William Henry (DNB00)
|←William Augustus||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61
WILLIAM HENRY, first Duke of Gloucester of the latest creation (1743–1805), third son of Frederick Louis, prince of Wales [q. v.], by Augusta, daughter of Frederick II, duke of Saxe-Gotha, was born at Leicester House on 14 Nov. 1743. Prince William, as he was styled during his minority, was educated with the same strictness and in the same seclusion as his elder brother, George William Frederick (afterwards George III), whom he resembled in the sobriety of his character. He was understood to be the king's favourite brother, and shared with the Duke of York (Edward Augustus) the function of leading the bride to the altar at the royal nuptials (8 Sept. 1761). In 1762 he was elected (27 May) and installed (22 Sept.) K.G. In 1763 he was appointed ranger of Hampton Court. In 1764 he was created (19 Nov.). Duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh and Earl of Connaught, and sworn of the privy council (19 Dec.). He took his seat in the House of Lords on 10 Jan. 1765. He succeeded the Duke of York (September 1767) as ranger of Cranbourne Chace, and in January 1771 was appointed warden of the New Forest. He was also appointed in 1771 chancellor of the university of Dublin, was elected F.R.S. in 1780, and received the degree of LL.D. from the university of Cambridge in 1787. In the army he was commissioned colonel of the 13th regiment of foot on 28 June 1766, of the 3rd regiment of foot guards on 6 Jan. 1768, of the 1st regiment of foot guards and major-general on 30 March 1770, general on 25 May 1772, and field-marshal in 1793.
Gloucester married, on 6 Sept. 1766, a lady of equal beauty and wit, Maria, dowager countess of Waldegrave, an illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole [see Waldegrave, James, second Earl Waldegrave]. The rite was solemnised in secret by her chaplain at her house in Pall Mall, no other persons being present. The secret was kept, though the court had its suspicions, until after the passing of the Royal Marriage Act, when sympathy with Cumberland induced Gloucester to notify his prior offence to the king (16 Sept. 1772) [see Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn]. The king at once banished him from court, and directed an inquiry into the validity of the marriage. The duke and duchess were accordingly examined before three commissioners on 23 May 1773. They swore to the fact of the marriage, and its validity was allowed, though, as the chaplain who had officiated was dead, it remained unattested by any third party. It was not until 1778 that provision was made for the issue of the marriage. Part of the intervening period was spent by the duke and duchess abroad, chiefly in Italy. In June 1780 Gloucester was restored to the royal favour. His later life was stained by an amour with the duchess's lady of the bedchamber, Lady Almeria Carpenter. He died on 25 Aug. 1805, and was buried in St. George's Chapel, Windsor. By the duchess, who died in 1807, Gloucester left issue: (1) Sophia Matilda, born on 29 May 1773, died unmarried on 29 Nov. 1844, having for many years held the rangership of Greenwich Park; (2) William Frederick [q. v.][Gent. Mag. 1743 p. 612, 1805 ii. 783; Ann. Reg. 1805, Chron. App. p. 170, 1844 Chron. App. p. 286; Court and City Kalendar, 1763–8; Nicolas's Brit. Knighthood, vol. ii., Chron. List, p. lxxii; Lords' Journal, xxxi. 4; Collins's Peerage, ed. Brydges, i. 48; G. E. C[okayne]'s Complete Peerage, iv. 46; Walpole's Memoirs of the Reign of George III, ed. Le Marchant, revised by Russell Barker; Walpole's Journal of the Reign of George III, ed. Doran; Walpole's Letters, ed. Cunningham; Mrs. Delany's Corresp. ed. Lady Llanover; Grenville Papers, ed. Smith; Auckland's Journal, i. 463, ii. 281; Cornwallis's Corresp. ed. Ross; Private Papers of William Wilberforce, p. 105; Hist. MSS. Comm. 14th Rep. App. iv. 525, 528, 15th Rep. App. vii. 300; Addit. MS. 6309, f. 142; Jesse's Memoirs of the Reign of George III.]