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Prince William, Duke of Cumberland

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Prince William, Duke of Cumberland

Prince William
Duke of Cumberland
Portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds, 1758
Born (1721-04-26)26 April 1721 (New Style)
Leicester House, Westminster, London, England, Kingdom of Great Britain
Died 31 October 1765(1765-10-31) (aged 44)
London, England
Burial Westminster Abbey, London
Full name
William Augustus
House House of Hanover
Father George II
Mother Caroline of Ansbach

Prince William Augustus Great Britain and Caroline of Ansbach, and Duke of Cumberland from 1726. He is generally best remembered for his role in putting down the Jacobite Rising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which success made him immensely popular throughout Britain (for example, he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow).[1][2] At present, however, he is regularly referred to by the nickname given to him by his English Tory opponents: "Butcher" Cumberland.[3][4] Despite Culloden, he had a largely unsuccessful military career, and following the Convention of Klosterzeven in 1757, he never held active military command, and switched his attentions to politics and horse racing.


  • Early life 1
  • Early military career 2
  • War of the Austrian Succession 3
  • Jacobite rebellion – "The Forty-Five" 4
    • Culloden 4.1
    • "Butcher Cumberland" 4.2
    • Return to the Continent 4.3
  • Peacetime 5
  • Seven Years' War 6
  • Final years 7
  • Titles, styles, honours and arms 8
    • Titles and styles 8.1
    • Honours 8.2
    • Arms 8.3
  • Legacy 9
  • Ancestors 10
  • References 11
  • Sources 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Early life

William was born in

  • Anderson, Fred (2000). Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766. Faber and Faber.  


  1. ^ "On This Day: 27th of June". University of Glasdow. Retrieved 17 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Hannah Smith, 'Georgian Monarchy', Cambridge University Press, 2006
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "Prince William, Duke of Cumberland". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  4. ^ MacDonald, Callum (27 December 2005) "Butcher Cumberland among Britain's greatest villains". Glasgow. The Herald. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty Home Page: Royal Christenings". Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Yvonne's Royalty: Peerage". Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c The London Gazette: no. 6494. p. 1. 12 July 1726. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  8. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 46
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 6382. p. 2. 15 June 1725. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  10. ^ Thurley p. 279
  11. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 150 (1736 plan suggested by Prince of Wales)
  12. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 111
  13. ^ a b Van der Kiste, p. 78
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 8094. p. 2. 16 February 1741. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  15. ^ The London Gazette: no. 8286. p. 2. 20 December 1743. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 8240. p. 4. 12 July 1743. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  17. ^ Browning p. 206
  18. ^ Browning p. 212
  19. ^ Browning pp. 207-213
  20. ^ Browning p. 219
  21. ^ Longmate p. 155
  22. ^ a b Pollard p.41-42
  23. ^ "Clifton skirmish". Paisley Tartan Army. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  24. ^ Tomasson, p 119
  25. ^ The London Gazette: no. 8521. p. 2. 22 March 1746. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  26. ^ Bellesiles, p.145
  27. ^ a b c Thompson, p.519
  28. ^ Plank, p.116
  29. ^ Clee, p.42
  30. ^ Jonathan Oates, 'Sweet William or The Butcher: The Duke of Cumberland and the '45 (2008)
  31. ^ "The Letters of Horace Walpole, Volume 1 by Horace Walpole Part 15 out of 18". Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  32. ^ Speck, p. 170.
  33. ^ Stanhope, p. 334
  34. ^ Sosin, p.516-535
  35. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 195
  36. ^ Rolt, p.498
  37. ^ Anderson p.177
  38. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 205
  39. ^ Anderson p. 211
  40. ^ Anderson p. 212; Van der Kiste, p. 206
  41. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 207
  42. ^ Van der Kiste, p. 212
  43. ^ Stanley, p.200
  44. ^ The London Gazette: no. 10573. p. 2. 9–12 November 1765.
  45. ^ The London Gazette: no. 8119. p. 1. 15 May 1742. Retrieved 5 May 2012.
  46. ^ "Former Chancellors". University of Dublin. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  47. ^ Francois R. Velde. "Marks of Cadency in the British Royal Family". Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  48. ^ "Commemorating the 275th anniversary of Prince William County, Virginia". Sunlight Foundation. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  49. ^ "Cumberland County, Maine". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  50. ^ "KY-2045 Naming of the Cumberland River". Historical markers. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  51. ^ "VA-K1 Cumberland Gap". Historical markers. Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  52. ^ "1911 Classic Encyclopedia". Retrieved 5 May 2012. 
  53. ^ Worst' historical Britons list"'". BBC News. 27 December 2005. Retrieved 21 June 2010. 
  54. ^ East Berks Ramblers Map, ISBN 978-1-874258-18-6
  55. ^ "Cavendish Square Gets Statue Made From Soap". Londonist. 27 June 2012. Retrieved 16 May 2013. 


Elegy on the much lamented death of His Royal Highness William, Duke of Cumberland..
Cumberland Obelisk, Great Windsor Park


An equestrian statue of the Duke was erected in London's Cavendish Square in 1770, but was removed in 1868 since by that time the 'butcher of Culloden' was generally reviled. The original plinth remained.[55]

There is a memorial Obelisk to the Duke's military services in Windsor Great park. It is inscribed "THIS OBELISK RAISED BY COMMAND OF KING GEORGE THE SECOND COMMEMORATES THE SERVICES OF HIS SON WILLIAM DUKE OF CUMBERLAND THE SUCCESS OF HIS ARMS AND THE GRATITUDE OF HIS FATHER THIS TABLET WAS INSCRIBED BY HIS MAJESTY KING WILLIAM THE FOURTH". According to a local park guide, the Obelisk was originally inscribed "Culloden" but Queen Victoria had "Culloden" removed.[54]

Prince William County, Virginia is named for him,[48] as well as Cumberland County, Maine.[49] Various other places in the American colonies were named after him, including the Cumberland River,[50] the Cumberland Gap[51] and the Cumberland Mountains.[52] In 2005 he was selected by the BBC History Magazine as the 18th century's worst Briton.[53]


On 20 July 1725, as a grandchild of the sovereign, William was granted use of the arms of the realm, differenced by a label argent of five points, the centre point bearing a cross gules, the first, second, fourth and fifth each bearing a canton gules. On 30 August 1727, as a child of the sovereign, William's difference changed to a label argent of three points, the centre point bearing a cross gules.[47]



British Honours


The Duke's full style as proclaimed at his funeral by Garter King-of-Arms was: "the [...] most High, most Mighty, and most Illustrious Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, and Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburgh, Marquess of Berkhamstead, Earl of Kennington, Viscount Trematon, Baron of the Isle of Alderney, Knight of the most Noble Order of the Garter, and First and Principal Companion of the most Honourable Order of the Bath, third Son of His late most Excellent Majesty King George the Second".[44]

  • 26 April 1721 – 27 July 1726: His Royal Highness Prince William[7]
  • 27 July 1726 – 31 October 1765: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cumberland[7]

Titles and styles

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Cumberland's final years were lived out during the first years of the reign of his nephew, First Rockingham Ministry.[3] Cabinet meetings were held either at Cumberland Lodge, his home in Windsor, or at Upper Grosvenor Street, his house in London.[3] Cumberland never fully recovered from his wound at Dettingen, and was obese.[3] In August 1760, he suffered a stroke[42] and, on 31 October 1765, he died at Upper Grosvenor Street in London.[3] He was buried beneath the floor of the nave of the Henry VII Lady Chapel in Westminster Abbey.[43] He died unmarried.[3]

Final years

The tabard of Blanc Coursier Herald, Cumberland's private officer of arms

On Cumberland's return to London he was treated badly by his father despite the fact that he had previously been given permission to negotiate such an agreement. When they met George II remarked "Here is my son who has ruined me and disgraced himself".[40] In response, Cumberland resigned all the military and public offices he held and retired into private life.[41]

By September 1757 Cumberland and his forces had retreated to the fortified town of Stade on the North Sea coast. The King gave him discretionary powers to negotiate a separate peace.[38] Hemmed in by the French, under Richelieu, he agreed to Convention of Klosterzeven, under which Cumberland's army was to be disbanded and much of Hanover was occupied by French forces, at the Zeven Convent, on 8 September 1757.[39]

In 1757, the Seven Years' War having broken out, Cumberland was placed at the head of the Army of Observation, a force of German allies paid for by Britain which intended to defend Hanover from a French attack.[36] At the Battle of Hastenbeck, near Hamelin, on 26 July 1757, Cumberland's army was defeated by the superior forces of d'Estrées. Despite seemingly having the advantage towards the end of the battle, Cumberland's forces began to retreat. Within a short time discipline had collapsed, and Cumberland's army headed northwards in total disorder. Cumberland hoped that the Royal Navy might bring him reinforcements and supplies which would allow him to regroup and counterattack, but the British mounted an expedition to Rochefort instead, despite suggestions that it should be sent to aid Cumberland.[37]

Seven Years' War

Cumberland's unpopularity, which had steadily increased since Culloden, interfered greatly with his success in politics, and when the death of the son, a minor, next in succession to the throne, the Duke was not able to secure for himself the contingent regency. As a compromise, the regency was vested in the Dowager Princess of Wales, who considered him an enemy, but her powers were curtailed and she was to be advised by a committee of twelve men, headed by Cumberland.[35]


The Duke took no part in the Flanders campaign of 1746, during which the French made huge advances capturing Brussels and defeating the Allies at Rocoux. In 1747, Cumberland returned to the Continent and he again opposed the still-victorious Marshal Saxe and received a heavy defeat at the Battle of Lauffeld, or Val, near Maastricht, on 2 July 1747.[33] This and the fall of Bergen-op-Zoom compelled the two sides to the negotiating table and in 1748 the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was concluded and Cumberland returned home.[34]

Return to the Continent

Following Culloden, Cumberland was nicknamed "Sweet William" by his Whig supporters and "The Butcher" by his Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, composed especially for Cumberland, which contains the anthem "See the Conquering Hero Comes".[32]

"Butcher Cumberland"

The British Army then embarked upon the so-called 'pacification' of Jacobite areas of the highlands. All those the troops believed to be 'rebels' were killed, as were non-combatants; 'rebellious' settlements were burned and livestock was confiscated on a large scale.[28] Over a hundred Jacobites were hanged.[29] Women were imprisoned and droves of people were sent by ship to London for trial and as the journey took up to 8 months many of them died on the way.[27]

On 8 April 1746, he set out from Aberdeen for Inverness, and, on 16 April, he fought the decisive Battle of Culloden, in which the Stuart forces were completely destroyed.[22] Cumberland ordered his troops to show no quarter against any remaining Jacobite rebels (French Army personnel, including those who were British- or Irish-born, were treated as legitimate combatants). His troops traversed the battlefield and stabbed any of the rebel soldiers who were still alive.[27] When Cumberland learned that a wounded soldier lying at his feet belonged to the opposing cause he instructed a major to shoot him; when the major (James Wolfe) refused to do so, Cumberland commanded a private soldier to complete the required duty.[27]

Arriving in Edinburgh on 30 January 1746, he at once proceeded in search of Charles. He made a detour to Aberdeen,[25] where he spent some time training the well-equipped forces now under his command for the next stage of the conflict in which they were about to engage. He trained his troops to hold their fire until the enemy came within effective firing range, fire once, and then bayonet the man to the right thereby catching the enemy under their lifted sword arm.[26]


Cumberland joined the Midland army under Ligonier, and began pursuit of the enemy, as the Stuarts retreated northwards from Derby.[3] On reaching Penrith, the advanced portion of his army was repulsed on Clifton Moor in December 1745, and Cumberland became aware that an attempt to overtake the retreating Highlanders would be hopeless.[23] Carlisle was retaken, and he was recalled to London, where preparations were in hand to meet a suspected French invasion.[3] The defeat of his replacement as commander, Henry Hawley, roused the fears of the English people in January 1746, when, under a hail of pistol fire, "eighty dragoons fell dead upon the spot" at Falkirk Muir.[24]

Recalled from Flanders, Cumberland proceeded with preparations for quelling the Stuart (Jacobite) uprising. The Jacobite army had advanced southwards into England, hoping that English Jacobites would rise and join them. However, after receiving only limited support such as the Manchester Regiment, the followers of Charles decided to withdraw to Scotland.[22]

[21] As the leading British general of the day, he was chosen to put a decisive stop to

Jacobite rebellion – "The Forty-Five"

"The Tombstone", published October 1765
Published according to Act of Parliament, 1749
"The Highlanders Medley", or "The Duke Triumphant"
British Royalty
House of Hanover
Quarterly, I Gules three lions passant guardant in pale Or impaling Or a lion rampant within a double-tressure flory-counter-flory Gules; II Azure three fleurs-de-lys Or; III Azure a harp Or stringed Argent; IV tierced per pale and per chevron, I Gules two lions passant guardant Or, II Or a semy of hearts Gules a lion rampant Azure, III Gules a horse courant Argent, overall an escutcheon Gules charged with the crown of Charlemagne Or
George II
Frederick, Prince of Wales
Anne, Princess Royal and Princess of Orange
Princess Amelia
Princess Caroline
Prince William, Duke of Cumberland
Mary, Landgravine of Hesse-Cassel
Louise, Queen of Denmark and Norway
Augusta, Duchess of Brunswick
George III
Prince Edward, Duke of York and Albany
Princess Elizabeth of Wales
Prince William Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh
Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn
Princess Louisa of Wales
Prince Frederick of Wales
Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark and Norway
Princess Sophia of Gloucester
Prince William Frederick, Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh

As it became clear that the French intention was to take Tournai, Cumberland advanced to the relief of the town, which was besieged by Marshal Saxe. In the resulting Battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745, the Allies were defeated by the French.[18] Saxe had picked the battleground on which to confront the British, and filled the nearby woods with French marksmen. Cumberland ignored the threat of the woods when drawing up his battle plans, and instead concentrated on seizing the town of Fontenoy and attacking the main French army nearby. Despite a concerted Anglo-Hanoverian attack on the French centre, which led many to believe the Allies had won, the failure to clear the woods and of the Dutch forces to capture Fontenoy forced Cumberland's force onto the retreat. Following the battle Cumberland was frequently criticised for his tactics, particularly the failure to occupy the woods.[19] In the wake of the battle, Cumberland was forced to retreat to Brussels and was unable to prevent the fall of Ghent, Bruges and Ostend.[20]

Jacobite satire of the Duke of Cumberland in the Highlands

In 1745, Cumberland was given the honorary title of Captain-General of the British land forces and in Flanders became Commander-in-Chief of the allied British, Hanoverian, Austrian and Dutch troops despite his inexperience. He initially planned to take the offensive against the French, in a move he hoped would lead to the capture of Paris, but was persuaded by his advisors that this was impossible given the vast numerical superiority of the enemy.[17]

The Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 was Cumberland's first battle as commander.

In December 1742, he became a Battle of Dettingen (27 June 1743),[15] where Cumberland was wounded in the leg by a musket ball.[3] After the battle he was made a lieutenant general.[16]

War of the Austrian Succession

From childhood, he showed physical courage and ability, and became his parents' favourite.[12] He was enrolled in the 2nd Foot Guards and made a Knight of the Bath aged four.[13] He was intended, by the King and Queen, for the office of Lord High Admiral, and, in 1740, he sailed, as a volunteer, in the fleet under the command of Sir John Norris, but he quickly became dissatisfied with the Navy, and, instead secured the post of colonel of the First Regiment of Foot Guards on 20 February 1741.[14]

Early military career

William's elder brother Frederick, Prince of Wales, proposed dividing the king's dominions. Frederick would get Britain, while William would get Hanover. This proposal came to nothing.[11]

The young prince was educated well; his mother appointed Edmond Halley as a tutor.[8] Another of his tutors (and occasional proxy for him) was his mother's favourite Andrew Fountaine.[9] At Hampton Court Palace, apartments were designed specially for him by William Kent.[10]

[7], and Baron of the Isle of Alderney.County of Cornwall, Viscount of Trematon in the County of Surrey, Earl of Kennington in the County of Hertford, Marquess of Berkhamstead in the Duke of Cumberland at only five years old, he was created [6] On 27 July 1726,[5] in Prussia (his paternal aunt), but they apparently did not take part in person and were presumably represented by proxy.Queen and the King His godparents included [3]

  • Bellesiles, Michael (2003). Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. Soft Skull Press.  
  • Browning, Reed (1995). The War of the Austrian Succession. Palgrave MacMillan.  
  • Clee, Nicholas (2011). Eclipse. Black Swan.  
  • Longmate, Norman (2001). Island Fortress: The Defence of Great Britain, 1603-1945. Pimlico.  
  • Plank, Geoffrey (2003). An Unsettled Conquest: The British Campaign Against the Peoples of Acadia. University of Pennsylvania Press.  
  • Pollard, Tony (2009). Culloden: The History and Archaeology of the last Clan Battle. Pen & Sword Military.  
  • Sosin, Jack (1957). Louisburg and the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748. The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 14, No. 4. 
  • Speck, William (1995). The Butcher: The Duke of Cumberland and the Suppression of the 45. Welsh Academic Press.  
  • Stanhope, Phillip (2002). History of England from the Peace of Utrecht to the Peace of Versailles: 1713 - 1783: Volume 4: 1748-1763. Adamant Media Corporation.  
  • Stanley, Arthur (2008). Historical memorials of Westminster Abbey. BiblioBazaar.  
  • Tomasson, Katherine (1974). Battles of the '45. Pan Books. 
  • Thompson, Arthur (1865). The Victoria history of England: from the landing of Julius Caesar, B.C. 54 to the marriage of H.R.H. Albert Edward Prince of Wales A.D. 1863. Routledge, Warne and Routledge. 
  • Thurley, Simon (2003). Hampton Court: A Social and Architectural History. Yale University Press.  
  • Van der Kiste, John (1997). George II and Queen Caroline. Sutton Publishing.  
  • Further reading

    • Henderson, Andrew (1766). A Life of the Duke of Cumberland. 
    • Maclachlan, Campbell (1876). William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. 
    • Oates, Jonathan (2008). Sweet William or the Butcher? The Duke of Cumberland and the '45'. Pen & Sword Military. 
    • Philipps, Wolfgang (2014). "Welfen-Prinz Wilhelm August: Lieblingssohn und schottisches Hassbild". Lehrter Land & Leute: Magazin zur Geschichte, Kultur und Heimatkunde (in German) 41: 35–37. 
    • Whitworth, Rex (1992). William Augustus Duke of Cumberland: A Life. Pen & Sword Books Ltd.  

    External links

    • Culloden - The Black Watch
    • Ascanius; or, the Young Adventurer
    • Archival material relating to Prince William, Duke of Cumberland listed at the UK National Archives
    Prince William, Duke of Cumberland
    Cadet branch of the House of Welf
    Born: 15 April 1721 Died: 31 October 1765
    Peerage of Great Britain
    New creation Duke of Cumberland
    Military offices
    Preceded by
    The Earl of Scarbrough
    Colonel of the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards
    Succeeded by
    The Duke of Marlborough
    Preceded by
    Sir Charles Wills
    Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards
    Succeeded by
    The Viscount Ligonier
    Vacant Captain-General
    Preceded by
    George Wade
    Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
    Succeeded by
    The Viscount Ligonier
    Academic offices
    Preceded by
    The Duke of Chandos
    Chancellor of the University of St Andrews
    Succeeded by
    The Earl of Kinnoull
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