Papers relating to William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765)

Scope and Content

The papers are composed of: letters to Cumberland and various mentions of him in his Jacobite campaign, 1745-1746; and, Some hints to his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland concerning the Highlands of Scotland.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Augustus was born in Leicester House, London, on 15 April 1721. He was the third son of King George II (then the Prince of Wales) and Queen Caroline. He was created Baron of Alderney, Viscount Trematon, Earl of Kennington, Marquis of Berkhampstead, and Duke of Cumberland. Although William was educated for a naval career, his own interests lay with the army. By December 1742 he was already a Major-General.

In April 1743, during the War of the Austrian Succession - one part of a long phase of struggle between Britain and France between 1689 and 1815 - Cumberland accompanied George to Hanover and then joined in the Battle of Dettingen in Bavaria in June 1743. During the battle he was wounded, and after it he was promoted Lieutenant-General. Over 1744-1745 he was made Captain-General of British land forces. In May 1745, Cumberland commanded the allied army of British, Hanoverian, Dutch, and Austrian troops against the French in an attempt to relieve siege-bound Tournai (today in Belgium). On 11 May, Cumberland's army was defeated at the Battle of Fontenoy.

Meanwhile with French encouragement, and with a large part of the British army engaged in Flanders, Prince Charles Edward Stuart (the Young Pretender) made his attempt to win back the throne for the Stuarts. In July 1745, accompanied by seven supporters, he landed at Moidart in the west of Scotland. Within six weeks of the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745, Charles had overrun Scotland and had defeated government forces under General Sir John Cope at Prestonpans. By December, they had reached Derby, but although still undefeated they had won little support neither in the Lowlands of Scotland nor in England, and began a fateful withdrawal to Scotland pursued by Cumberland who had returned from Flanders. In January 1746, there was fear of an imminent French invasion from Dunkirk and so Cumberland returned to London. When the army under General Henry Hawley (c. 1679-1759) was defeated by the Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 January 1746, Cumberland was dispatched hastily north again. He reached Edinburgh on 30 January, immediately marched on Stirling and then his pursuit of the Jacobite army began. On 16 April 1746 the two armies met at Culloden, a few miles east of Inverness. At the Battle of Culloden, the last battle to be fought on British soil, the Jacobites were defeated in an engagement that lasted an hour. Even so, Cumberland's army continued slaughtering its opponents throughout the rest of the day and resumed the falling day. With thousands of Hessian troops sealing of the Highlands at Perth and Stirling, reprisal actions and a round up of Jacobites carried on for weeks afterwards. During this period and aftermath, much myth emerged, but an inescapable fact was that at Culloden more Scots had supported and fought for 'Butcher' Cumberland than for Prince Charles.

After Culloden, in 1747, Cumberland had returned to Flanders and the Netherlands to resume the campaign against the French, but lost the Battle of Lauffeld. On 18 October 1748 however came the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ending the War of the Austrian Succession. Among its other points, the Treaty confirmed the right of Succession of the House of Hanover in Great Britain.

In April 1757, Cumberland set out for Germany to campaign once more against the French in a phase of the Seven Years War (1756-1763). In July 1757 he lost to the French at the Battle of Hastenbeck and because he signed the Convention of Klosterzeven in September 1757 promising to evacuate Hanover, he was dismissed by King George who threw out the agreement.

William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, died in London on 31 October 1765. He was buried in Westminster Abbey on 9 November 1765.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.


The biographical/administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Keay, John. and Keay, Julia (eds.). Collins encyclopaedia of Scotland. London: Harper Collins Publishers, 1994. (2) Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of national biography. Vol. 21. Whichcord-Zuylestein. London: Smith, Elder and Co., 1909. (3)The new encyclopaedia Britannica. Micropaedia. 15th edition. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc., 1991.

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

The local Indexes show various references to Cumberland related material in the Laing Collection (check the Indexes for more details): A contrast between Prince Charles and the Duke of Cumberland, verses on the Duke of Cumberland, at La.II.451/1. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes: letters to Rockingham 1765, his account of Negotiations concerning change of Ministers, Sheffield Archives, Ref. WWM NRA 1083 Wentworth Woodhouse; correspondence with Henry Pelham, Lord Chesterfield, Mr Compton, Horace Walpole, Sen, Duke of Newcastle, Sir Michael Bruce, 1745-1752, Nottingham University Library, Department of Manuscripts and Special Collections, Ref. Ne NRA 7411 Pelham; letters (79) from Lord Chesterfield, 1746-1748, Public Record Office, Ref. SP87/21-23 passim; correspondence with General Campbell, 1746, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref.MSS 3734-36; letters to Dukes of Devonshire, 1745-1764, Chatsworth House, Ref. /16 NRA 20594 Cavendish; correspondence with Lord Hardwicke, 1745-1750, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MSS 35349-590 passim, and correspondence with Lord Holdernesse, 1756-1761, Ref. Eg MS 3442, and letters to Lord Holland, 1749-1762, Ref. Add MS 51375, and correspondence with Duke of Newcastle etc, 1740-1765, Ref. Add MSS 32695-33068, 35354-890 passim., and letters from Sir Joseph Yorke, 1745-1748, Ref. Add MS 35349; letters (12) to Earl of Loudon, Huntingdon Library; correspondence with Lord Sandwich, 1750-1762, National Maritime Museum, Manuscripts Section, Ref. MS 91/018 NRA 5472 Montagu; and, military papers including correspondence, accounts, order books and maps, 1745-1765, Royal Archives, Ref. CP NRA 43350 Augustus.