augusta Sophia, the Hereditary Princess of Hesse-Homburg, the Duchess of Gloucester and Edinburgh, Princess Sophia, Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, the Electoral Princess of Hesse-Kassel, the Duchess of Anhalt-Dessau, Princess Wilhelm of Prussia, Princess Ferdinand of Prussia, Princess Luise of Prussia and Princess Radziwill.

The King of Prussia "was pleased to hold the infant over the baptismal font."

The baptism took place in a hotel in Berlin, where the Duke and Duchess were living.

The new prince of Cumberland was born seventh in line to the throne. 

 The Duke of Cumberland had hoped that his son and his niece, Victoria, would marry and keep the throne British and Hanover thrones united as in 1837, when Victoria succeeded to the British throne, the crown of Hanover passed to the Duke of Cumberland, who reigned as King Ernst August V.   Succession to Hanover was limited to males only (Salic law).

King Ernst August died in 1851.  George succeeded to the throne as King Georg V.  He also succeeded to his father's British peerages: Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh.   

Georg married in 1843 to Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenberg.    They had three children, Hereditary Prince Ernst August (1845-1923),  Princess Friederike (1848-1926), and Princess Marie (1849-1904).   

The King lost his throne in 1866 when he sided with Austria during the Austro-Prussian war.  The penalty was the loss of Hanover's independence.  The country was absorbed into Prussia and the royal family was forced into exile.  They settled in Gmunden, Austria.

King Georg V was only 59 when he died in Paris on June 24, 1878.   He is buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.

The Hanover royal family descends from King Georg's only son, Ernst August, who chose to be styled as Duke of Cumberland after his father's death. He never renounced his rights to the throne.  

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images:  Marlene A. Eilers Koenig Collection

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