Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘duke’ as:
A male holding the highest hereditary title in the British and certain other peerages.
Since its inception in the seventeenth century, there have been eight Dukes of Cambridge, two of whom were styled with the title and six which were formally recognised with letters patent.
Named after the city of Cambridge, England, the title Duke of Cambridge is heritable to descendants of the titleholder and in 1664 superseded an earlier title of Earl of Cambridge.
Though in no way the oldest of the current, active dukedoms, the Duke of Cambridge is ranked higher in the order of precedence due to his close relationship to The Queen. The Prince of Wales, however, holds precedence above all royal and non-royal dukes as the Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay.
History of the Duke of Cambridge:
The Duke of Cambridge title had a rocky start as it was passed in quick succession through the three sons of James, Duke of York (who went on to become James II of England and VII of Scotland) and his first wife, Anne Hyde, between 1660 and 1671.
The couple’s eldest son, Charles Stuart, was styled as Duke of Cambridge when he was born in 1660 but he died at seven months old, before he could be created the duke.
The title then passed to Charles’ younger brother, James Stuart, who was the first person to be formally recognised as the Duke of Cambridge before his death in 1667 at the age of three.
Edgar Stuart, James and Anne’s youngest son, was next to be recognised as the Duke of Cambridge but he held the title only until his death in 1671, also at the age of three.
For the next six years the title lay dormant before James made one more attempt to place it on one of his sons – this time, Charles Stuart, his eldest son by his second wife, Mary of Modena. Unfortunately, the infant died when he was only a month old and was never formally created duke.
It was nearly ten years before the title was recreated and granted to George Augustus, Elector of Hanover, the only son of King George I, who in 1706 was still George Louis, Hereditary Prince of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. George Augustus was Duke of Cambridge for 21 years until 1727 when he succeeded his father as King George II, at which point the dukedom merged with the crown.
The title was not used again for nearly 75 years until 1801, when Prince Adolphus Frederick, the seventh son of King George III, was made Duke of Cambridge. The title was held until the duke’s death in 1850, at which point it was inherited by his only son who became Prince George, Duke of Cambridge. When George died in 1904 he left no legitimate heirs and so after more than 100 years in continuous use the title once again became extinct.
Though the twentieth century saw the start and end of a Marquess of Cambridge (the title granted to Adolphus, Duke of Teck – the brother-in-law of George V – when he relinquished his German titles in 1917) and speculation that Queen Elizabeth II’s youngest son, Prince Edward, would be granted the dukedom upon his marriage, it was not until 29 April 2011 that the dukedom formally re-emerged after an absence of more than a century.
Upon his marriage to (then) Kate Middleton, Prince William was created Duke of Cambridge as well as Earl of Strathearn and Baron Carrickfergus. The prince is the current holder of the title and his son, Prince George, is the heir apparent. When William becomes king, however, the title will merge with the Crown, disappearing into history once again.