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The Grand Old Duke of York

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FREDERICK DUKE OF YORK - Letter Signed 1809 regarding problems in New South Wales

The grand old Duke of York / He had ten thousand men / He marched them up to the top of the hill / And he marched them down again.
Most people remember Frederick Duke of York from the rhyme. His most notable military experience was in Flanders, which is exceptionally flat, so the rhyme may or may not have anything to do with that, but it was one of the less successful events in British military history. A very young Arthur Wellesley (who was to become the Duke of Wellington) later said that the campaign taught him a great deal - in how not to conduct a campaign.
Frederick learned enough from this to embark on some significant reforms of the military establishment, which bore fruit later in the Napoleonic Wars.
His career was again blemished, though, in another scandal, when his mistress Mary Anne Clarke was discovered to be selling army commissions in a highly dubious manner. It was a difficult time for him, but it did give Daphne du Maurier (a descendant of Mary Anne) the material for a good novel.


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