Arthur William Patrick Albert, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn 1850-1942, the third son and seventh child of Queen Victoria, was born at Buckingham Palace 1 May 1850, the eighty-first birthday of his godfather the Duke of Wellington, after whom he received his first name; his second name was after the Prince of Prussia, later German Emperor, his third in remembrance of Queen Victoria's visit to Ireland in 1849; Albert was after his father. He became the favourite son of the Queen who adored our little Arthur from the day of his birth. He has never given us a day's sorrow or trouble, she may truly say, but ever been like a ray of sunshine in the house. Even in early days he was attracted to things military, and in the gardens at Osborne there still stand miniature earthworks of military formations about which he used to play. When the Prince was not yet nine years old, (Sir) Howard Crawfurd Elphinstone [qv.] was appointed his governor, and so began a companionship and friendship which was to last for more than thirty years.
Until 1862 Prince Arthur's life had been spent at home, but in that year he took up residence at Ranger's House, Greenwich Park. His life, he said, was a lonely one, called at 6.45 a.m., my studies began about 7.15 and I worked till about 9 a.m., when I breakfasted, work being resumed at 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Then I had a short walk and lunched at 2 p.m. In the afternoon I walked and twice a week boys came from various schools to play with me. We played football, hockey, etc. Lessons were again resumed at 5 p.m. until 7.30 p.m. Supper at 8 p.m. and afterwards I prepared lessons until about 10 p.m. for the following day. In 1864 he began to see more of the world for himself: he stayed at the Rosenau for two months perfecting his German, went on a walking tour in Switzerland and did some climbing; then to improve his French he went to Ouchy near Lausanne, and returned to England after a further short visit to Germany with his great friend Prince Adolphus of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Next year he made a tour of the Mediterranean in the Enchantress, visiting Italy, Greece, Asia Minor, and Palestine. His first public function was performed in 1865, when he unveiled a statue of his father at Tenby; in the next year he passed very well into the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where, still living at Ranger's House, he underwent the military training common to all cadets. A visit to the Emperor Napoleon in 1867 and a severe attack of smallpox interrupted his studies, but he passed out in 1868, and at the final inspection he was called out to receive his commission in the Royal Engineers at the hands of the Duke of Cambridge [qv.], the commander-in-chief, feeling very proud at having at last become an officer.
After a short period at the School of Military Engineering, the Prince visited Switzerland and was then transferred to the Royal Artillery at Woolwich, where he had charge of men, horses, and guns, and acquired an idea of responsibility. In 1869 he was transferred to the 1st battalion of the Rifle Brigade, then stationed at Montreal. His company commander, finding the Prince a keen soldier, went on leave and left him in command. From the political point of view, the posting was opportune. Canada was restless, loyal to the Queen, but exasperated with the home Government. The more I visit Canada, wrote Prince Arthur to the Queen, the more I like and admire the people. They are a set of fine honest free thinking but loyal Englishmen. Among the various visits paid was one to the headquarters of the Fenians at Buffalo in the United States: reports were rife that the Prince would be held as a hostage, but the visit was a complete success. After a brief visit to Washington, New York, and Boston, where he thoroughly enjoyed himself, he saw action in 1870 against a body of Fenians who had invaded Canada. At the end of a very happy and interesting year, he rejoined his battalion at Woolwich.
On coming of age in 1871 Prince Arthur, who had been invested as K.G. on the Queen's birthday in 1867, was promoted captain and given the command of B company. He also received the freedom of the City of London and was introduced into the Privy Council. On a visit to his eldest sister Victoria, then the German Crown Princess [qv.], in 1872 he was admitted to the Order of the Black Eagle, a tremendous function. In 1873 at a visit to his second sister Alice, afterwards Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt [qv.], the Prince was introduced to the sport of wild-boar hunting, and next visited Rome where he was received by Pope Pius IX. Later in the year, after a visit to Vienna for the opening of the International Exhibition, Elphinstone was able to allay the anxieties of the Queen about this visit to this gayest of capitals by reporting that it had done a great deal of good, as the Prince became wearied with the constant life of pleasure and the late hours. In January 1874 he was best man at St. Petersburg to his brother Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh [qv.], at his wedding to the Grand Duchess Marie, daughter of the Emperor Alexander II. When the Emperor and Empress of Russia visited Queen Victoria in May the Prince's troop (A) of the 7th Hussars (to which he had been transferred in April) was sent as an escort and he was in attendance on various occasions and inspections, during one of which the Duke of Cambridge, the commander-in-chief, ordered the Prince to charge the crowd, which he said he did with great reluctance.
In spite of all these special duties, the chief interest and occupation of the Prince, who in 1874 was created Duke of Connaught and Strathearn and Earl of Sussex, were his military duties. In 1873 he had been attached to the staff of an infantry brigade at Aldershot, and during the maneuvres later he was brigade-major. His room in one of the lower huts of his battalion was so small that I could lie in bed and open the window and poke the fire, while of his work, his colonel wrote: Prince Arthur works like a slave and his General told me that no poor man in the Army working for his advancement could work harder than he does or do his duty better. In 1875 he attended the German army maneuvres, a significant event for him personally, for he met the Red Prince, Prince Frederick Charles Nicholas of Prussia, and in October he took up the duties of assistant adjutant-general at Gibraltar. By nature a good linguist, he took the opportunity of learning Spanish, and in company with the Prince of Wales he visited King Alfonso XII at Madrid in the spring of 1876, rejoining at Gibraltar after visiting Toledo and Seville for the Easter ceremonies. Later he went to Liverpool to take command of a detached squadron, and he was present in August when the Queen unveiled the statue of the Prince Consort at Edinburgh. A change came in September when he went from the 7th Hussars to the command of the 1st battalion of his old regiment, the Rifle Brigade, as lieutenant-colonel, stationed in Dublin. Throughout the next year and until 1878 the Duke was at the Curragh, but in February he went to Berlin to attend the weddings of the Crown Princess's daughter Charlotte to Prince Bernhard of Saxe-Meiningen and of a daughter of the Red Prince to the Grand Duke of Oldenburg. The Duke then fell in love with the Red Prince's third daughter Louise Margaret Alexandra Victoria Agnes and, though the Queen was anxious about the match at first, the visit of the Princess to her in May was the beginning of a deep and lasting affection between mother and daughter-in-law. The marriage took place at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, 13 March 1879 and until the Duchess died thirty-eight years later the union was an ideally happy one. The honeymoon was mainly spent on board the royal yacht Osborne in a trip to Lisbon, Gibraltar, Spain, Malta, Sicily, the Aegean, Greece, and the Adriatic to Venice, whence the Duke returned home and resumed the command of his battalion at Aldershot. It was not until after Christmas 1880 that the Duke and Duchess were able to take up residence at Bagshot Park, where the Duke found real joy in the beautiful grounds on which he spent time and care and in the glorious trees of which he had expert knowledge and which he was never tired of inspecting and showing to his friends. For London residence, until the death of Queen Victoria, they lived at Buckingham Palace, but thereafter their London home was Clarence House.
The importance which the Duke attached to thoroughness in his military career is illustrated by a letter which he wrote to the Queen before his marriage. The question of promotion having arisen, he wrote: up to now I have worked my way up through every grade, from Lieutenant to Lieutenant-Colonel, and I should not wish to skip the rank of Colonel (Royal Archives). In 1880 he was promoted colonel-in-chief of the Rifle Brigade: the Prince of Wales relinquished the post reluctantly, but took up that of colonel-in-chief of the Household Cavalry; the Duke was also promoted major-general in 1880, and appointed to command the 3rd Infantry brigade at Aldershot, but in 1882 he was put in command of the 1st Guards brigade, then serving in the Egyptian war, under (Sir) G. H. S. Willis [qv.]. From reading his notes it is easy to realize the constant care which the Duke had for his men in conditions in which comfort was very deficient. He had a narrow escape from death in action when a shell burst between himself and another officer. He was thrice mentioned in dispatches, and Sir Garnet (later Viscount) Wolseley [qv.] writing to the Queen in September 1882 says that he takes great interest in his work and is indefatigable in his duties as Brigadier; and again, after the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, On all sides I hear loud praises of the cool courage displayed yesterday, when under an extremely heavy fire, by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught. — He is a first-rate Brigadier-General, and takes more care of his men and is more active in the discharge of his duties than any of the Generals now with me. The Duke of Cambridge wrote: He has won golden opinions from everyone. On his own share in the action, the Duke characteristically entreated the Queen not to give him any honour greater than an officer commanding a brigade would naturally receive. I covet, he wrote, a C.B., and if I get that I shall be so proud. He was appointed C.B. and received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament. Wolseley appointed him commandant of Cairo, and he subsequently went for an extended trip up the Nile, after which he returned home in November and was invested by the German Crown Prince with the Prussian Order pour le mérite. In 1883 he was appointed colonel of the Scots Guards.
The Duke next served in Bengal until 1886 when, after some discussion, Lord Salisbury's Cabinet approved his appointment to the Bombay Command. This post he held for four years, managing, in spite of difficulties, to attend the Queen's jubilee in 1887. He was promoted lieutenant-general in 1889. During these years both he and the Duchess devoted their time and their services to India and its peoples of whom he ever after spoke with understanding and affection. They learnt to speak Hindustani fluently. One friendship, which left a permanent mark on the decoration of the billiard-room at Bagshot, was with Rudyard Kipling's father, then curator of the museum at Lahore. On problems even then arising in India, the Duke deprecated a tendency — to bring forward Indian questions for party purposes at home lest it should lead to serious trouble in India.
On his return to England in 1890 the Duke was appointed to command the Southern district at Portsmouth, and it was the first of a series of disappointments to him when his desire to be commander-in-chief in India was not realized; nor did he ever become commander-in-chief at home. This project came up repeatedly in the last years of Queen Victoria, who was anxious that the office should be retained and that her son should hold it. Neither of Lord Salisbury's Cabinets, however, nor Lord Rosebery's could meet her wishes. Wolseley indeed urged the Duke's claims to be made adjutant-general as a preparation for succeeding the Duke of Cambridge. In 1895, when the Duke, hitherto in ignorance of what was going on between the Queen and her ministers, was told that he was not to be commander-in-chief, he was greatly vexed, and he had to undergo the same disappointment when Lord Roberts [qv.] succeeded Lord Wolseley in 1901.
In 1893 the Duke, who had found Portsmouth uncongenial, was promoted general and appointed to the Aldershot Command. The five years' tenure of this office was punctuated by missions abroad: to the coronation of the Emperor Nicholas II, at Moscow, in 1896, to the centenary of the birth of the Emperor William I, at Berlin, in 1897, and, more professionally, to the autumn maneuvres of the French Army in 1898 when he received the grand cordon of the Legion of Honour. In spite of his desire to go on active service in South Africa, consent was not forthcoming and he made no secret of his disappointment. Instead he was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland (1900), and he was there when his mother made her historic visit to Dublin.
In 1899 the Duke was called to make an important decision about his future life. The hereditary prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha died early in the year, leaving the Duke in the direct succession to the duchy, then held by his second brother Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh. After discussions between the Queen, the Duke, and Lord Salisbury, the Duke and his son Prince Arthur [qv.] renounced their right to the ducal throne, which consequently devolved on the Duke's nephew, Charles Edward, Duke of Albany.
With the death of the Queen, the Duke reached the summit of his military career. In 1902 his brother King Edward VII appointed him a field-marshal and his representative at the coronation durbar held at Delhi in 1903. In 1904 he was appointed inspector-general of the forces, visiting South Africa in 1906 and making an extended tour in the Far East in 1907. In that year he became high commissioner and commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, a post which he held until 1909. In 1910 he opened the newly formed Union Parliament of South Africa on behalf of his nephew King George V. The press hailed the visit as a great personal triumph for the Duke who had been accessible to British, Dutch, and native alike. What can be done to improve the relations between the white races has been done.
The visit to South Africa was the prelude to a greater mission. In October 1911 the Duke took up one of the posts in which his personality found vivid expression. As governor-general of Canada, he renewed the affection he had felt for the Canadians ever since he had been quartered among them as a subaltern. Without exacting great deference to himself, he won popularity with all classes of people by his friendliness and affability. No programme of public engagements was too heavy for him. If he kept greater state at Rideau Hall than his predecessors, the presence there of a royal prince was a valuable stimulant to Canadian patriotism during the war of 1914-18. The only unfortunate episode of his term of office which lasted until 1916 was a quarrel with the extremely eccentric Sir Sam Hughes [qv.], then minister of militia, which arose from the intelligible desire of an experienced professional soldier of the highest rank to play in military affairs a role incompatible with his constitutional position as governor-general. In 1918 the Duke visited Greece, Egypt, and Palestine, going up to Khartoum and returning after three months of travelling, which covered 20,000 miles. In December 1920 he left for an extensive visit to India. In February 1921 at Delhi he opened the new Chamber of Princes, the Imperial Legislative Assembly and the Council of State. In 1928 he received the congratulations of the Army Council on completing sixty years of service in the army.
The Duke had suffered cruel losses in the previous ten years. The Duchess had died in 1917 and the sorrow cast a shadow over the remainder of his life; in 1920 his elder daughter, the Crown Princess of Sweden, died rather suddenly. In 1928 he ceased, although still physically and mentally active, to take an active part in public life, dividing his time between Bagshot Park and Clarence House and, until his later years, spending a part of every year in the south of France, first at Beaulieu and later at his own villa, Les Bruyères, at Cap Ferrat; here his love of horticulture found full scope, and many officers and men of the Royal Navy remembered his garden which he threw open to all ranks when units of the fleet came to Villefranche. He often spoke of his pleasure at the French acknowledgement of his position in the military world in making him honorary caporal in a battalion of the Chasseurs Alpins. When visits to France became inadvisable, winters were spent at Sidmouth or at Bath. The Duke died at Bagshot Park 16 January 1942. He had issue a son, Prince Arthur, who died in 1938, and two daughters, Princess Margaret Victoria Augusta Charlotte Norah, who married in 1905 Prince Gustavus Adolphus, Duke of Scania, later King Gustavus VI of Sweden, and Princess Victoria Patricia Helena Elizabeth, who married in 1919 Captain (subsequently Rear-Admiral Sir) Alexander Robert Maule Ramsay, son of the thirteenth Earl of Dalhousie, taking rank, as Lady Patricia Ramsay, next below duchesses. The Duke was succeeded by his grandson, the Earl of Macduff, and on the latter's death in 1943 the dukedom of Connaught and Strathearn and the earldom of Sussex became extinct.
It was a natural consequence of his birth that the Duke held many of the highest honorary posts in civil life. One of his greatest interests was in freemasonry; he became grand master of the United Grand Lodge in 1901 and kept in close touch with it down to his death. He succeeded King George V as master of Trinity House, presiding regularly at the Trinity Monday courts; he was grand prior and bailiff of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and on one occasion his intervention during the war of 1914-18 brought the activities of the order into better relation with those of the British Red Cross Society. But the Duke's overriding interest was in the army, and the constant care which he showed for the welfare of the men under his command, entirely consistent with his personal character, won him a degree of affectionate respect which has been accorded to few. He fully carried out his mother's advice given to him in 1871: Continue to be kind and considerate to those below you, and treat those who faithfully serve you as friends; and again: It is by those below us that we are most judged and it is of great value to be beloved (Royal Archives). Beloved the Duke certainly was both by the army in particular and the people generally, but more particularly by those who knew him personally, and especially by his mother.
The Duke has often, and justly, been spoken of as a great gentleman. Endowed with a great measure of administrative ability, he was naturally impatient of official obstruction. He was invariably courteous and considerate, and if he was quick to notice irregularities, however trivial, in uniform or etiquette, his correction did not hurt. The absolute straightforwardness of his character found no room for pettiness or insincerity in others; he gave his friendship unstintingly, but expected a high standard of loyalty in return.
The Duke received from his mother all the honours which it was in her power to give. After her death he became great master of the Order of the Bath in 1901, and received the Royal Victorian Chain in 1902; in 1917 his nephew appointed him G.B.E. He received honorary degrees from many universities.
Of existing portraits of the Duke, the following may be mentioned. In the royal collections there are three by F. X. Winterhalter: The First of May, 1851 in which the Duke of Wellington is presenting a casket to the infant Prince in the presence of the Queen and the Prince Consort; a small portrait at the age of about three years; and another in Scots Guards uniform, at the age of about five; one by (Sir) Hubert von Herkomer (c. 1900) in the full-dress uniform of a general; one by J. S. Sargent (1910) in blue frogged frock-coat of the Grenadier Guards (with a replica at Government House, Ottawa); a large equestrian portrait by Edouard Detaille in the blue frock-coat of a general, with King Edward VII (as Prince of Wales) at an Aldershot review (c. 1898). A small sketch of the Duke's figure in this picture, by Edouard Detaille himself, belongs to Lady Patricia Ramsay, who also possesses an unfinished head and shoulders, in field-marshal's uniform, by Sir A. S. Cope (1923). A portrait (1878) by H. von Angeli, in Rifle Brigade uniform, belongs to the officers of the Rifle Brigade. Cartoons by Spy appeared in Vanity Fair 17 June 1876 and 2 August 1890.
A bronze statue of the Duke in uniform (before 1907) by George Wade was erected on the waterfront at Hong Kong.
Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, passim
M. H. McClintock, The Queen Thanks Sir Howard, 1945
Letters of Queen Victoria, second and third series, 1926-32