CollectionPapers of Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale
Record TypeWritings (documents)
ReferenceGEO/MAIN/46972-47810, GEO/ADD/8
TitlePapers of Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, 1778-1884
Date1778-1884
DescriptionThis collection is principally comprised of correspondence and has been catalogued in the following Series:

1. Correspondence to, from, and papers regarding Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Frederica, Duchess of Cumberland and Teviotdale, 1778-1831, 1884.
2. Correspondence of Ernest, Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale as Duke and King of Hanover, 1813-1851.
LanguageEnglish
German
French
Extent1 volume, 606 documents
LevelCollection
Admin HistoryPrince Ernest Augustus was born 5 June 1771 at Buckingham House to become the fifth son and eighth child of George III and Queen Charlotte. He was educated alongside his brothers Prince Augustus and Prince Adolphus at Kew, and at fifteen was sent to the University of Göttingen in Hanover.
In April 1799 he was bestowed the titles of the Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale, and Earl of Armagh and sworn into the Privy Council June 1799. He regularly took his seat in the House of Lords and, due to being a Tory and sharing similar views with George III, he aided the negotiations to the formation of the Addington government in 1801. One view he shared with his father was opposition to Catholic emancipation (he was an avid opponent of the Catholic Relief Act of 1829), which resulted in his gaining the Chancellorship of the University of Dublin and becoming Grand Master of the Orange Lodge in 1805.
The Duke had an extensive military career and served in the Coalition Wars. His training was conducted under Field Marshal Wilhem von Freytag in Hanover where he proved himself a good shot and an excellent horseman, both of which resulted in his early promotion to Captain of the 9th Hanoverian Hussars and permission to remain with the cavalry rather than undertaking further training with a regiment of the foot. In 1792 he became Colonel of the 9th Hanoverian Light Dragoons and under the command of his brother Frederick, Duke of York and Albany served in the war of the First Coalition. However during battle he was wounded, (leaving a noticeable scar) and then subsequently injured by a passing cannonball. Recovering from his injuries he returned as Major General but was wounded again, this time impacting his eyesight, a condition for which, he was informed by Sir Wathen Waller a well-regarded ophthalmologist, there was no treatment. In spite of his condition he remained in the military (although he would never again assume command of the filed), becoming Colonel of the 27th Light Dragoons in 1802. The Duke was subsequently transferred to the 15th Light Dragoons and in 1803 became Commander of the Severn District, significantly increasing the South Coast defences against the threat of invasion. He was promoted to General in 1808.
The Duke of Cumberland, in common with many of his siblings, was not immune to scandal, and his reputation was particularly marred by the death of his valet, Joseph Sellis, on 31 May 1810. On the date in question the Duke was attacked whilst he slept and injured by a sabre. His other valet, Cornelius Neale, came to his aid once the attacker had fled, but as Joseph Sellis had not appeared during the commotion his locked door was opened to discover his throat had been slit in an apparently self-inflicted act. An inquest into the death and attack ensued, returning a verdict of death by suicide. However the public placed the blame on the Duke with various theories abounding, including blackmail in consequence of adultery with the deceased's wife. The Duke's reputation was further tarnished in 1813 when he was implicated in the Weymouth election scandal. To avoid further familial embarrassment he was sent to Hanover to accompany troops into war against the French, resulting in his promotion to Field Marshal.
In 1813 the Duke of Cumberland met and wished to marry his cousin Frederica of Mecklenberg-Strelitz, although at the time she was still married to her second husband, Prince Frederick William of Solms-Branfels (her first husband Prince Louis of Prussia had died in 1796). Prince Frederick, unhappy with his marriage to Frederica, planned to consent to a divorce, but he died unexpectedly leaving her free to marry. The couple were wed in 1815 in what is thought to have been a happy union, remaining married until the Duchess's death in 1841. However, Queen Charlotte maintained an opposition to the match and refused to see her daughter-in-law as Frederica had previously broken an attachment to Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. The Duchess already had children from her previous marriages, and after two stillborn daughters in 1817 and 1818, the couple had their only son, Prince George of Cumberland in 1819, who was accidentally blinded in 1832. The Duke and Duchess principally resided at Kew and St. James's Palace, but in 1818 they left Britain for the continent, spending the majority of their time in Berlin, in an effort to economise until moving back to Britain in 1829. This move was encouraged by the Prince Regent and his family who were embarrassed by his reputation that was marred by murder and adultery.
As a fifth son the Duke of Cumberland was unlikely to inherit the throne, but a succession of deaths of those higher in the order of precedence (and their lack of heirs) would make this increasingly likely. Firstly, the unexpected death of his niece Princess Charlotte of Wales (daughter of George IV, then Prince Regent) in childbirth in 1817 moved his position from 6th in-line to the crown to 5th. He temporarily lost this position with the birth of his niece Princess Victoria of Kent and Strathearn (the future Queen Victoria) in 1819, but with the death of his elder brother Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (Princess Victoria's father) in January 1820 he returned to his former ranking. The death of his father George III, a few weeks after the death of his brother, led the Duke to become not only closer to the British throne (now 4th in-line), but to the rule of the Kingdom of Hanover (now 3rd in-line as, unlike the British throne, this was entailed through the male line). The death of his brother Frederick, Duke of York and Albany in 1827 resulted in his rankings changing again, and upon the death of George IV in 1830 the Duke became 2nd in-line to the British throne and heir presumptive to the Kingdom of Hanover.
The Duke of Cumberland eventually ascended to the Hanoverian throne upon the death of his brother William IV on 20 June 1837. His death not only gave the Duke of Cumberland the Kingdom of Hanover, but resulted in his niece, Queen Victoria, succeeding to the British throne. Consequently, Ernest became heir presumptive, a position he held until the birth of Princess Victoria, The Princess Royal in 1840. By all accounts he did not have a good relationship with his niece, heightened by his refusal to give precedence to her husband, Prince Albert, or relinquish his apartments to her mother, Victoria, Duchess of Kent and Strathearn.
Ernest moved to the Kingdom of Hanover on 28 June 1837 to become the first ruler for over a hundred years to live there, and returned to the United Kingdom just once for the marriage of Princess Augusta of Cambridge to Frederick William, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg in 1843. Upon taking control, Ernest embarked on reform in Hanover, dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution instated by William IV, declaring it void. He would uphold all laws passed under the former constitution but reinstated the constitution of 1819 enacted by George IV, when Prince Regent. Ernest's presence and rule in Hanover was markedly different from his political leanings in the House of Lords. Whereas in Britain he had been against Catholic emancipation and freedoms for those of the Jewish faith, he accepted their being granted greater rights in Hanover. He was also a great supporter of innovation, including the introduction of gaslighting and railway development.
Ernest Augustus, King of Hanover died on 18 November 1851 after a short illness in the Kingdom of Hanover and was interred alongside his wife at Herrenhausen. After his death, his son Prince George became King of Hanover.
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 separate custodial history and physical location of the records; the original order is unknown. The majority of the first series are believed to have formed part of the main accession from Apsley House, whereas the records within the second series entered the Royal Archives at later dates, as described in the Custodial History.
Catalogued skeletally to File level, Autumn 2020.
Related MaterialAccounts for 1797 are held by Coutts & Co.
RepositoryRoyal Archives
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