The Grand Old Duke of York - A Life of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, 1763-1827, Derek Winterbottom

The Grand Old Duke of York - A Life of Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, 1763-1827, Derek Winterbottom

Frederick, Duke of York, was the second son of George III, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army for much of the Napoleonic Wars, and for much of his life second in line to the throne, and yet this is the first full length biography of him for sixty years.

This is a generally positive biography of the Duke. York was a typical member of his family, with mistresses, illegitimate children, no male heirs and massive gambling debts, but it is also clear that he took his military career seriously, both when serving as a field command in 1793-94 and 1799, and during his spells as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. Neither of his spells of field command came during successful campaigns, but York appears to have performed well in 1793-94 when commanding a fairly small part of an Allied army. His main claim to military fame came during his time as Commander-in-Chief, where he introduced a series of useful reforms into the army, reducing the amount of commissioned that could be purchased, increasing army pay, improving the medical services, and founding the military collage that ended up at Sandhurst. The post of Commander-in-Chief later got a poor reputation after it was held by a series of conservative figures during the Nineteenth Century, but York was clearly not of that type. His prestige as a Royal Prince and favourite son of George III probably helped him impose some of his reforms on the reluctant army establishment.

The later years are rather rushed - the entire period from 1809 to the Duke's death in 1827 only gets two chapters and this period does include his time as Commander-in-Chief during the Peninsular War, where he earned Wellington's gratitude. Other than that this is an excellent, readable, biography of a major but somewhat neglected historical figure.

1 - Family, The Young Prince, Home and International Politics 1756-1780
2 - Frederick in Germany, 1780-1787
3 - York and the Regency Crisis, 1787-1789
4 - The Duel, 1789, Marriage, 1791
5 - Revolutionaries and Patriots, York Goes to War, February 1793, Success at Valenciennes, July 1793,Retreat from Dunkirk, September 1793
6 - The 1794 Campaign in Flanders, In Holland 1794
7 - Commander-in-Chief, 1795-1799, Mutiny and Rebellion, 1797-1798
8 - The Helder Campaign, 1799
9 - An Eventful Day, The Royal Military College, A Short-lived Peace 1802-1803, Spain and Portugal, The Wellesley Factor
10 - Mary Anne Clarke
11 - Out of a Job 1809-1811, Last Stages of the War 1811-1815, Keeping the Peace 1815-1820, The Tragedy of Princess Charlotte
12 - George IV 1820, The Duchess of Rutland, Catholic Emancipation, Death and Funeral, The Column, Reputations, The Nursery Rhyme, Epilogue

Author: Derek Winterbottom
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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