Ernest Augustus I of HanoverErnest Augustus I, King of Hanover, 1st Duke of Cumberland (5 June 1771 - 18 November 1851) was the fifth son and eighth child of King George III of the United Kingdom and Queen Charlotte.
His Royal Highness Field Marshal The Prince Ernest Augustus, KG, KP, GCB, GCH, 1st Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh, later His Majesty Ernst August I, King of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, was born at Buckingham Palace. He was tutored at home before being sent to the University of Göttingen in Germany in summer 1786 along with his younger brothers, Prince Adolphus and Prince Augustus. In 1791, he and Prince Adolphus went to Hanover to receive military training under the supervision of Field Marshal von Freytag. He learned cavalry drill and tactics under Captain von Linsinger of the Queen's Light Dargoons. He proved to be an excellent horseman and good shot, despite his short-sightedness. After only two months of training, von Freytag was so impressed by the prince's progress that he gave him a place with the cavalry as captain.
In March 1792, Prince Ernest Augustus was officially commissioned with the rank of colonel in the 9th Hanoverian Light Dragoons. The following year, he was appointed to command the 1st Brigade of Cavalry. During the War of the First Coalition (1793-97), he was stationed in Tourany, the headquarters of his elder brother the Duke of York, then commander of the combined British, Hanoverian, and Austrian forces. He lost his left eye during the battle of Tourany in early 1794. Prince Ernest returned to Britain to convalesce, for the first time since 1786. He returned to the continent the following year, and commanded the rear guard of the British army's retreat through Holland. He was promoted to lieutenant general in 1798 and general in 1803. On 29 March 1801, he was promoted to the rank of field marhsal. He served as honorary colonel of 15th (The King's) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars) from 1801 to 1827 and colonel of the Royal Horse Guards from 1827 to 1830.
On 29 August 1799, George III created Prince Ernest Augustus Duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and Earl of Armagh. On 29 May 1815, the Duke of Cumberland married his first cousin, Frederica (2 March 1778-29 June 1841), the daughter of Karl V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was also the former wife of Prince Ludwig of Prussia and the widow of Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Solms-Braunfels. Queen Charlotte opposed the marriage, even though her future daughter-in-law was also her niece. From her first two marriages, the new Duchess of Cumberland had eight children; from her marriage to Ernest, she had a further three children, only one of whom survived -- a son, who would become George V of Hanover.
The Duke of Cumberland became a Knight of the Garter in 1786. His elder brother, the Prince Regent (later King George IV), created him a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in 1815. In 1831, the Duke of Cumberland became a Knight of St. Patrick. Finally, upon his ascension to the Hanoverian throne in 1837, he became Sovereign and Grand Master of the Royal Guelphic Order.
The Duke of Cumberland was noted as one of the least pleasant of the sons of George III. He was an arch-reactionary who opposed the 1828 Catholic Emancipation Bill proposed by the government of the Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington. He was rumored to have beaten a servant to death, and perhaps to have raped his own sister, Princess Sophia. His wife also had a bad reputation, having been reputed to have murdered one or both of her previous husbands.
On 20 June 1837, King William IV died, and was succeeded as monarch of the United Kingdom by his niece, Victoria, the only child of the late Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the third son of George III. However, the Salic Law still prevailed in Hanover, meaning William could only be succeeded there by a legitimate male heir, and the Duke of Cumberland thus became King of Hanover and Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, which was thereafter ruled by a separate line from Great Britain. King Ernst August proved an unpopular ruler, repealing the relatively liberal constitution propagated by his predecessors and ruling as an absolute monarch until forced to grant a constitution by the revolutions of 1848. Both he and Queen Frederica died and were buried at Schloss Herrenhausen.