William Frederick (DNB00)
|←William Henry||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61
WILLIAM FREDERICK, second Duke of Gloucester of the latest creation (1776–1834), only son of William Henry, first duke of Gloucester [q. v.], was born at Teodoli Palace, Rome, on 15 Jan. 1776. At Cambridge, where for some time he resided at Trinity College, he received the degree of M.A. in 1790, and that of LL.D. in 1796. He was also elected chancellor of the university on 26 March 1811, and installed in office on 29 June following. In 1797 he was elected F.R.S. He was styled Prince William of Gloucester until his father's death (25 Aug. 1805), when he succeeded to the dukedom of Gloucester and Edinburgh, and earldom of Connaught; but it was not until 1816 that, being only great-grandson of George II, he was allowed the style of royal highness.
Gloucester entered the army with a captain's commission and the rank of colonel in the 1st regiment of foot guards in 1789 (11 March). He was made full colonel on 8 Feb. 1794, and served with his regiment under Sir William Erskine [q. v.] in the ensuing campaign in Flanders. He was appointed (3 May) to the command of the 115th regiment, and (by letter of service) to do duty as colonel on the staff and general officer throughout the campaign. In 1795 he received a major-general's commission (16 Feb.) and the colonelcy of the 6th regiment of foot (8 Nov.) In the expedition to the Helder in 1799 he commanded a brigade under Sir David Dundas (1735–1820) [q. v.], and behaved with gallantry in the actions of 19 Sept. and 4 and 6 Oct. He was in consequence advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general (13 Nov.) In 1806 he was made colonel of the 3rd regiment of foot guards (31 May), in 1808 was advanced to the rank of general (25 April), and in 1816 to that of field marshal (May). He was elected K.G. on 16 July 1794, and received the ensigns in Flanders (27 July), but was not installed until 29 May 1801. In 1805 his allowance was increased to 14,000l. He was made a privy councillor, being dispensed from the oath, on 1 Feb. 1806; was invested G.C.B. on 12 April 1815, and G.C.H. on 12 Aug. following. In 1798 he was appointed ranger of Bagshot Walk, and in 1827 governor of Portsmouth. He was nominated in 1833 crown trustee of the British Museum. In general politics he took little part, but distinguished himself by his earnest advocacy of the rights of the negro both in parliament and as president of the African Institution. During the regency he acted with the opposition, and adhered to the Duke of Sussex on the breach with the prince regent occasioned by Princess Charlotte's refusal of the Prince of Orange. He afterwards took the side of the queen during the parliamentary proceedings against her. He supported catholic emancipation (9 June 1828), but voted against Earl Grey's reform bill (7 Oct. 1831, 13 April 1832).
Gloucester's intellectual powers were by no means of a high order. His life was blameless, and much of his income was spent in charity. He died, without issue, on 30 Nov. 1834. His remains were interred in St. George's Chapel, Windsor.
Gloucester married, at Buckingham House on 23 July 1816, Mary, fourth daughter of George III. Born on 25 April 1776, she passed her childhood and early womanhood at Windsor Castle, winning golden opinions from all who came in contact with her. At the age of ten she startled Miss Burney by ‘the elegant composure’ of her manner, and at twenty charmed her by her extreme graciousness (Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arblay, 1843, iii. 42, vi. 137, 166, 177). Lord Malmesbury in 1801 thought her manners perfect (Diaries and Corresp. iv. 64). Her marriage with Gloucester was the result of an early mutual attachment, though for reasons of state it was deferred until after the hand of the Princess Charlotte was disposed of [see Charlotte Augusta, Prin- cess]. Eighteen years of happy wedded life followed, during which the duke and duchess lived for the most part in retirement, occupying themselves with various philanthropic schemes. After the duke's death the duchess lived in still greater seclusion, devoting herself almost entirely to good works. She outlived all her brothers and sisters, and died at Gloucester House, Park Lane, on 30 April 1857. Her remains were interred in the royal vault at Windsor (Gent. Mag. 1857, i. 728; Harriet Martineau, Biogr. Sketches, 1870; Mrs. Delany, Corresp. ed. Lady Llanover).[Ann. Reg. 1794 p. 323, Chron. p. 68, 1799 Chron. App. pp. 145 et seq., 1806 Chron. p. 173, 1816 p. 208, 1834 Chron. App. p. 247; Grad. Cantabr.; Nicolas's Brit. Knighthood, vol. ii. Chron. List, p. lxxiii, vol. iii., Chron. List. p. xxx; O. G. Chron. List, p. iv; Gent. Mag. 1794 i. 375, 1816 ii. 78, 1835 i. 86; Royal Kalendar, 1833, p. 285; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham, vi. 440; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage; Greville Memoirs, ed. Reeve, ii. 8, 16; R. I. and S. Wilberforce's Life of William Wilberforce; Z. Macaulay's Letter to H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, 1815; Romilly's Memoirs; Buckingham's Memoirs of the Court of England during the Regency, i. 236, ii. 335; Buckingham's Memoirs of the Court of George IV, i. 90; Buckingham's Court and Cabinets of William IV and Victoria, i. 363, ii. 68, 93, 116, 145; Madame D'Arblay's Diary, vii. 345; Colchester's Diary; Diary of the Times of George IV, ii. 279; Brougham's Autobiography, ii. 232, 404; Correspondence of Princess Lieven and Earl Grey, ed. Le Strange, ii. 228, 381, 493, 496; Raikes's Journal, i. 308; Hansard's Parl. Debates, ii. 231, viii. 665, x. 1179, xviii. 1068, xxii. 506, xxiv. 111, xxviii. 610, new ser. xiv. 1154, xix. 1189, 3rd ser. viii. 339, xii. 455; Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. App. ii. 137, 14th Rep. App. iv. 525.]