Frederick, Prince of Wales was in line for the throne of England...until it all went wrong in the most catastrophic way.
1. He Has A Doomed Legacy
Frederick, Prince of Wales should have been King—instead, he fathered one of the most infamous mad monarchs in history, George III. But when it comes to Frederick, that’s only the beginning of his story. From his jaw-dropping feud with his parents to his shocking and sudden end, Frederick had his own disturbing legacy.
2. He Wasn’t English Royalty
Born in 1707 in Hanover, Germany, Frederick didn’t always sit so close to the English throne. His parents, George of Hanover and Caroline of Ansbach, only became Prince and Princess of Wales when Frederick was seven—and even then, only thanks to some complicated family trees and good old-fashioned luck.
All the same, Frederick and his family were now British royalty. Only…this spelled disaster for poor Frederick.
3. His Parents Abandoned Him
As the Prince and Princess of Wales, Frederick’s parents had various duties over in England. That’s when they made an incredibly callous decision. Although they brought two of Frederick’s siblings along with them, they left the boy at home in the care of an uncle, without any idea of when they would see them again.
Well, it would be a very long time, and the consequences were unimaginable.
4. His Mother Put Him In Danger
Even as he spent his most formative years away from his parents, Frederick still felt their influence from afar—sometimes in unsettling ways. His mother Caroline was a sharp woman with a scientific mind, so when the brand-new smallpox vaccine came around, she didn’t hesitate to sign up her son for it, despite few people at the time fully understanding the effects.
I mean, she was right about vaccines—but it was still alarming how willing she was to put Frederick in harm’s way. When he grew up, he didn’t thank her for it.
5. He Became Prince Of Wales
In 1727, one of the most pivotal events of Frederick’s life took place. That June, his father took the throne as King George II, turning Frederick himself into the Prince of Wales. Now a strapping 20-year-old, Frederick was finally allowed to cross the border into England and begin serving his duty to what was essentially a foreign country.
It should have been a heartwarming family homecoming. Instead, Frederick’s parents got the shock of their lives.
6. He Was The Black Sheep
In the intervening years, Frederick had undergone a lot of changes, not all of them good ones. Brought up by private tutors with little concern for his sense of self, Frederick arrived in England already in mountains of debt from nights spent gambling, and with a penchant for taking up as many mistresses as he pleased.
The new King and Queen of England were agog. Yet their wayward son had even more disappointments in store.
7. He Got Revenge
Once in England, Frederick dealt his parents a crushing blow. After so many years away, he held a very big grudge against them, and he had no issues with showing it. Shortly after getting set up, he actually went about creating his own rival court made up of his parents’ political enemies.
But he was playing a dangerous game.
8. His Parents Tried To Betray Him
Now, having your parents abandon you for 14 years is a good reason to hate them, but it also meant that Frederick didn’t know quite who he was dealing with. His mother was an especially skilled stateswoman who had dealt with her fair share of naysayers, and she knew how to bring the hammer down.
Faced with her eldest son’s rebellion, she lavished praise on his younger brother Prince William instead, even looking into ways to disinherit Frederick as much as she could in favor of William. She wasn’t successful…but she had more in store.
9. His Father Snubbed Him
Although Caroline and George never fully figured out a way to disinherit their son (and, it turns out, they wouldn’t need to), they did figure out a way to bar him from accruing any more power for himself. In an insulting move for the misogynist times, whenever King George went away it was Caroline, not Frederick, who acted as Regent in his stead. Ouch.
Frederick’s next move proved just how much he needed parental guidance.
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10. He Hung Out With A Bad Crowd
As Frederick got comfy in court, he began displaying troubling behaviors. Namely, he had super bad judgement. He became fast friends with Lord John Hervey, the court gossip and all-around grade-A pot stirrer, which gives you some idea of the “virtues” that attracted Frederick. Together, he and Hervey went out and made a colossal mistake.
11. He Thought He Was An Artist
Besides loving messy drama, Frederick was a patron of the arts and a lover of music. So naturally, he and Hervey decided to combine their, er, talents, and write a theatrical comedy together. They staged it on Drury Lane in 1731, with Frederick going under the pseudonym “Captain Bodkin”.
If you can’t tell by that horrible penname, it was a genuine catastrophe.
12. He Was Bad At His Job
Let this be a lesson: Just because you’re a posh rich boy does not mean you can make good art. Reportedly, Frederick and Hervey’s little passion project was so bad, Drury Lane’s manager assumed that it wouldn’t make it past its own opening night, royal patron or not. In fact, he was so positive of this, he went to drastic measures.
13. He Nearly Caused A Riot
The manager knew he had his reputation to maintain, so he came up with an ingenious—if extreme—idea. The night Frederick’s play went on, the manager stationed soldiers within the audience, just to maintain order when the people realized what a stinker they had on their hands. He was quickly proven right.
The play flopped, the soldiers kept the angry audience in line, and everyone got their money back. But now that Frederick had a taste of scandal, he just kept going.
14. He Flaunted His Mistress
Even while he had all that going on, Frederick still found new ways to infuriate his parents. Namely, shortly after arriving in England, Frederick made a scandalous declaration to his mother: He was taking one of her ladies-in-waiting, Anne Vane, as his official mistress.
And when it came to Anne Vane, well…Frederick had met his match.
15. He Liked Bad Girls
Anne Vane came from a long line of naughty women; her own mother was infamous as a “scandalous” figure around court. Taking up this mantle, Vane entertained several lovers in her own heyday—Frederick was merely one of them. But soon enough, she was causing more than just gossip in Frederick’s court.
16. He Had A Love Child—Maybe
In the 1730s, Frederick made a momentous discovery. Anne Vane was pregnant—though, to this day, no one knows exactly who the father was. There were multiple candidates, including Frederick and a Lord Herrington. Nonetheless, Vane gave birth in the royal St James’s palace, indicating her relationship with Frederick was still going strong.
Besides, Vane knew exactly what to do now.
17. His Mistress Was Cunning
In a completely boss move and a master class at mistressing, Vane named her new baby boy “Fitz-Frederick”—which, in case you don’t know, means “Son of Frederick”. If you can’t know for sure the father of your child, just choose the most powerful one for yourself, right? Only, Vane’s machinations were going to cause a whole new rift in Frederick’s life.
18. He Was In A Spicy Love Triangle
Okay, I’ll admit it. There’s something big I’ve been keeping back here, but only because it was too juicy to give away all at once. Get this: Another of Anne Vane’s lovers was none other than Frederick’s BFF Lord Hervey, the court gossip. And while they somehow made their menage-a-trois work for a little while, the birth of little Fitz-Frederick seemed to change things.
Hervey apparently claimed Fitz Frederick was actually his son, and he and Frederick had a falling out around the time of his birth. But these weren’t the only changes coming for Frederick.
19. He Was An Eligible Bachelor
Frederick’s relationship with his parents the King and Queen was still a raging dumpster fire, but in the mid 1730s urgent matters drew them together. That is, as heir to the British throne, Frederick needed to marry and start producing legitimate heirs (that were definitely his children) stat.
As with all things House of Hanover, this too turned into a farce of the highest degree.
20. He Ruined His Own Wedding
You’d think it would be easy to marry off the supposed next King of England. Nope. Frederick’s road to matrimony was a disaster—and it was mostly his fault. Initially, Frederick’s father was in negotiations for him to marry the King of Prussia’s daughter. Only, royal marriage negotiations can take some time, and Frederick, never the model of maturity and patience, got sick of waiting.
He went over his father’s head and sent his own envoy to Prussia to complete the process, infuriating King George and helping to kibosh the whole thing. Good job, Frederick. Then again, he wasn’t necessarily in the marriage game for the right reasons.
21. He Was A Gold-Digger
More than true romance, Frederick was looking for a nice, fat dowry in a bride. After all, living life in the fast lane as he did came with a hefty price tag, and the Prince of Wales was in gambling debts up to his eyeballs. So when Lady Diana Spencer, one of the most literally well-endowed women in England, came up as a potential wife, Frederick jumped at the chance.
Unfortunately, the government and his parents did not, and Frederick was back to square one. From there it took an incredibly callous twist.
22. He Married For Money
By 1736, Frederick was 29 years old and tired of trying to find a new source of income—I mean, a bride. So when his father and mother suggested Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, a 16-year-old German princess with almost zero world experience, Frederick all but said “Fine, whatever”—telling his parents that he’d marry whomever they wanted him to...provided she brought enough money into the marriage.
No, it was not a fairy tale beginning. It was going to get so much worse.
23. He Had A Hasty Wedding
Poor Augusta arrived in England not knowing a word of English, which meant that while she could talk to the German royal family, she had very few other avenues of support. More than that, the shell-shocked girl had hardly any time to get her bearings, as her wedding to Frederick happened almost instantly in May of 1736.
Because of this, she was in no way prepared for what Frederick was about to put her through.
24. His Wife Was Pitiful
During her first few months in England, Frederick’s new bride performed a pitiful act. The teenager was so young and so naïve, people often spotted her through the windows of the palace playing with her dolls. It wasn’t a confident look for the new Princess of Wales, and Frederick’s sister had to convince Augusta to put the toys away and stop embarrassing them all.
Frederick’s brand of advice, though, was despicable.
25. He Got Up To Naughty Acts
During this time, Frederick had sloughed off his old mistress Anne Vane and taken up with Lady Archibald Hamilton, another English rose. Super tragically, Frederick found that marriage to Augusta was cramping his ability to see Lady Hamilton whenever he wanted—plus, there were the peskily true rumors about them all over the palace, which presented further barriers to sneaking over the garden wall together.
In the face of all this, Frederick came up with a diabolical plan.
26. He Manipulated His Wife In A Horrible Way
In one of the jerkiest moves ever recorded, Frederick took full advantage of his new bride’s naivety to solve his mistress issue. First, he swore up and down to Augusta that there was no truth in all those rumors about him and Lady Hamilton, and then he convinced her to take Hamilton on as a lady-in-waiting…which, of course, provided him unfettered access to his most-definitely mistress away from prying eyes.
Woof, I know. Yet somehow, his worst betrayal was his most subtle.
27. He Shut Out His Bride
Like I mentioned, Frederick’s mother Queen Caroline was a force of nature, and she definitely wore the pants in her relationship with the King. But Frederick, who wanted to do everything the opposite of his parents, intentionally kept himself aloof from Augusta for practically their whole marriage, swearing he would never make his consort his confidante.
But that didn’t stop him from asking her a sinister favor…
28. He Used Her As A Pawn
Frederick’s parents might have assumed that marriage would settle him down a bit, or at least keep him out of their hair. Instead, it unleashed his darkest side. Now realizing he could use Augusta as a pawn in other games, he began telling her to actively snub his parents, putting her forth as a front-line soldier in his petty family feud. The fallout was…simply ridiculous.
29. His Wife Did His Evil Bidding
Frederick’s creativity when it came to insulting his parents knew no bounds. At one point, he insisted that Augusta always arrive to chapel after his mother Queen Caroline. This may seem a small thing, but it meant that meek little Augusta had to rudely shove past Caroline every time to get to her own seat.
When Caroline caught onto this and ordered Augusta to use a different entrance, Frederick sallied back by telling his wife to refuse to enter the chapel entirely if Caroline had arrived before her. Incredible. Let me tell you though, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
30. He Got In A Public Fight With His Father
Throughout all this, Frederick continued to needle his parents almost incessantly for money—even with the coin that August brought as her dowry, it wasn’t enough. He’d have almost knock-down brawls with his father over the need for parliament to give him a bigger allowance for all his vices, creating more and more dysfunction between parents and son.
Soon, though, Frederick would get one heck of a revenge.
31. Fatherhood Made Him Worse
Though she was naive, it didn’t take long for Augusta to learn the ropes in the bedroom, and by 1737 she was pregnant with her and Frederick’s first child. It should have been a happy occasion at the palace. Instead, it produced the worst feud yet.
Upon hearing Augusta was pregnant, Queen Caroline reportedly insisted she be at the birth—implying, in the parlance of the day, that the baby might be illegitimate and the monarch needed to act as a supervisor. Well, Frederick wasn’t going to take that lying down, and his reaction was nearly unbelievable.
32. He Forced His Pregnant Wife Into An Awful Position
In July of 1737, Augusta went into labor. Yet instead of helping his wife in any way, the moment Frederick found out, he forced her to scurry into a carriage and ride for an hour and a half—while in labor, might I remind you—to the remote St James’s Palace. Why? Because he was determined to thwart his mother’s insistence at being at the birth.
It all unraveled quickly from there.
33. His First Daughter Was Born In A Ridiculous Situation
When Frederick and Augusta arrived at the palace, their presence shocked the skeleton crew of servants working there. No one was prepared to have guests that night, much less a labor. There was no bed set up for the purpose, nor any sheets, so wretched Augusta had to give birth to a baby girl, little Princess Augusta, on a tablecloth.
I KNOW. Still, the ordeal wasn’t over.
34. His Mother Got Payback
Queen Caroline had eyes and ears everywhere, so it wasn’t long before she found out what her hated son was up to. She rushed over to St James’s with an entourage that included Frederick’s ex-best friend, Lord Hervey—and when she got there, she made sure to rain down insults on the new parents.
Reportedly, the Queen let everyone know how happy she was that they’d had a “poor, ugly little she-mouse,” since nobody would try to pass off an illegitimate girl heir as real one. If there ever was a “beginning” to Frederick’s relationship with his parents, this was certainly the end.
35. He Was A “Fool”
Following the birth of Frederick’s daughter, Queen Caroline all but disowned her son, and had nothing but disdain for her daughter-in-law. Understanding that everything Augusta did had come from Frederick, Caroline once sneered, "Poor creature, were she to spit in my face, I should only pity her for being under such a fool's direction, and wipe it off”.
Indeed, she did save her worst vitriol for her son.
36. His Own Mother Hated Him
It’s difficult to exaggerate just HOW bad things were between Frederick and Caroline. One day, his mother dealt him one of the cruelest insults in history. According to Lord Hervey, she once saw Frederick walking around and cried, "Look, there he goes—that wretch!—that villain!—I wish the ground would open this moment and sink the monster to the lowest hole in hell!”
Imagine your mother saying that. Now, imagine your mother was the Queen of England. Even so, Frederick had more pot-stirring to do when it came to his father.
37. The Country Turned On His Parents
Around this time, support for Frederick’s parents began to flag, especially as his father frequently left the country and his mother took over more Regent duties. At one point, a prankster put up a notice on one of the royal residences, saying in critique of George: "Lost or strayed out of this house: A man who has left a wife and six children”.
For Frederick, it must have been a cause for petty delight. He was about to get more where that came from.
38. His Father Got Lost At Sea
At the end of 1736, Frederick’s father was rushing back from a trip to Hanover, hoping to appease his annoyed subjects. Then disaster struck. The King’s ship ran into a storm on the way back, and many feared he had perished. Instead of feeling any ounce of grief, though, Frederick only saw this as a cunning opportunity.
39. He Spread A Cruel Rumor
Rumors of the King’s death had been greatly exaggerated, and King George II made it back to England in early 1737, alive but exhausted. He was feverish and in desperate need of bed rest. That’s exactly when Frederick pounced. The Prince of Wales churned the rumor mill by saying that now the King really was dying. Then he sat back and watched the magic happen.
40. He Gave His Father A Dose Of Karma
Everyone assumed that Frederick was a reliable source, being the King’s son and all, and the court went into a panicked tizzy at the “news”. This completely forced King George’s hand, and the sick man had to drag himself out of bed and attend a social event to prove that he was not, in fact, dying. Once more, I’m sure Frederick was delighted.
However, as Shakespeare tells us, these violent delights have violent ends. Frederick was about to find that out for himself.
41. His Parents Banished Him
With this family baggage hanging around Frederick, his parents dealt their final blow. In the latter half of 1737, they banished him, Augusta, and their child from their court. The Prince and Princess of Wales packed up to go live in Leicester House, far away from the monarchy’s epicenter.
As it turned out, it would be the final battle in the family’s life-long war—because neither Frederick nor his mother had much time left.
42. His Mother Fell Deathly Ill
Just weeks after Frederick moved into Leicester House, tragedy visited the royal family. His mother Queen Caroline fell suddenly ill with what turned out to be a strangulated bowel. Long story short: It was fatal back then, and it was a nasty way to go. For days, the Queen lay in agony, waiting for the end to come. When Frederick heard, it broke even him.
43. He Tried To Reconcile, And Got Heartbreak
Frederick had spent his life sneering over his parents’ worst problems, but the impending doom of his mother was too much. He went to his father and asked if he could see the Queen and perhaps make amends. The answer he got back was heartbreaking. The King, with Caroline’s blessing, denied Frederick entry to her rooms. But she did give him one message.
44. His Mother Sent Him A Last Message
We may never know exactly what Caroline felt about her wayward son in her final hours, but she did send him a message via a politician that she forgave him. Then again, this sounds like it could have been genius-level passive-aggression, with Caroline “winning” their feud once and for all. Her next move certainly made it seem that way.
45. He Was Barred Form His Own Mother’s Funeral
When Queen Caroline passed on November 20, 1737, her husband King George II mourned her deeply along with the rest of the palace. Her funeral took place in Westminster Abbey about a month later…but you know who wasn’t invited, perhaps per Caroline’s instruction? That’s right, her eldest son Frederick. Yikes.
Still, the few years Frederick had left were about to take a surprising turn.
46. He Underwent An Enormous Change
Whether the passing of his mother helped straighten him out or not, for the next decade or so Frederick turned into a model citizen—or at least not the scourge of the crown. He somewhat settled down into life at Leicester House, and he and Augusta went on to have an abundant nine children together, among them the future King George III.
Other unexpected developments occurred too.
47. He Had A Suspicious Reconciliation
In the 1740s, a miraculous event happened. Frederick and his father had a reconciliation. Although it was mostly for political expediency—the Jacobite Rebellion brought about a near succession crisis in Scotland, and it was best to present a united front—relations between them warmed enough that Frederick and Augusta were regulars at court functions again.
Yet just as with his mother Caroline, any amends were too little, too late.
48. His End Came Suddenly
In March 1751, Frederick was 44 years old, in good health, and probably expecting to inherit the throne one day soon. More than that, his wife Augusta was pregnant at the time with their ninth child. In short, everything was looking up…but fate had much different plans in store.
While at home in Leicester House, Frederick likely suffered a pulmonary embolism and dropped dead. Then chaos reigned.
49. His Widow Fell Apart
Frederick’s newly-minted widow Augusta was only 32 at the time, and—despite all the trouble she had endured at Frederick’s hands—absolutely beside herself when she heard of his passing. As her doctor related, she barely believed the news, and her attendants spent hours trying to convince her of it. But not everyone mourned him.
50. His Father Insulted Him Once More
In the wake of his passing, Frederick’s father dealt him one final snub. Proving that the reconciliation had been mostly for show, he mourned his son very little, and only gave the late Prince of Wales a small funeral. It was, after all, what he always wanted: His least favorite son out of the line of succession. Still, Frederick’s legacy did live on, thanks to a surprising source.
51. His Wife Stepped Up To The Plate
Princess Augusta had grown up a lot since first marrying Frederick. Knowing she now depended on King George II’s good favor to get her own eldest son to the throne, Augusta threw herself at the monarch’s mercy. It worked: She was reportedly so charming, the King even gave her the coveted Regency position if anything happened to him and her son was still too young to rule.
It was something Frederick had never managed when he was alive, and it helped turn his son into King George III. Though on second thought…this wasn’t a good thing.
52. His Legacy Is Infamous
In the end, there was one more black spot on Frederick’s line: King George III, as we all know now, turned into “Mad” King George. Suffering from either porphyria or, more likely, bipolar disorder, George III experienced frequent fits of mania as an adult, foaming at the mouth, speaking nonsense, and throwing England into decades of instability.
Not the legacy his father would have wanted.