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Royal Dukedoms: Duke of Kent and Strathearn

Though there have been many Dukes of Kent through history, only one of them had the combined title Duke of Kent and Strathearn. The title was granted by George III to his fifth child and fourth son, Prince Edward in 1799. This was shortly after the Act of Union and to help try and cement that several joint titles were given which reflected place names in both countries. Prince Edward had been out in Nova Scotia since 1791 and was instrumental in shaping the military defences of Halifax. Whilst in North America, he also served in the West Indies campaign in 1793-1794. He was also well regarded in Canada, and Prince Edward Island takes its name from him.

Shortly after his appointment, and a less than successful time in Gibraltar, he was retired from active military service and was appointed Ranger of Hampton Court Park in 1805, some eight years after his brother William had been made Ranger of Bushy Park.

In 1817, a crisis occurred which has beset the Royal Family several times through the centuries. Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales passed away and so the succession looked in doubt in the long term. The Prince Regent and Frederick, Duke of York, though married, were both separated from their respective wives and had no children. That tied with the fact that the surviving daughters of King George III were past child-bearing age, led to the three remaining bachelor sons deciding to get lawful marriages with haste to ensure succession.

The reason why they were seeking legal marriages was the Duke of Sussex, the sixth and youngest son of George III had married in Rome without the consent of the King contravening the Royal Marriages Act 1772. The fifty-year-old Duke was actually considering marriage, and in 1818 married Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She was the sister of the late Princess Charlotte’s husband, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. One year later, they had a daughter, Princess Alexandrina Victoria of Kent, and the Duke proudly told everyone that she would one day become Queen. He was not wrong, for in June 1837 the Princess took the throne as Queen Victoria and her long reign was only recently surpassed by our current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Since 1801, the Duke had been living in Ealing and had spent over £100,000 on Castle Bar Lodge in Ealing. For a while, one of his neighbours was former American President John Quincy Adams. However, by the time of Victoria’s birth, his debts began to mount, and he and his wife moved down to Sidmouth. This was, however, not to be an extended stay for the Duke. Sadly in January 1820, he passed away with pneumonia barely a year after the birth of his daughter. He is interred at St George’s Chapel, Windsor.

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