“The grand old Duke of York
He had ten thousand men
He marched them up to the top of the hill
And he marched them down again”
Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and second Son of King George III of England is the only member of the British Royal to be immortalized in a nursery rhyme.
The rhyme in question immortalizes the duke’s military defeats. But the grand old Duke of York was much more than an impotent figure of fun.
A Prince – and a Bishop!
Frederick Augustus was born on August 16, 1763, at St James Palace in London, the second son of George, the third Hanover King and Queen Charlotte, the former Princess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
The Hanovers continued to maintain their territories in Germany as well as occupy the British throne. One of them was Osnabruck in Lower Saxony, which King George maintained as Elector.
Osnabruck had a curious custom stemming from The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. The treaty stipulated that a Catholic and a Protestant bishop would hold the bishopric of Osnabruck alternatively. The archbishop of Cologne would select the Catholic Bishop. The Elector selected the Protestant bishop.
In 1764, it was the turn for a Protestant bishop. And so King George, as Elector selected his six-month-old son. On February 27, 1764, Frederick Augustus became the prince-bishop of Osnabruck.
The title was not an empty one. It secured for the young Prince a solid income as he was entitled to the tithes from fairs and markets and the rights of toll and coinage. In addition, he owned the forest and hunting rights, as well as mining royalties.
Prince Frederick continued as bishop of Osnabruck until 1803 when he was relieved of the title- and its income- when the bishopric became part of Prussia.