by Susan Flantzer
Adolphus Frederick was the youngest surviving and seventh of the nine sons and tenth of the fifteen children of King George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Known in his family as Dolly, he was born on February 24, 1774 at the Queen’s House (formerly Buckingham House, now Buckingham Palace) in London. The infant prince was christened Adolphus Frederick on March 24, 1774 in the Great Council Chamber at St James’s Palace by Frederick Cornwallis, Archbishop of Canterbury. His godparents were:
- Prince Johann Adolf of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (his great-uncle)
- Prince Karl of Hesse-Kassel (his first cousin once-removed)
- Wilhelmina, Princess of Orange (born Wilhelmina of Prussia, wife of his first cousin once-removed)
Adolphus had fourteen siblings:
- King George IV (1762 – 1830), married Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, had issue: Princess Charlotte of Wales who died in childbirth as did her child
- Prince Frederick, Duke of York (1763 – 1827), married Frederica of Prussia, no issue
- King William IV (1765 – 1837), married Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, no surviving legitimate issue, has illegitimate descendants
- Charlotte, Princess Royal (1766 – 1828), married King Frederick of Württemberg, no surviving issue
- Prince Edward, Duke of Kent (1767 – 1820), married Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, had issue: Queen Victoria, present British Royal Family are his descendants
- Princess Augusta Sophia (1768 – 1840), never married, no issue
- Princess Elizabeth (1770 – 1840), married Frederick, Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, no issue
- King Ernest Augustus I of Hanover, Duke of Cumberland (1771 – 1851), married Friederike of Mecklenburg-Strelitz; had issue
- Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773 – 1843), married twice, both in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 (1) Lady Augusta Murray, had issue, marriage annulled (2) Lady Cecilia Buggin (later 1st Duchess of Inverness), no issue
- Princess Mary (1776 – 1857), married Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, no issue
- Princess Sophia (1777 – 1848), never married, possible illegitimate issue
- Prince Octavius (1779 – 1783), died in childhood
- Prince Alfred (1780 – 1782), died in childhood
- Princess Amelia (1783 – 1810), never married, no issue
Adolphus was educated by tutors until he was twelve years old when he was sent with his brothers Prince Ernest and Prince Augustus to the University of Göttingen in Germany, which had been founded by his great-grandfather King George II. Adolphus became a Knight of the Garter in 1786 and was created Duke of Cambridge, Earl of Tipperary, and Baron Culloden in 1801. His son George succeeded him as Duke of Cambridge, but the title became extinct upon George’s death in 1904. In 2011, Adolphus’ great great great great grandson Prince William was created Duke of Cambridge upon his marriage.
Adolphus had a military career and his training started in 1791 when he was sent to Hanover with his brother Prince Ernest to study with the Hanoverian commander Field Marshal von Freytag. He participated in the Flanders Campaign in which he was wounded and captured, but eventually rescued. Adolphus was promoted to Lieutenant-General in the Hanoverian Army and he commanded several brigades in action. He participated in the War of the Second Coalition against France. In 1803, he was appointed as commander-in-chief of the newly formed King’s German Legion, a British Army unit of expatriate German personnel. Adolphus also served as colonel-in-chief of the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards (Coldstream Guards) and the 60th Regiment of Foot (The Duke of York’s Own Rifle Corps). In 1813, he was made a Field Marshal.
Since the British Kings of the House of Hanover were also Kings of Hanover, someone was needed to represent them in Hanover. In 1816, Adolphus was appointed Governor-General of the Kingdom of Hanover. In 1831, his title changed to Viceroy. He was a capable and efficient ruler in Hanover and remained in that position until his niece Queen Victoria came to the British throne in 1837. Because Hanover followed the Salic Law which allows only male succession through the male line, Queen Victoria could not become Hanover’s monarch. Instead, her eldest surviving paternal uncle, Prince Ernest, became King of Hanover.
After the tragic death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only legitimate grandchild of King George III despite the king having twelve surviving children, the king’s aging bachelor sons needed to seek brides to provide for the succession. Prince Adolphus married Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel, a great-granddaughter of King George II, in Kassel (Germany) on May 7, 1818 and again at the Queen’s House (now Buckingham Palace) in the presence of Queen Charlotte on June 1, 1818. The groom was 44 and the bride was 20. Despite the age difference, the marriage was a happy one and Adolphus was very much in love with Augusta. The couple lived in Hanover from 1818 – 1837 while Adolphus served his father and then his two brothers, King George IV and King William IV, as Viceroy of Hanover.
The couple had three children:
- Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (1819 – 1904); married Sarah Louisa Fairbrother, had issue (marriage was in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act so it was not legal and children of the marriage were illegitimate)
- Princess Augusta of Cambridge (1822 – 1916); married Friedrich Wilhelm, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had issue
- Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge (1833 – 1897); married Francis, Duke of Teck, had issue, including Mary of Teck, the wife of King George V of the United Kingdom
Prince Adolphus died “of cramps in the stomach” at Cambridge House in Piccadilly, London on July 8, 1850 at the age of 76. His niece Queen Victoria reported his death to her uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians: “My poor good Uncle Cambridge breathed his last, without a struggle, at a few minutes before ten, last night.” He was buried in the mausoleum he had constructed at the Kew Parish Church. Augusta survived her husband by 39 years, dying at age 91 in 1889. In 1928, their remains were removed from the mausoleum at the Kew Parish Church and interred in the Royal Tomb House in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle at the instigation of their granddaughter Queen Mary. Through his granddaughter Queen Mary, Prince Adolphus is an ancestor of the British Royal Family.