Like Prince Harry, the first Duke of Sussex Augustus Frederick was a rebel with strong liberal views
Augustus Frederick (1773-1843), uncle of Queen Victoria, was a man of progressive views and had two troubled marriages. Harry, his only successor as the Duke of Sussex, shares similar character traits.
Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle are in the headlines for the wrong reasons. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have been accused of hypocrisy following their announcement that they are stepping back as senior members of the royal family, undertaking lesser duties while yet continuing to “fully support” Queen Elizabeth II. The pair has decided to split their time between Britain and the US to undertake more “cause-driven activities” and take greater control over their public lives.
As the controversy snowballs around the 35-year-old Harry, the Duke of Sussex, who has been quite a ‘people’s royal’, thanks to his public engagements, one can find a similarity between him and the only other royal who had held this royal title in the past — Prince Augustus Frederick (1773-1843).
Drawing a parallel between Harry and Frederick is not out of place, particularly at a time when the former is witnessing a tumultuous royal life. During the time of Frederick, too, the Sussex dukedom had witnessed disputes that featured two marriages, family issues and a controversial prince. But that’s what distinguishes the royal titles of England — the colorful history.
There have been only two Dukes of Sussex till date. It was first conferred upon Frederick, the sixth son and ninth child of King George III and Queen Charlotte, in November 1801 and became extinct when he died in 1843. In another striking similarity, Charlotte, like Markle, was also of black origin as she was related to Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a 15th-century black member of the Portuguese royal family, claim historians.
Frederick had married twice but both offended the law
Like Harry who had shocked many in Britain by marrying the Californian-born Markle in 2018, Frederick too caused a stir by marrying Rome’s Lady Augusta Murray in 1793 that did not have the consent of his father. It was also at odds with the 1772 Royal Marriages Act that wants the royals (at least the first six in line to the British throne) to seek approval of the reigning monarch when it comes to picking a marriage partner. In the absence of a royal approval of their marriage, it ended up as technically null and the duo got separated eight years later, the same year Frederick got his dukedom. But none of the two sons that the marriage produced could inherit the duke’s title.
Frederick married again in 1831 at the age of 58 and this time, it was with Lady Cecilia, the eldest daughter of Arthur Gore, the second Earl of Arran. But this marriage also was in contravention with the Royal Marriages Act and not recognized. Like Frederick’s first wife, Lady Cecilia could never acquire the title of duchess.
Harry’s marriage life has not been unstable but he has not been any less a rebel, both in terms of choosing his mixed-race partner and then deciding together to break from the royal tradition, even at the expense of upsetting his own family.
Frederick had other attractive features in his personality. He was an avid reader and possessed a passion for science, religion and learning. He was quite proud about his own singing and musical talents. According to BBC, Frederick was once quoted as saying: “I have the most wonderful voice that was ever heard — three octaves — and I do understand music.”
Like Harry, Frederick too was a man of liberal views
But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Frederick’s personality was his harboring of liberal and political views. The man had supported the abolition of the slave trade and strived to end restrictions on Jews, as per the Royal Collection Trust. Someone harboring such progressive ideas in the 18th and 19th centuries can certainly be called ‘ahead of his time by miles’. Harry, too, has similar traits in his personality.
In 1815, Frederick was made a patron of the Jews’ Hospital and Orphan asylum in Mile East, East London. However, his progressive views had not always brought back dividends. On the other hand, his activism to challenge inequality and social injustices had only made his family a sad union and his distance with his father only got wider.
Also, like Prince Harry who is loved much by her grandmother Queen Elizabeth, the first duke was also had his close people in the family despite being a royal rebel. Frederick was considered the favorite uncle of one of Britain’s long-serving queens — Victoria — and it was him who had escorted her down the aisle when she married Prince Albert in 1840 at the age of 21.