George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence
George Augustus Frederick Fitzclarence, first Earl of Munster (1794-1842), major-general, president of the Royal Asiatic Society of London, the eldest of the numerous children of the Duke of Clarence, afterwards William IV, by Mrs. Jordan (1762 ?-1816) [q. v.], was born in 1794. He was sent to a private school at Sunbury, and afterwards to the Royal Military College at Marlow, and on 5 Feb. 1807, before he was fourteen, was appointed cornet in the 10th hussars. He went with his regiment to Spain next year, and was aide-de-camp to General Slade at Corunna. He returned to the Peninsula the year after as galloper to Sir Charles Stewart, afterwards second marquis of Londonderry, then Lord Wellington's adjutant-general, and made the campaigns of 1809-11.
He was wounded and taken prisoner at Fuentes d'Onoro, but effected his escape in the mêlee. He was promoted to a troop in the 10th hussars at home soon after. He accompanied his regiment to Spain in 1813, and made the campaigns of 1813-14 in Spain and the south of France, first as a deputy assistant adjutant-general (Gurwood, Wellington Despatches, vi. 452), and afterwards with his regiment, while leading a squadron of which he was severely wounded at Toulouse. On the return of the regiment to England he was one of the chief witnesses against the commanding officer, Colonel Quentin, who was tried by a general court-martial at Whitehall, in October 1814, on charges of incapacity and misconduct in the field.
The charges were partly proved; but as the officers were believed to have combined against their colonel, the whole of them were removed to other regiments, 'as a warning in support of subordination,' a proceeding which acquired for them the name of the 'elegant extracts.' Fitzclarence and his younger brother Henry, who died in India, were thus transferred to the since disbanded 24th light dragoons, then in India, where George became aide-de-camp to the Marquis of Hastings, governor-general and commander-in-chief, in which capacity he made the campaigns of 1816-17 against the Mahrattas. When peace was arranged with the Maharajah Scindiah the event was considered of sufficient importance to send the despatches in duplicate, and Fitzclarence was entrusted with the duplicates sent by overland route. He started from the western frontier of Bundelkund, the furthest point reached by the grand army, 7 Dec. 1817, and travelling through districts infested by the Pindarrees, witnessed the defeat of the latter by General Doveton at Jubbulpore, reached Bombay, and quitted it in the H.E.I.C. cruiser Mercury for Kosseir 7 Feb. 1818, crossed the desert, explored the pyramids with Salt and Belzoni, descended the Nile, and reached London, via Alexandria and Malta, 16 June 1818. He subsequently published an account of his travels, entitled 'Journal of a Route across India and through Egypt to England in 1817-18,' London, 1819 4to, a work exhibiting much observation and containing some curious plates of Indian military costumes of the day from sketches by the author.
Fitzclarence became a brevet lieutenant-colonel in 1819, and the same year married a natural daughter of the Earl of Eglinton and sister of his old brother officer, Colonel Wyndham, M.P., by whom he had a numerous family. He subsequently obtained a troop in the 14th light dragoons, commanded the 6th carabiniers for a short time as regimental major in Ireland, and served as captain and lieutenant-colonel Coldstream guards from July 1825 to December 1828, afterwards retiring as lieutenant-colonel on half-pay unattached. In May 1830 he was raised to the peerage, under the titles of the Earl of Munster (one of the titles of the Duke of Clarence) and Baron Tewkesbury in the United Kingdom, his younger brothers and sisters at the same time being given the precedence of the younger children of a marquis. For a short time he was adjutant-general at the Horse Guards, a post which he resigned.
The Duke of Wellington appointed him lieutenant of the Tower and colonel 1st Tower Hamlets militia, but refers to him (Wellington Correspondence, vii. 195, 498) as having done a good deal of mischief by meddling with Mrs. Fitzherbert's affairs. He appears to have busied himself a good deal with politics before the passing of the Reform Bill (ib. viii. 260, 274, 306, 326), and after the resignation of the whig cabinet in 1832 became very unpopular, on the supposition that he had attempted to influence the king against reform, a charge he emphatically denied (Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xiii. 179-80). At the brevet on the birth of the Prince of Wales he became a major-general, and was soon after appointed to command the Plymouth district. His health had been for some time impaired by suppressed gout, which appears to have unhinged his mind. He committed suicide by shooting himself, at his residence in Upper Belgrave Street, 20 March 1842. He was buried in the parish church at Hampton.
Munster was a privy councillor, governor and captain of Windsor Castle, a fellow of the Royal Society, and of the Royal Geographical, Antiquarian, Astronomical, and Geological societies of London. He became a member of the Royal Asiatic Society on its first formation in 1824, was elected a member of the council in March 1825, in 1826 was one of the committee commissioned to draw up a plan for a committee of correspondence, was many years vice-president, and was chosen president the year before his death. On 4 Oct. 1827 he was nominated by the society member of a committee to prepare a plan for publishing translations of oriental works, and was subsequently appointed deputy-chairman and vice-president of the Oriental Translation Fund, which was largely indebted to his activity in obtaining subscriptions and making the necessary arrangements, and particularly in securing the co-operation of the Propaganda Fide and other learned bodies in Rome (Oriental Transl. Fund, 3rd Rep., 1830).
He was also president of the Society for the Publication of Oriental Texts. He communicated to the Societe Asiatique of Paris a paper on the employment of Mohammedan mercenaries in Christian armies, which appeared in the 'Journal Asiatique,' 56 cahier (February 1827), and was translated in the 'Naval and Military Magazine' (ii. 33, iii. 113-520), a magazine of which four volumes only appeared. With the aid of his secretary and amanuensis, Dr. Aloys Sprenger (the German orientalist, afterwards principal of Delhi College), Munster had collected an immense mass of information from the great continental libraries and other sources for a 'History of the Art of War among Eastern Nations' (see Ann. Rep. p. v, Journal Royal Asiatic Society, vol. vii.) With this object he sent out, two years before his death, an Arabic circular, 'Kitab-i-fibrist al Kutub,' &c. (or 'A List of Desiderata in Books in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Hindustani on the Art of War among Mohammedans'), compiled, under the order of Munster, by Aloys Sprenger, London, 1840. Munster was likewise the author of 'An Account of the British Campaign in Spain and Portugal in 1809,' London, 1831, which originally appeared in Colburn's 'United Service Magazine.'
Munster is described as having been a most amiable man in private life, and much beloved by his old comrades of the 10th hussars.
[Burke's Peerage, under 'Munster ;' Jerdan's Nat. Portraits, vol. iii., with portrait after Atkinson ; Proceedings of Court-martial on Colonel Quentin, printed from the shorthand writer's notes (1814); Fitzclarence's Account of a Journey across India, &c. (1819); Wellington Correspondence, vols. vii. and viii. ; Greville Correspondence, 1st ser. ii. 10, 43, 168; Royal Asiatic Society, London, Comm. of Correspondence (London, 1829) ; Annual Report in Journal Royal Asiatic Society, London, vol. vii. (1843); Gent. Mag. new ser. xvii. 358, xviii. 677 (will) ; a etter from Lord Munster to the Duke of Montrose in 1830 is in Egerton MS. 29300, f. 119.]
Henry Manners Chichester, Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 19. pgs. 106-107.