I'm captivated by the stories behind traditions. God Save the Queen/King has an interesting background.
Queen Victoria’s father Edward Augustus was King George III (1738-1820) and Charlotte of Mecklenberg-Strelitz’s (1744-1818) fourth son and fifth child. He was born on the 2nd November 1767 at Queen's House, now Buckingham Palace, and he was named after the king’s recently deceased brother Edward Augustus, Duke of York and Albany (1739-1767.) He was baptised on the 30th November 1767.
As a younger royal son Edward was destined to pursue a military career. His training began in 1785 as a cadet in the Hanoverian Guard. He was accompanied by his tutor, the “mercenary tyrant,” Lieutenant Colonel Baron von Wangenheim as he studied in Lüneburg, Hanover and Geneva.
In Geneva, Edward fathered an illegitimate daughter, Adelaide Victoria Augusta Dubus, born in December 1789. Her mother, Adelaide Dubus, died in childbirth. The baby was to be raised by her maternal aunt Victoire. Edward promised to pay fifty guineas per annum for his daughter’s care. Adelaide died in 1790 but the Prince’s household paid an allowance to Victoire until her 1832 death. Although Victoire declined to become his mistress, Edward fathered a son named Edward (1789-1853) by Anne Gabrielle Alexandrine Moré.
Disgrace, Julie and Canada
As well as creating two children, Edward became a Colonel with the 7th Regiment of Foot (Royal Fusiliers) in the British Army in 1789. Unwisely, he decided to take a holiday without obtaining permission and he was duly punished. George III ensured that Edward’s rank was reduced and he was transferred to Gibraltar. Edward was not permitted to return to England until 1798 when he had sustained a riding injury and needed somewhere to convalesce.
Edward had met his long term mistress Madame Alphonsine-Thérèse-Bernadine-Julie de Mongenêt de Saint-Laurent, known as Julie, the wife of French Colonel Baron de Fortission, in Geneva. She was seven years older than Edward and an attractive, petite and dark-haired vision. He was smitten. Julie secretly travelled to Gibraltar with him.
Edward did not cope with the soaring temperatures and he requested a transfer. Canada was suggested. The king, aware of Julie’s presence in Edward’s life, hoped that this would end their relationship. He was mistaken. Edward and Julie arrived in Quebec, Canada in August 1791. He introduced her as a widow. Edward was stationed at the Royal Navy's North American Station in Halifax, Nova Scotia as a Major-General.
Edward was the first member of the British royal family to visit Upper Canada. On the 27th June 1792 he invented the term Canadian whilst asking for concord between rioting French and English immigrants in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Edward was also the first Prince of Great Britain to enter America after its independence when he visited Boston in 1794.
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New Titles And Mutiny
Edward returned to Britain in the autumn of 1798 and on 23rd April 1799 (St. George’s Day) he was created the Duke of Kent and Strathearn and the Earl of Dublin. With these titles he also received a useful increase in his allowance to £12000 per annum. That May he was promoted to General and he briefly became the Commander In Chief of British Forces in North America.
In May 1802 the British War Office appointed Edward as the Governor of Gibraltar. The soldiers’ there mutinied on Christmas Eve 1802. As Sir Spencer Walpole commented, Edward " "was unpopular among his troops; and the storm which was created by his well-intentioned effort at Gibraltar to check the licentiousness and drunkenness of the garrison compelled him finally to retire from the governorship of this colony." Actually, his second eldest brother Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827) was Commander in Chief of the British Army and he made the awkward decision to allow Edward to continue to hold the title of Governor but he was instructed never to visit the country again under any circumstances.
Edward acted as an Honorary Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot (The Royal Scots) until his death but his active military career ended in Gibraltar. In September 1805 he became the Ranger of Hampton Court Park and he took possession of The Pavilion, the home that accompanied the role. Edward and Julie moved to Brussels in Belgium in 1815 because Britain was too expensive for their lifestyle.
The Great Dynastic Crisis
When Princess Charlotte of Wales (1796-1817) and her son passed away in November 1817 during a protracted birth Edward and his brothers were told that their duty was to produce at least one legitimate heir between them so that the Hanoverian dynasty would not die out. He reluctantly separated from Julie after twenty-eight years together. She was devastated. Unproven claims that Edward and Julie had married in Quebec and had children were always refuted by Queen Victoria.
Julie read in a newspaper at breakfast one day that Edward was engaged. She became hysterical but publicly acted with great dignity. Her only request was for a portrait of Edward to remember him by. She spent the remainder of her life in Paris, France. He paid her an annuity until his death. The French King Louis XVIII (1755-1824) gave her the title of Comtesse de Montgenêt. She died in August 1830.
Edward’s bride was Princess Marie Louise Victoire, known as Victoire, of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786-1861.) She was the widow of Emich Carl, 2nd Prince of Leiningen and she had a son and daughter from this marriage. They married on 29th May 1818 at the Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg in a Lutheran ceremony and a Church of England ceremony was carried out at Kew Palace on the 11th July 1818. To economise the newlyweds made their home in Victoria's dower house, Amorbach Castle in Germany. Victoire fell pregnant in the late summer of 1818. They were determined that their child would be born on British soil. She was, Alexandrina Victoria of Kent arrived on the 24th May 1819 at Kensington Palace, London.
Edward died on 23rd January 1820, just six days before his father, at the unfortunately damp Woolbrook Cottage in Devon, when his severe cold developed into pneumonia. He was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. Victoire survived him by forty-one years. His daughter, then known as Drina, was less than a year old.
- Queen Victoria’s first Holiday in Devon | British Heritage
Steve Roberts looks at the long-standing history between Queen Victoria and the south east county, and her earliest brush with death.
- Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent | Unofficial Royalty
- Prince Edward, Duke of Kent | Unofficial Royalty
- Edward Augustus, duke of Kent and Strathern | British military officer | Britannica
Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathern, fourth son of King George III of Great Britain, father of Queen Victoria. He made his career in the army and saw service at Gibraltar, Canada, and the West Indies.
- Biography | Montgenet, Therese-Bernadine | Volume VI (1821-1835)
- Earls and Dukes of Kent - 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica
The first holder of the English earldom of Kent was probably Odo, bishop of Bayeux, and the second a certain William de Ypres (d. 1162), both of whom were deprived of the dignity. The regent Hubert de Burgh obtained this honour in 1227.