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Gibraltar & Home To England, 1802-3, Part 9 to the Life & Works of
Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

On returning home, Prince Edward, but 32 years of age, casted about for a meaningful position that he might take up as a prince. Months passed before something came up. His old boss, General Charles O'Hara at Gibraltar was ill. Prince Edward was appointed to succeed O'Hara as the Governor of Gibraltar. It was recognized at the time of Edward's appointment that O'Hara's administration was permissive or relaxed55 and that the typical vices of soldiers, where they had not been put under control in a timely and consistent manner, were more than just simply noticeable at Gibraltar. It seems that Prince Edward was told of this and that he should take the appropriate steps to bring the garrison back into line and the government would support him in his endeavours. Prince Edward received his appointment in March of 1802, and within a month departed Falmouth and reached Gibraltar on the 10th of May.56 On his arrival in Gibraltar, Prince Edward -- a familiar story -- was to find discipline to be at a very low ebb; and, so, he determined to shape things up. "A roll call was established at sunrise, and the men should attend regularly at meals, and that they should be in barracks after the firing of the second evening gun."57
"Edward also insisted on uniformity of the appearance of sentries. All sentries were ordered to don or remove greatcoats at the command of the orderly officer, and not merely when they felt too cold or too hot. At daylight every day each member of a guard or a picket had to wash, untie his hair, comb it, tie it afresh, and brush his clothes to the satisfaction of the orderly officer."58
Such steps as the Prince did take worked both at Quebec and at Halifax; they did not at Gibraltar. At length a mutiny broke out. The Duke met this with firmness, seizing the head mutineers. Ten were found guilty and three were put to death. The stories that certain jealous officers got back to England were not favourable to Prince Edward. On the 1st of May, 1803, having been recalled, Edward sailed for England arriving at London on the 26th. "He returned wounded and insulted ..." His brother, The Prince of Wales came to his defence:59
"You send a man out to control a garrison all but in a state of open mutiny. You tell him to terminate such a disgraceful state of things. You assure him of the unqualified support of Government in his undertaking. He goes out. He finds matters infinitely worse than they were represented. The impending outbreak occurs. He quells it thoroughly. By way of reward you disgrace him! If you want to deter an officer from doing his duty, or desire to encourage a mutinous soldier, your tactics are admirable. They cannot fail to attain such a result. Edward may well complain. He was neither officer, nor man, if he were silent."60
It would not appear that the King was unhappy with Prince Edward's actions at Gibraltar, at least, not as much as he was in times past. If the king was unhappy, then there was an amelioration, such that on the 5th of September, 1804, Prince Edward by His Majesty's command was promoted to Field Marshal.61 But that was it, Edward was never again active in the military, though for many years he continued to be the Governor of Gibraltar but in name only. A dozen years were then to pass for Prince Edward in England. These were domestic years with Julie. On September 3rd, Julie wrote a letter to her friends the de Salaberrys from Kensington Palace where she made the observation "clothes are really dearer than in Canada, and of course, I am obliged to appear always well dressed, in silk stockings, etc."62 We see from Prince Edward's correspondence that he was going back and forth to Windsor, presumably there to see his parents and his sisters. In December we see him writing from Kensington Palace, and how it is intended to have Christmas there with Julie, though in the same letter he makes reference to Julie's "house at Knightsbridge," which, of course, is in the same neighbourhood as Kensington Palace.63 On June 5th, 1810, we see Edward writing to de Salaberry: he wrote that he divided his time "between my poor sick sister at Windsor, and my unfortunate wounded brother in London ..."64 Hounded by his creditors to the extent that he was thinking of "selling his wines and mortgaging his plate," Edward determined to move to the continent as so many debtors did back in those days.65 In 1816, he and Julie took up residence at Brussels arriving there in July. "He took the largest house he could find in Brussels. For a year it was filled with carpenters, bricklayers, painters, glaziers, architects, embellishing it for a Prince of England."66

As already observed, it was in 1816 that Prince Edward and Julie took up residence at Brussels. They may well have made that move years earlier but travel to Europe before 1815, the year that the war came to an end, was not possible. There at Brussels the pair seemed to have been very happy. McKenzie Porter:

"With their small diner-parties, music whist, and occasional visits to the theatre, Edward and Julie were content. Edward's seven thousand pounds a year sufficed for their needs; the knowledge that his creditors were being steadily paid off was heartening; the Gallic air of Brussels proved a tonic to their spirits; and the assurance of a long peace seemed to promise them a restful middle age. Indeed Edward and Julie might have spent the remainder of their days in Brussels but for a calamity that, in the moment of their greatest bliss, tore them cruelly apart."67
In 1818, Princess Charlotte, the only legitimate grandchild of George the Third, and presumptive heir to the throne, died in child birth. There then arose the thought, in spite of the many children that George the Third had, that the House of Brunswick might fail for the lack of an heir to the throne. Pressure was now coming on to certain of the Royal Princes to get busy, marry German Princesses, and have royal babies.

It was but a few weeks after the death of Princess Charlotte that Edward and Julie were at breakfast in their home at Brussels -- we will let Robert Fulford tell of it:

"... the Duke tossed her over the paper to read, while he opened his letters. Suddenly he was disturbed by hearing a gasp and a gurgle. For a few moments he thought that Madame was going to die: but, when she had sufficiently recovered, she pointed to the paper, where it said that it had become essential for the succession that the Duke of Kent should marry."68
Julie and Edward up to this point, 1818, had been together for twenty-seven years.69 It was now expected, for dynastic reasons, that he should marry as soon as arrangements might be made. On the 19th of March, 1818, a scene unfolded. I imagine it to be a busy one, with a carriage waiting in the stone yard of their residence; it is overcast and a mist falls. Out the side door there comes the Duke with his Julie on his arm escorting her to the waiting carriage. No expression in either face; a hand up and the door is closed and with a tap to the driver the carriage is jolted to action by the matched horses and pulled out of the yard with a wet footman hanging on to the rear rail of the coach taking shelter best he can. Both Edward and Julie feared any words at this point would but shoo away the faint hope of a reunion in the future. To quote Mollie Gillen, "Madame made her exit from her prince's life with the dignity she had shown all through their relationship."70

On the 24th of March, Prince Edward was in London, alone. The ministers of government had already selected a Princess for Edward to marry: Her Serene Highness, Mary Louisa Victoria, widow of the late Prince of Leiningen. The appropriate representations were made, and, on the 29th of May, 1818 the pair were married; first in Germany then a second ceremony in England to become The Duke and Duchess of Kent. They returned to Germany, and, before the year was out it was determined that the Princess was pregnant. They had made it across to England but weeks before, when, on May 24th, 1819, the Princess Alexandria Victoria was born and the House of Brunswick was saved. Prince Edward spent but the first few months with his little one, for, on January 3rd, 1820, he died at Woolbrook Cottage, near Sidmouth on the south coast of Devon. "A neglected cold, terminating in inflammation of the lungs." "Blisters, bleedings, cuppings and leeches were tried, and the invalid lost a hundred and twenty ounces of blood."71 A day before he died, Edward had made his will, directing that everything was to go to the Duchess of Kent and the Duke of Kent's seven month old child, Princess Victoria.72

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Peter Landry
2011

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