(For a man with a mixed military legacy)
When Loyalists arrived in the 1780s at what was once the site of an Acadian village called Pointe-Sainte-Anne, they named it “Frederick’s town,” for Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany. The prince was a skilled military organizer and administrator who initiated many reforms within the British army and founded the Royal Military College in 1802, the forerunner to present-day Sandhurst in the United Kingdom.
As a field commander — Frederick was commander-in-chief of the British forces during the French Revolutionary Wars and the early years of the Napoleonic Wars — he had less success. His defeat at the Battle of Turcoing in 1794 is believed to have inspired a nursery rhyme known as “The Grand Old Duke of York” — its lyrics are proverbial for futile action.
Frederick’s military career came to a temporary end in 1809 when his mistress Mary Clarke was accused of selling military commissions, prompting a parliamentary inquiry. Editorial cartoons soon appeared depicting the British army being run by Clarke, and the salacious details of Frederick’s personal life were published by Thomas Curson Hansard, who had just acquired the right to publish transcripts of parliamentary debates.
Although the House of Commons cleared him of corruption, Frederick chose to resign from his post anyway, only to be reinstated two years later. Throughout the scandal, Frederick’s estranged wife, Frederica of Prussia, stood by him. They had separated soon after their marriage, and she maintained her own stately home filled with pet dogs, cats, and monkeys. Nevertheless, they remained close friends, and Frederick mourned her passing in 1820.
Today, a portrait of Prince Frederick graces Fredericton’s city council chambers.