The First Duke of Edinburgh

In 1726, a new title was created in the peerage, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the recipient was Prince Frederick Louis, George I’s grandson.

The new duke was second in the line of succession to the throne behind his father, George Augustus who was, in 1726, the Prince of Wales.

Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust
Prince Frederick Louis, c.1720-1725. © Royal Collection Trust

News of his new title had to be carried to Hanover, for that was where Frederick lived. In 1714, when Queen Anne had died and his grandfather had taken the British throne as George I, Frederick’s parents, George, Prince of Wales and Caroline of Ansbach, the new Princess of Wales, had been forced to travel to England and leave their eldest son behind to represent the dynasty in Hanover (despite the fact that he was only seven years old).

Delighted with the news from England, celebrations were prepared at the Hanoverians’ summer residence, Herrenhausen Palace.

Hanover, Sept. 20. One the 12th inst. there was a great Entertainment at Herrenhausen, on Prince Frederick’s being created Duke of Edinburgh. There was a numerous Court, and at Night a fine Firework at the End of the Garden.

(Caledonian Mercury, 27 September 1726)

Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708
Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover, c.1708 (via Wikimedia)

At the same time as Frederick had been created Duke of Edinburgh, his younger brother, William (who had been born in England) was made Duke of Cumberland, a title which had first been held by his 2x great-uncle, Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Prince William was only five years old, while Frederick was nineteen; the former was the focus and the favourite of the British royal court while Frederick, overseas and out-of-sight, was overlooked and becoming ostracized.

Frederick did not use his new title for long; on 11 June 1727 George I died, and Frederick’s father took the throne as George II. Frederick was – finally – brought to Britain, but father and son rarely saw eye-to-eye. On 8 January 1729, Frederick was invested as the Prince of Wales and his eldest son, George, was given the Edinburgh dukedom.

Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust
Frederick and Augusta, Prince and Princess of Wales by Gaetano Manini, 1758. © Royal Collection Trust

Frederick never became king; he predeceased his father, George II and instead his son, George, the 2nd Duke of Edinburgh (and Prince of Wales after Frederick’s death) succeeded as George III, and so we have the unbroken reigns of the four Georges which give the period it’s moniker, the Georgian era.

Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)
Hanoverian Family Tree. (Image sourced via the National Archives, © Royal Family History)

The title of Duke of Edinburgh fell into abeyance in 1760 with George III’s accession to the throne, but was resurrected by Queen Victoria for her second son, Prince Alfred (although the monarch’s second son is traditionally created Duke of York). And, in 1947, in its third creation, the title was bestowed on Prince Philip.

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