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On July 3, Sotheby’s - in conjunction with the Morton & Eden auction house - will offer royal orders and medals from the collection of George, Duke of Cambridge (1819-1904), King George III’s grandson.

This group has been passed down by direct descent, and, say the auctioneers, “their appearance on the market represents a unique opportunity to acquire treasures which until now have been held privately”.

The orders and medals are primarily from the 2nd Duke’s collection, spanning the 19th century and the opening years of the 20th century, complemented by several pieces which were originally owned by the 1st Duke of Cambridge, the 2nd Duke’s father.

They comprise about 80 lots with a combined pre-sale estimate in the region of £800,000.

Outstanding collection

James Morton, from specialist auctioneers of war medals, orders and decorations Morton & Eden, said: “Sotheby’s and Morton & Eden are delighted to be combining our resources and expertise to present this outstanding royal collection for sale.

“It has remained in the hands of the Duke of Cambridge’s family since his death in 1904 and has for many years been displayed publicly at the Guards Museum, Birdcage Walk.

“Throughout his long life, which spanned that of his cousin and close confidante Queen Victoria, George Duke of Cambridge played significant, active roles in the military, diplomatic and social evolution of the nation.

“The orders and medals offered in this auction present a unique record of service and honour, ranging from an exquisite Garter badge given personally to a young prince in 1835 by his uncle, William IV, to the parure of insignia of the Royal House of Chakri bestowed upon the duke by the King of Siam in 1897. The collection is further enhanced by the inclusion of a number of magnificent favourite pieces which originally belonged to the duke’s father Adolphus, the youngest son of George III.”

Seniority succeeds

HRH Prince George, 2nd Duke of Cambridge, was born in 1819, the only son of HRH The Prince Adolphus, 1st Duke of Cambridge (1774-1850), and the grandson of King George III (1738-1820). Cousin to Queen Victoria, the prince was her elder by two months. However, Princess Victoria’s father, HRH The Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, was older than the prince’s father Adolphus, and his seniority dictated whose child would succeed kings George IV and William IV to the throne.

Prince George briefly served in the Hanoverian Army before becoming a colonel in the British Army in November, 1837. Early in the Crimean campaign, he received command of the 1st Division and subsequently was present at all the major battles.

Following the Crimean War he was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in 1856 and field marshal in November 1862. He was not afraid to confront a penny-pinching government in matters of army reform during his early years as commander-in-chief although latterly, acting partly on Queen Victoria’s personal advice, he took the decision to resign the post and did so in 1895.

Having refused to enter into an arranged marriage, in 1847 the 2nd Duke was married privately – and in contravention of the 1772 Royal Marriages Act – to Louisa Fairbrother, an actress. Ostracised by the royal family, the duke’s wife was not officially titled Duchess of Cambridge and nor was she accorded the appellation ‘Her Royal Highness’.

Although he had three sons with Louisa, none was entitled to inherit the dukedom, which remained vacant following George’s death in 1904 until 2011, when the present queen conferred the title on her grandson, Prince William.