Edward Augustus was born at Buckingham House on 2 November 1767 and was the fourth son and fifth child of George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Edward was fourth in the line of succession from birth and he was named after his paternal uncle, Edward, Duke of York and Albany, who had died several weeks earlier and was buried the day before his birth.
The young prince was sent to Lüneburg and Hanover to begin his military training in 1785, and then was sent to Geneva in 1788 where he met Julie, Madame de Saint-Laurent, who became his mistress. When Edward was posted to Gibraltar, he managed to continue the affair by making arrangements for Julie to be brought to him. When George III learned of the affair, he sent his son to Quebec where he became the first member of the royal family to tour Upper Canada. George III’s plan to separate Edward from Julie backfired though as he took her with him, introducing her as the widowed Madame de Saint-Laurent.
In 1794, Edward settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he constructed the iconic Garrison Clock and set about re-organising the city’s military defences to protect the naval base. While in Halifax, Edward and Julie lived on a country estate where they entertained numerous dignitaries, including Louis Philippe of Orléans (the future King of the French). Four years later, Edward was allowed to return to England after falling from a horse.
On 24 April 1799, Edward was created Duke of Kent and Strathearn, and later that year, he was promoted to the rank of general and appointed Commander-in-Chief of British forces in North America. Edward returned to Canada, remaining there for a further twelve months before returning to England. Edward was then appointed Governor of Gibraltar by the War Office and he took up his post on 24 May 1802 with orders to restore discipline among the drunken troops, however the duke’s harsh discipline provoked a mutiny on Christmas Eve 1802. Edward was then recalled from his post and forbidden from returning even though he demanded to be present for the inquiry. Edward was promoted to the rank of field marshal, however his time in the military was at an end and he was appointed Ranger of Hampton Court Park on 5 September 1805.
Edward, who had never married, continued his liaison with Madame de Laurent, however the death of his niece, Charlotte of Wales, in November 1817 would change everything. Since Charlotte was the only legitimate grandchild of George III at the time, her death provoked a succession crisis and the unmarried sons were suddenly called upon to look for wives since it was unlikely the married ones would provide an heir. Edward chose Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, a widow with two young children, and they were married on 29 May 1818 at Schloss Ehrenburg, Coburg, and again on 11 July 1818 at Kew Palace, Surrey. Julie quietly retreated to Paris where she lived out the remainder of her days.
The Duke and Duchess of Kent initially resided in Germany, however they returned to England when the duchess became pregnant as it was important for the child to be born in Britain. On 24 May 1819, the duchess gave birth to a daughter, Alexandrina Victoria, and her father proudly declared she would become Queen of England one day. Sadly, Edward would not live long enough to see his daughter on the throne as he contracted pneumonia a few months later, dying on 23 January 1820 at Woolbrook Cottage, Sidmouth. Six days later, his father, George III, would follow him and the Prince Regent ascended as George IV.