Monday, October 23, 2017

A Visit with the late Duke of Sussex

Monday, October 23, 2017
Tomb of Duke of Sussex at Kensal Green Cemetery
Loretta reports:

In my recent post about London’s Kensal Green Cemetery, I mentioned the Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). This son of George III made the place fashionable by deciding to be buried there rather than at Windsor. In life, as in death, Prince Augustus Frederick went his own way.

Though he was a big guy—six foot three and burly—he wasn't hale and hearty. Yet the asthma that plagued him also helped make him “the most consistently Liberal-minded person of the first half of the nineteenth century.” His brothers championed the Whigs in youth, but mainly in rebellion against their father. When he no longer had power over them, their politics went the other way. Not so with Prince Augustus.

Thanks to the asthma, he spent much of his early life abroad and had no military career. He matured free of the influences that shaped his brothers’ politics. Equally important, he had far more time to cultivate his mind. He became a person who supported abolition of the slave trade, Catholic emancipation, parliamentary reform, and many other progressive ideas. These views won him the hostility of, basically, the entire Establishment, including his brothers. They cost him financially, too.

On the other hand, he wasn’t unlike his brothers when it came to women. At age twenty, he fell madly in love with Lady Augusta Murray, daughter of the Earl of Dunmore, and married her, in contravention of the Royal Marriages Act, which required the monarch’s consent. King George III refused, and a decree was issued, annulling the marriage.

Nonetheless, the prince stuck with his woman...until he had to choose between getting the title Duke of Sussex—with £12,000 per annum—and her and their two children. In 1801 he chose the title and money. By 1806 he was bringing legal action to prevent her calling herself the Duchess of Sussex. (She was given a lesser title instead.) By 1809 he took the children to live with him. Still, he didn’t remarry until 1830, after she was dead. The second marriage, to Lady Cecilia Buggin, was problematic, too, until Queen Victoria recognized it in 1840 and made the lady the Duchess of Inverness.
Duke of Sussex , Knight of the Order of the Thistle

The Queen adored her uncle: “When he was dying she drove down in tears to Kensington Palace in an open carriage to inquire for him, although she was hourly expecting the birth of her third child.”

He went his own way in death, too, and it wasn't only in the choice of burial site. In keeping with his very progressive views on dissection, he gave directions in his will for his body to be opened and studied “in the interests of science.” In keeping with his ideals, his is a modest tomb. (So modest that we apparently forgot to take a picture of it.)

For the bulk of this post, and the quotations, I’m indebted to Roger Fulford’s Royal Dukes. When online sources proved unsatisfying—especially regarding the duke’s personality—I remembered this very enjoyable book.

Images: The tomb of Prince Augustus Frederick, Kensal Green Cemetery
Photo by Stephencdickson, Creative Commons license

G.E. Madeley, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex wearing the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Thistle.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Susan Holloway Scott said...

Quite by coincidence, the registry notice of their marriage turned up on Twitter this week:

And in the small world that was the 18thc, the bride, Lady Augusta Murray, was the daughter of the 4th Earl of Dunmore, who was in turn the last royal governor of Virginia. For several years in her childhood, Lady Augusta lived in the governor's residence (aka the Governor's Palace today) in Williamsburg. :)

Regencyresearcher said...

I have often wondered if Augustus at least left his children something in his will.
His son went to court to be recognized as his son after the Duke died, but was declared illegitimate despite the fact that his parents were married in church twice.
Did you ever hear what happened to the two children?

Loretta Chase said...

The daughter, Emma d'Este, married the lawyer who'd been involved in her brother's attempt, after Sussex's death, to claim his father's peerage. Augustus d'Este, who suffered from MS, died five years after his father. I don't know what, if anything, his father left him.,_Augustus_Frederick_(DNB00)

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