CollectionPapers of Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
ReferenceGEO/MAIN/43253-43291, 45275-46971, GEO/ADD/7/1-449, 500-1500, 1503-1579
TitlePapers of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, 1772-1898
Date[c.1772-1950]
DescriptionThis collection is arranged in the following Series:

1. Correspondence and papers of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, 1772-1898
2. Financial Papers of Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, 1794-1837
LanguageEnglish
German
Latin
French
Extent57 volumes, 1018 documents
LevelCollection
Admin HistoryPrince Edward Augustus was born 2 November 1767 at Buckingham House, becoming the fourth son and fifth child of George III and Queen Charlotte.
Prince Edward's education was initially delivered by his preceptor John Fisher (later Bishop of Salisbury), but in 1785 the Prince moved to the Electorate of Hanover to continue his studies. He was not to be educated in Göttingen, as his elder brother Prince Frederick had been, but instead began military training in Lüneburg as a cadet in the Hanoverian Foot Guards. This was under the instruction of his tutor, Lieutenant Colonel George von Wagenheim, who in addition to strict military training taught him law, history, German, religion and classics amongst others. In 1786 Prince Edward became a Knight of the Garter and was appointed Brevet Colonel in the British Army, declining an additional position in the Hanoverian Foot Guards. In 1788 and 1789 he lived in Geneva where he completed his education and became acquainted with Madame Julie Saint-Laurent (Therese Benard née Mongenet) (1760-1830), who became his long-term mistress of twenty-seven years. He had a previous mistress, Adelaide Dubus, who died giving birth to his daughter, Adelaide Victoire Auguste (1789-1833), who was raised by her maternal aunt. It is not thought that his relationship with Madame Saint-Laurent resulted in any children.
In 1789, whilst still on the continent, Prince Edward was appointed Colonel of the 7th Regiment of the Foot (Royal Fusiliers), but in 1790 he returned home without leave and as a result of his father's displeasure was sent to serve in Gibraltar as an ordinary officer. He was not to remain in Gibraltar long, as in 1791, due to his strict military discipline (possibly learnt from von Wagenheim) he was transferred to Canada (British North America), residing in Quebec City. Whilst there he witnessed the Constitutional Act of 1791 and became not only the first member of the Royal Family to live in North America but also the first Prince to visit the United States in 1794 when he travelled to Boston. He was promoted to Major General in October 1793 and served in the West India campaign of the Coalition Wars, acting as Commander of the British Camp at La Coste in the Battle of Martinique. This service was mentioned in dispatches and he was publicly thanked by Parliament. In 1794 the Prince requested to return to England, he was refused and instead sent to the Head Quarters of the Royal Navy in North America, Halifax, Nova Scotia. He was integral to transforming the base and its defences and also influenced the politics and society of the area. A fall from his horse in 1798 led to permission to return to England, and in the same year he was bestowed with the titles of Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and Earl of Dublin, in addition to admittance to the Privy Council. The Duke was also promoted to Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the Maritime Provinces of North America and in 1799 returned to Halifax, although this time he would only remain a year, leaving for England in 1800, his role as Commander in Chief at an end.
In 1802 the Duke of Kent received his next military posting, which would see his return to Gibraltar as Governor at the request of the War Office to resolve the Garrison's discipline issues. However, the Duke's strict measures led to a mutiny of the 25th Regiment on Christmas Eve. As a result, his brother Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, acting as Commander-in-Chief recalled him in May 1803. The Duke of Kent refused to leave until a successor had arrived, but once back in England an inquiry decreed the Duke could never return to Gibraltar, but he maintained his position as Governor until his death.
The mutiny signalled the end of his military career and in 1805 he took the appointment as Ranger of Hampton Court Park. In addition to the residence which accompanied the position he lived at Castle Hill Lodge, Ealing, which he purchased from Maria Fitzherbert in 1801. The Duke had a variety of interests, including the arts, and was a liberal, supporting various causes from Catholic emancipation and the union of the American Colonies to Abolitionist societies. He was considered a good, intelligent speaker, and, in common with his father, gained a reputation for vast correspondence. He was also a Mason, joining the Masonic Lodge in Geneva 1789 and becoming an English Grandmaster in 1813.
In 1815, in addition to becoming a Knight of the Bath and Knight of the Grand Cross of Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, he moved to Brussels in an effort to economise in the face of his mounting debts, a trait he shared with his siblings. However, after the sudden death of his niece Princess Charlotte of Wales, the sole legitimate heir of George IV, he was looked to as the eldest unmarried son of George III to provide a new heir. This sudden change in circumstance led to a separation from his long-term mistress, Madame Saint-Laurent, and a proposed marriage to the late Princess Charlotte's sister-in-law, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786-1861). Princess Victoria was a widow and had two children from her first marriage with Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen, Carl and Feodora. Their marriage took place on 29 May 1818 at Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, in a Lutheran ceremony with a second ceremony held upon their arrival in England at Kew Palace on 11 July 1818. After marriage they lived principally at Amorbach Castle, Leiningen, although they returned to Kensington Palace for the birth of their only child, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent and Strathearn (1819-1901), the future Queen Victoria.
After Princess Victoria's birth, the Kent's leased a house in Sidmouth in another effort to economise and offset the debts amassed by the Duke (these would not be fully settled until his daughter came to the throne). Their residence did not last long as Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, died on 23 January 1820 of pneumonia at Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth, six days before the death of his father and whilst his daughter was still under a year old. The Duke was subsequently interred at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, on 12 February 1820 and his family took up residence at Kensington Palace.
Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn's legacy remains prominent in Canada; Prince Edward Island is named after him. He is also often credited with impacting the development of the country, and with the first use of 'Canadian' to mean both French and British citizens.
Custodial HistoryThe majority of these records are believed to have been part of the original acquisition from Apsley House in 1912. See Series and File levels for alternative custodial history.
ArrangementThis collection is comprised of two series to reflect the possible administrative histories and physical separation of the records; the original order is unknown.
Catalogued skeletally to File level, Autumn 2020.
NotesReferences GEO/ADD/7/450-499, 1501-1502 are not currently in use.
RepositoryRoyal Archives
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