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GEORGE WILLIAM FREDERICK CHARLES

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 90 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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GEORGE WILLIAM FREDERICK CHARLES, duke of Cam-bridge (1819-1904), was born at Hanover on the 26th of March 1819. He was thus about two months older than his cousin,. Queen Victoria, and was for that period in the line of succession to the British throne. He was educated at Hanover by the Rev. J. R. Wood, a canon of Worcester. In November 1837, after he had served for a short time in the Hanoverian army, the rank of colonel in the British army was conferred upon him, and he was attached to the staff at Gibraltar from October 1838 to April 1839. After serving in Ireland with the 12th Royal Lancers, he was appointed in April 1842 colonel of the 17th Light Dragoons (now Lancers). From 1843 to 1845 he was colonel on the staff in the Ionian Islands, and was then promoted major-general. In October 1846 he took command of the Limerick district, and shortly afterwards of the Dublin district. In 185o his father died, and he succeeded to the dukedom. Being appointed inspector of cavalry in 1852, he held that post until 1854, when, upon the outbreak of the Crimean War, he was placed in command of the rst division (Guards and Highland brigades) of the British army in the East. In June of the same year he was promoted lieutenant-general. He was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaklava and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol. On the 15th of July 1856 he was appointed general commanding-in-chief, on the 9th of November 1862 field marshal, and by letters patent, 1887, commanderin-chief. The long period during which he held the command of the army was marked by many changes. The Crimean War brought to light great administrative defects, and led to a re-grouping of the departments, which, with the whole personnel of the army, were brought under the authority of the secretary of state for war. The constitutional changes involved did not, however, affect seriously the organization of the military forces. Only in 187o, after the successes of Prussia had created a pro-found impression, were drastic changes introduced by Cardwell into the entire fabric of the army. The objects of the reformers of 187o were undoubtedly wise; but some of the methods adopted were open to question, and were strongly resented by the duke of Cambridge, whose views were shared by the majority of officers. Further changes were inaugurated in 188o, and again the duke found much to criticize. His opinions stand recorded in the voluminous evidence taken by the numerous bodies appointed to inquire into the condition of the army. They show a sound military judgment, and, as against innovations as such, a strong attachment to the old regimental system. That this judgment and this attachment were not so rigid as was generally supposed is proved by his published correspondence. Throughout the period of change, while protesting, the duke invariably accepted and loyally endeavoured to carry out the measures on which the government decided. In a memorandum addressed to Mr Childers in ,88o he defined his attitude as follows: " Should it appear, however, that for reasons of state policy it is necessary that the contemplated changes should be made, I am prepared to carry them out to the best of my ability." This attitude he consistently maintained in all cases in which his training and associations led him, rightly or wrongly, to deprecate changes the need for which was not apparent to him. His judgment was especially vindicated in the case of an ill-advised reduction of the artillery carried out by Mr. Stanhope. Under the order in council of February 1888, the whole responsibility for military duties of every kind was for the first time centred upon the commander-in-chief. This, as pointed out by the Hartington commission in 189o, involved " an excessive centralization " which " must necessarily tend to weaken the sense of responsibility of the other heads of departments, and thus to diminish their efficiency." The duke of Cambridge, whose position entailed many duties apart from those strictly appertaining to a commander-in-chief, could not give personal attention to the vast range of matters for which he was made nominally responsible. On the other hand, the adjutant-general could act in his name, and the secretary of state could obtain military advice from officials charged with no direct responsibility. The effect was to place the duke in a false position in the eyes of the army and of the country. If the administration of the army suffered after 1888, this was due to a system which violated principles. His active control of its training during the whole period of his command was less hampered, and more directly productive of good results. Throughout his long term of office the duke of Cambridge evinced a warm interest in the welfare of the soldier, and great experience combined with a retentive memory made him a master of detail. He was famous for plain, and strong, language; but while quick to condemn deviations from the letter of regulations, and accustomed to insist upon great precision in drill, he was never a martinet, and his natural kindliness made him ready to bestow praise. Belonging to the older generation of soldiers, he could not easily adapt himself to the new conditions, and in dispensing patronage he was some-what distrustful of originality, while his position as a member ofthe royal family tended to narrow his scope for selection. He was ' thus inclined to be influenced by considerations of pure seniority, and to underrate the claims of special ability. The army, however, always recognized that in the duke of Cambridge it had a commander-in-chief devoted to its interests, and keenly anxious amid many difficulties to promote its well-being. The duke resigned the commandership-in-chief on the 1st of November 1895, and was succeeded by Lord Wolseley, the duties of the office being considerably modified. He was at the same time gazetted honorary colonel-in-chief to the forces. He was made ranger of Hyde Park and St James's Park in 1852, and of Richmond Park in 1857; governor of the Royal Military Academy in 1862, and its president in 187o, and personal aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria in 1882. He died on the 17th of March 1904 at Gloucester House, London. The chief honours conferred upon him were: G.C.H., 1825; K.G., 1835; G.C.M.G., 1845; G.C.B., 1855; K.P., 1861; K.T., 1881. From 1854 he was president of Christ's hospital. The duke of Cambridge was married to Louisa Fairbrother, who took the name of FitzGeorge after her marriage. She died in 189o. See Rev. E. Sheppard, George, Duke of Cambridge; a Memoir of his Private Life (London, 1906) ; and Willoughby Verner, Military Life of the Duke of Cambridge (1905).
End of Article: GEORGE WILLIAM FREDERICK CHARLES
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