Rejoice! Says Kent ‘Baron’ Barker, we are a Ducal County (again).

What true blooded yeoman (or yeowoman) of Sussex cannot have felt their heart stir upon the news that, once again, we have a Duke to lord over us.  Yes, the Queen has seen fit to reward us by reviving the ancient title, Duke of Sussex, and bestowing it on her grandson Harry.

Duke of Sussex Coat of Arms

Actually it’s not so ancient.  It was created on 24 November 1801 and handed to Prince Augustus Fredrick, the sixth son of George III.  The monarch that lost us our American colonies and then went a bit bonkers; though not necessarily as a result. (In fact he was thought to be suffering from porphyria whose symptoms include blue urine – which makes a change from blue blood, I suppose.)  Anyway Augustus Fredrick made the mistake of (twice) marrying without the King’s permission thus contravening the Royal Marriages act of 1772.  The first time his marriage to Lady Augusta Murray, the second daughter of the 4th Earl of Dunmor, was annulled within a year thus making their children illegitimate and therefore unable to inherit the Dukedom.

The Prince’s second marriage was to Lady Cecilia Letitia Buggin – hence the well known term, Buggin’s turn.  But that too failed to get the royal approval – the monarch by now being the Sailor King, William IV, who was presumably too busy siring ten illegitimate children with his mistress, Shakespearean actress Dorethea Jordan.

It meant that Lady Cecilia Letitia Buggin was also unable ever to call herself the Duchess of Sussex and the title became extinct on the death of the princely Duke Augustus in 1843.

First Duke of Sussex

This first Duke of Sussex though, was an interesting, and at six foot three inches, an imposing figure. He was president of the Royal Society and the Society of Arts and a leading Freemason as Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge
of England. He was keenly interested in religion and had more than 50,000 theological manuscripts in his personal library – many in Hebrew. 
He was a favourite uncle to Victoria and gave her away at her marriage to Albert.  He’s buried in an austere tomb in Kensal Green cemetery.

But what, you might ask, is the relevance in the 21st century of a ducal title, except possibly to remind us that we lowly commoners (still) have a flourishing hereditary monarchy and aristocracy firmly rooted in the past? There are still some 800 peers with five possible lordly titles, ranked from highest to lowest – Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, and Baron for men; Duchess, Marchioness, Countess, Viscountess, and Baroness for women.

Fortunately only 92 of them are still entitled to sit in the House of Lords and pass the laws we must obey.  But surely the question should be why are ANY of them entitled to do anything just because they were born into the aristocracy.  And why on earth is the monarch perpetuating this elitist hierarchical system?  It may, of course, be ‘nice’ for an American to have a comforting title such as the Duchess of Sussex, but hasn’t Harry got enough already?  He’s already a Prince, a Royal Highness, the Earl of Dumbarton, and Baron Kilkeel, and even if he gave all those up he’d still be a Sir – he was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by his grandmother in 2015.  Strip him of all of them and summon the tumbrils – or celebrate Britain’s quaint and colourful past?

 

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