FREDERICTON

(For a man with a mixed mil­i­tary legacy)

Canada's History - - ROOTS -

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.

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