Portrait of William Augustus (1721-1765), Prince, son of George II; Duke of Cumberland (1726), Captain-General of the British Army (1744-1757), Commander-in-Chief of the Forces (1745-57), Colonel of the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards (1742-1757)
Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (26 April 1721 – 31 October 1765), was the third and youngest son of King George II of Great Britain and Ireland and his wife, Caroline of Ansbach. He was Duke of Cumberland from 1726. He is best remembered for his role in putting down the Jacobite Rising at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, which made him immensely popular throughout Britain. He is often referred to by the nickname given to him by his Tory opponents: 'Butcher' Cumberland. Despite his triumph at Culloden, he had a largely unsuccessful military career. Between 1748 and 1755 he attempted to enact a series of army reforms that were resisted by the opposition and by the army itself. Following the Convention of Klosterzeven in 1757, he never again held active military command. William was born in Leicester House, in Leicester Fields (now Leicester Square), Westminster, London, where his parents had moved after his grandfather, George I, accepted the invitation to ascend the British throne. On 27 July 1726, at only five years old, he was created Duke of Cumberland, Marquess of Berkhamstead in the County of Hertford, Earl of Kennington in the County of Surrey, Viscount of Trematon in the County of Cornwall, and Baron of the Isle of Alderney. The Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 was Cumberland's first battle as commander. In 1745, Cumberland was given the honorary title of Captain-General of the British land forces and in Flanders became Commander-in-Chief of the allied British, Hanoverian, Austrian and Dutch troops despite his inexperience. He initially planned to take the offensive against the French, in a move he hoped would lead to the capture of Paris, but was persuaded by his advisors that this was impossible given the vast numerical superiority of the enemy. As it became clear that the French intention was to take Tournai, Cumberland advanced to the relief of the town, which was besieged by Marshal Saxe. In the resulting Battle of Fontenoy on 11 May 1745, the Allies were defeated by the French. Saxe had picked the battleground on which to confront the British, and filled the nearby woods with French marksmen. Cumberland ignored the threat of the woods when drawing up his battle plans, and instead concentrated on seizing the town of Fontenoy and attacking the main French army nearby. Despite a concerted Anglo-Hanoverian attack on the French centre, which led many to believe the Allies had won, the failure to clear the woods and of the Dutch forces to capture Fontenoy forced Cumberland's force onto the retreat. Following the battle Cumberland was frequently criticised for his tactics, particularly the failure to occupy the woods. In the wake of the battle, Cumberland was forced to retreat to Brussels and was unable to prevent the fall of Ghent, Bruges and Ostend.
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