1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ernest Augustus

ERNEST AUGUSTUS (1771–1851), king of Hanover and duke of Cumberland, fifth son of the English king George III., was born at Kew on the 5th of June 1771. Having studied at the university of Göttingen, he entered the Hanoverian army, serving as a leader of cavalry when war broke out between Great Britain and France in 1793, and winning a reputation for bravery. He lost the sight of one eye at the battle of Tournai in May 1794, and when Hanover withdrew from the war in 1795 he returned to England, being made lieutenant-general in the British army in 1799. In the same year he was created duke of Cumberland and Teviotdale and granted an allowance of £12,000 a year, after which he held several lucrative military positions in England, and began to attend the sittings of the House of Lords and to take part in political life. A stanch Tory, the duke objected to all proposals of reform, especially to the granting of any relief to the Roman Catholics, and had great influence with his brother the prince regent, afterwards King George IV., in addition to being often consulted by the Tory leaders. In 1810 he was severely injured by an assassin, probably his valet Sellis, who was found dead; and subsequently two men were imprisoned for asserting that the duke had murdered his valet. Recovering from his wounds, Cumberland again proceeded to the seat of war; and having been made a British field-marshal, was in command of the Hanoverian army during the campaigns of 1813 and 1814, being present, although not in action, at the battle of Leipzig. In May 1815 Ernest married his cousin, Frederica (1778–1841), daughter of Charles II. duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and widow of Frederick, prince of Solms-Braunfels, a union which was very repugnant to his mother Queen Charlotte, and was disliked in England, where the duke’s strong Toryism had made him unpopular. Parliament refused to increase his allowance from £18,000, to which it had been raised in 1804, to £24,000 a year, and indignant at the treatment he received the duke spent some years in Berlin. Returning to England after the accession of George IV. in 1820, his political power was again considerable, while deaths in the royal family made it likely that he would succeed to the throne. Although his personal influence with the sovereign ceased upon the death of George IV. in 1830, the duke continued to oppose all measures for the extension of civil and religious liberty, including the Reform Bill of 1832; and his unpopularity was augmented by suspicions that he had favoured the formation of Orange lodges in the army. When William IV. died in June 1837, the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were separated; and Ernest, as the nearest male heir of the late king, became king of Hanover. At once cancelling the constitution which William had given to his kingdom in 1833, he acted as an absolute monarch, and the constitution which he sanctioned in 1840 was permeated with his own illiberal ideas. In German politics he was vigilant and active, and mindful of the material interests of his country. His reign, however, was a stormy one, and serious trouble between king and people had arisen when he died at Herrenhausen on the 18th of November 1851 (see Hanover: History). In spite of his arbitrary rule and his reactionary ideas the king was popular among his subjects, and his statue in Hanover bears the words “Dem Landes Vater sein treues Volk.” Ernest, who is generally regarded as the ablest of the sons of George III., left an only child, George, who succeeded him as king of Hanover.

See C. A. Wilkinson, Reminiscences of the Court and Times of King Ernest of Hanover (London, 1886); von Malortie, König Ernst August (Hanover, 1861); and the various histories of Great Britain and Hanover for the period.