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Prince George

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Category: Military
Reference No: 8612
Status: Available
Price: £20.00
  Prince George

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British soldier, grandson of George III, cousin of Queen Victoria.

Like his father, Prince Adolphus, George embarked upon a military career, initially becoming a colonel in the Hanoverian Army and then, on 3 November 1837, becoming a brevet colonel in the British Army.

In 1852 he became Inspector of the Cavalry in 1852 and in February 1854, at an early stage in the Crimean War, he received command of the 1st Division (Guards and Highland brigades) of the British army in the East. On 19 June 1854, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general and was present at the battles of the Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman, and at the siege of Sevastopol.

On 5 July 1856, George became Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, a post he held for 39 years.

He wasn’t all bad. He was responsible for the introduction of breech-loading carbines, first for the cavalry and then infantry, and was also involved in the creation of the Staff College and the Royal Military School of Music. He also sought to improve the efficiency of the army by advocating a scheme of annual military manoeuvres. In 1860, he introduced a new system to restrict corporal punishment.

That said, although George was deeply concerned about the welfare of soldiers, he earned a reputation for being resistant to change and for making promotions based upon an officer's social standing, rather than merit. Under his command, the British Army became a moribund and stagnant institution, lagging far behind its continental counterparts. There were no new ideas. It is said that he rebuked one of his more intelligent subordinates with the words: "Brains? I don't believe in brains! You haven't any, I know, Sir!" He was equally forthright on his reluctance to adopt change: "There is a time for everything, and the time for change is when you can no longer help it."

In the wake of the Prussian victory in the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian War, Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell called for major army reforms. This led to the War Office Act of 1870, which formally subordinated the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces to the Secretary of State for War and abolished the custom of purchasing an office.

Prince George strongly resented these changes, of course, but his time had passed.

In 1895, under pressure from the Liberals and Conservatives, and generals such as Wolseley, Buller, Roberts and Prince Arthur, he resigned, to be replaced by Wolseley.

In 1909 the post of Commander-in-Chief, which George had made his own, was finally abolished.

This is a fine signature and date (27.8.88) in ink, cut from the bottom of a letter on a piece measuring 4.5" x 2.25". In good condition.