[Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany.] Autograph Letter Signed ('Frederick') to 'Grenville' [William Wyndham Grenville, future prime minister], regarding war and 'opportunity of humbling France', Welch Fusiliers, Allerton, buying a town house.

Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), second son of George III, heir to George IV, reformer of the British Army [William Wyndham Grenville, Lord Grenville (1759-1834), Prime Minister
Publication details: 
Allerton Maleverer [sic]; 14 October 1787.
SKU: 21535

An interesting intimate letter from the Duke of York, credited with having done more to reform the British Army than any other man, to the future Prime Minister Grenville, who at the time was Paymaster General of the Forces. Of particular note is the Duke's desire to go to war, 'for I am sure we never have had for these two Centuries so favourable an opportunity of humbling France'. 4pp, 12mo. Bifolium. In fair condition, aged and worn, with thin strip of paper from mount adhering to reverse of second leaf. Folded three times. Sixty-one lines of text. After explaining that he delayed writing in order that his letter arrive after that of General Bude, he states that he has been at Allerton for a week and likes the place 'exceedingly. Indeed it in every respect surpasses my expectations it is a sweet spot and [?] in a beautiful Country, the House is good though not large, and with very trifling Alterations, will become very Comfortable, I have the advantage of having a very good neighbourhood'. The previous day 'five Companies of the Welsh [sic] fusiliers passed through here upon their March to Chatham Barracks. I desired them to halt and gave a breakfast to both Officers and Men, and had the Officers afterwards to dinner.' He assesses the division, commending the commanding officer as 'a very sensible steady Officer', and finding the officers a 'very young and really a wonderfull [sic] good body'. The second division are to pass through on the following day, 'and I intend to ask them likewise'. He continues: 'You can not expect news from me here, who am above two hundred miles from the Capital I trust and hope however still that we shall have war, for I am sure we never have had for these two Centuries so favourable an opportunity of humbling France'. He is concerned that it is 'quite an Age' since he heard from Grenville, and begins to be afraid that he has 'not yet recovered Your Sea Expedition'. (The Oxford DNB states that Grenville 'went to The Hague and to Paris in 1787 to advise the cabinet on a conflict in the United Provinces between the Orange and patriot parties which threatened the European equilibrium'.) He discusses a house in Whitehall he is thinking of buying, 'which will suit me in every respect, it is belonging to Sir Harry Featherstone [i.e. Sir Henry Fetherstonhaugh (1754-1846], and is at present occupied by Lord Amherst'. He has had 'Lake' contact 'Sir Harry' about it, and considers it would suit his purposes, 'being in a manner upon the parade, and so near to St James's, Queen's House, Carlton House &c secondly its size having a Sufficient number of apartments to see Company'. From the distinguished autograph collection of the psychiatrist Richard Alfred Hunter (1923-1981), whose collection of 7000 works relating to psychiatry is now in Cambridge University Library. Hunter and his mother Ida Macalpine had a particular interest in the illness of King George III, and their book 'George III and the Mad Business' (1969) suggested the diagnosis of porphyria popularised by Alan Bennett in his play 'The Madness of George III'.