Held by eleven noted – and often notorious – male royals over the past 500 years, the Duke of York title has traditionally granted to the second son of the English monarch and has been created eight times since its original inception. Originating in the fourteenth century the title was named for the city of York in the North of England.
The Duke of York title has a unique history in that only in its first creation did the title pass directly from father to son (this happened twice) – every other Duke of York has either inherited the throne (thereby absorbing the Duke of York title into the other titles of the crown) or passed away without any male heirs to take the title on.
The Duke of York’s equivalent Dukedom in the Scottish Peerage is the Duke of Albany and for a short period of time in the eighteenth century there existed a ‘Duke of York and Albany’ title, following the unification of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. The title was held by three dukes, the third of whom (Prince Frederick Augustus, second son of King George III) is the ‘Grand old Duke of York’ referenced in the English children’s nursery rhyme.
The current Duke of York is Prince Andrew, the second son of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who has held the title since July 1986.
History of the Dukes of York:
The title was first created in the English peerage in 1385 and was granted to Edmund of Langley, the fourth surviving son of King Edward III. When Edmund died in 1402 the title passed to his son Edward.
Edward was killed at the Battle of Agincourt on 25 October 1415. After some hesitation from King Henry V, the title passed to Edward’s nephew Richard, son of Richard of Conisburgh. (The hesitation stemmed from the fact that Richard’s maternal uncle had been proclaimed to have a stronger claim to the throne than Henry V’s father thereby creating issues for the king.)
Richard’s eldest son Edward took the title on in 1460 upon his father’s death but when he took the throne as King Edward IV in 1461 the title merged with those of the crown and disappeared from use until the 1470s.
In 1474 the title was granted to King Edward IV’s second son, Richard of Shrewsbury, one of the famed ‘Princes in the Tower’. When he died (the date is unknown but he and his brother were sent to the Tower of London by King Richard III in mid-1483 and were never seen again) the title became extinct.
Around the year 1494 three-year-old Henry Tudor, the second son of King Henry VII, became the sixth Duke of York. When Henry ascended to the throne as King Henry VIII the title merged with the crown for the second time since its creation.
After a rest of more than one hundred years the title was granted to the second son of James I, Charles Stuart in 1605. Though he was never meant to rule, the death of his elder brother, Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, made Charles the heir and he became King Charles I in 1625. Once again, the Dukedom of York disappeared into the crown’s holdings, though not for nearly as long this time.
In 1633 Charles I welcomed a second son, James, who was designated the Duke of York and formally created as Duke of York in January 1644 at the age of eleven. When James’s older brother, King Charles II died without heirs James became King James II and, yet again, the title merged with the crown.
Sixth and Seventh Creations
In 1892 the Duke of York title was bestowed upon Prince George of Wales, the second son of King Edward VII, by Queen Victoria. When he became King George V in 1910 the title temporarily merged with the crown but within 10 years King George V had created the title a seventh time and granted it to his second son, Prince Albert. Following the crisis of 1936 which saw King Edward III abdicate, Prince Albert became King George VI and the title ceased to be in use once more.
In 1986 the title was revived once more and granted to Prince Andrew, the second son of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. As Andrew currently has no male heirs and has not remarried since his 1996 divorce from Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, it is likely that the title will once again pass into history.