Frederick — the “grand old Duke of York” immortalised in the nursery rhyme, was the son of George III and the brother of George IV. Frederick combined gluttony with a disastrous military career.
In 1793 his forces beseiged Dunkirk, with a view to fulfilling George III’s plan to restore the city to the British. The siege failed. The following year the duke was on the losing side again, as the French swept foreign armies out of Flanders.
The British prime minister, William Pitt the Younger, pressed the king to recall the duke and the king agreed because “everyone seemed to conspire to render his situation hazardous”.
But in 1799 the king appointed Frederick commander in chief of the whole British army.
The duke promptly went to the aid of an army trying to drive the French out of the Netherlands.
That army was making progress until the duke arrived with reinforcements and took command. Collapse and humiliation came within a few weeks.
Though a pillar of the Tory party, the duke kept clear of politics, except for the question of Catholic emancipation.
He campaigned furiously against all concessions to Catholics, insisting that it was their agitation that had caused his father’s madness. Frederick finally dropped dead in 1827 — to the delight of all in Ireland.
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