Cumberland, Ernest Augustus, duke of

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Cumberland, Ernest Augustus, duke of (1771–1851). Ernest Augustus, the fifth son of George III, had an eventful life. At 15 he was sent to the University of Göttingen in Hanover and in 1790 was commissioned in the Hanoverian army. A brave cavalry commander, he was severely wounded in 1794, losing one eye. Later he transferred to the British army, finishing as field marshal. In 1799 he was created duke of Cumberland, took his seat in the Lords, and spoke frequently as a protestant Tory. In 1810 he survived a frenzied attack by his valet, though scandal insisted that Cumberland had been the aggressor. In the crisis of 1828–32, Cumberland became the spokesman for those opposed to the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, catholic emancipation, which he denounced as ‘outrageous’, and the Reform Bill. With the death of his elder brother the duke of York in 1827, he became heir presumptive to the Hanoverian throne, since his niece Princess Victoria could not inherit it. On becoming king of Hanover in 1837, he at once cancelled the liberal constitution granted in 1833 by his brother William IV, substituting a more limited one three years later. The Hanoverians, delighted to have a resident monarch once more, admired him greatly and he survived the year of revolution in 1848 without difficulty. Politically, his instincts were those of a cavalry officer—to ride straight at the enemy—and his statue in Hanover is very properly an equestrian one.

J. A. Cannon