Who was the last Duke of Sussex?

Duke and Duchess of Sussex are widely being tipped as the titles that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will receive following their marriage on May 19th. The title of Duke of Sussex became extinct on 21st April 1843 following the death of its last holder. But who was that?

Prince Augustus Frederick was the sixth son of King George III and his Queen, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and was born at Buckingham House (now a part of Buckingham Palace) on 5th June 1771. As a child, Prince Augustus was taught at Kew before being sent to the University of Gottingen in Hanover in 1786, accompanied by his brothers Prince Ernest and Prince Adolphus.

While spending a winter in Rome, Prince Augustus met Lady Augusta Murray – the highly attractive second daughter of John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and Lady Charlotte Stewart – and the couple married in a secret Church of England ceremony in Hotel Sarmiento in Rome on 4th April 1793. A second marriage for the pair occurred at St George’s, Hanover Square in Westminster on 5th December 1793. Both marriages had taken place without the consent of Augustus’s father, King George III.

The Prerogative Court annulled the Prince’s first marriage on the grounds it contravened the Royal Marriages Act 1772. King George III, however, created his son Duke of Sussex, Earl of Inverness and Baron Arklow and a Knight of the Garter on 27th November 1801.

The Duke of Sussex and Lady Augusta had two children – Augustus Frederick d’Este and Augusta Emma, Baroness Truro – though the couple separated in 1801 and Lady Augusta retained custody of the children, receiving maintenance of £4,000 a year.

On 5th March 1830, Lady Augusta died in Ramsgate, Kent and on 2nd May 1831, Prince Augustus married Lady Cecilia Underwood at a ceremony at Great Cumberland Place in London. This marriage also contravened the Royal Marriages Act and therefore was considered void.

The Duke of Sussex was Queen Victoria’s favourite Uncle and he even gave her away when she married Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. His second wife even lived in apartments at Kensington Palace and Queen Victoria even created Cecilia, Duchess of Inverness, recognising Augustus’s subsidiary title of Earl of Inverness.

The Duke of Sussex’s health began to deteriorate from around 1832 when he underwent a cataract operation that saved his sight. The Duke of Sussex died on 21st April 1843 from erysipelas, a bacterial infection of the skin and as stated in his will, the Duke did not have a state funeral and was accordingly buried at Kensal Green Cemetery on 5th May 1843. Having no legitimate issue, the title of Duke of Sussex became extinct upon the death of Augustus.

So the last Duke of Sussex married twice and had illegitimate children while the possible future Duke of Sussex is about to marry an American actress….. How times change!

Photo Credit: Guy Head

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