Grand Old Duke of York Answers

1. Although the title is traditionally given to the monarch's second son, several Dukes of York eventually inherited the throne. Who were they?
Five of the 14 Dukes of York eventually became king. Edward IV was the first Duke of York to take the throne--literally. A great-grandson of King Edward III, he defeated the Lancastrian King Henry VI.

Henry VIII's older brother Arthur Prince of Wales had died in his teens leaving behind a young widow, Catherine of Aragon, whom Henry married and later divorced. [Read Catherine's story.]

Charles I's older brother Henry Prince of Wales died of typhoid at age 18.

James II became king when his older brother Charles II failed to have any legitimate children, although the noble houses of England are filled with descendants of his bastards. Even Prince William is a descendant through his mother.

George V's older brother Albert Victor Duke of Clarence died of pneumonia at age 27 shortly after becoming engaged to Princess Mary of Teck, whom George then married. [Read their story.]

George VI assumed the throne following the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII. His story is depicted in the recent award-winning film, "The King's Speech."

2. Which Duke of York earned the popular nickname the "Grand Old Duke of York"?
It is not clear which Duke of York has been immortalized in this nursery song. There are three possible contenders: Edward IV's father Richard Duke of York; King James II; and George III's second son Frederick Duke of York. Frederick seems the most likely candidate but there is no way to know whether the story even has a tie to an historical event at all.

3. For which Duke of York was the city of New Amsterdam renamed?
As Lord High Admiral, James Duke of York played an important role in England's war with the Dutch. When England captured the Dutch colony of New Netherland and its main city New Amsterdam, King Charles II renamed them both in honor of his brother, who later succeeded him as King James II. The city of Albany was also names in honor of James's Scottish title, Duke of Albany.

4. Queen Victoria did not give the Duke of York title to her second son. What title did he receive instead?
King George III had a host of disreputable sons who had been given the royal dukedoms of York, Clarence, Kent, Cumberland, Sussex and Cambridge. When George's granddaughter became Queen Victoria, she opted not to use any of these titles for his sons, not even Kent, which had been her father's title. Cumberland and Cambridge were still in use, but she could have used any of the others. However, she made her second son Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh. He later inherited the German dukedom of Saxe-Coburg from his paternal uncle. Victoria gave her other younger sons the royal dukedoms of Connaught and Albany. Interestingly,three previous Dukes of Albany had also been Dukes of York. The choice of Edinburgh and Albany may have reflected Victoria's love of Scotland while Connaught, a new creation, underscored the British domination of Ireland. The title has been vacant since the death of Victoria's great-grandson in 1942. Since Connaught is now part of the Republic of Ireland, this title is unlikely to ever be re-created.

As her family grew, Victoria did resurrect the titles of Clarence and York for her grandsons, the sons of the Prince of Wales.

5. Which Dukes of York passed the title to his heir?
The title Duke of York has only passed directly from father to son twice. The first Duke of York, Edmund of Langley, fourth son of Edward III passed it to his son Edward of Norwich. By the time Edward of Norwich died, the Yorkist branch of the royal family had been attainted due to treason and the title did not pass immediately to his son Richard. A decade later, however, the title was re-created for Richard, who then passed it to his son, the future Edward IV.

Of the remaining Dukes of York who did not inherit the throne, one died as a child, two never married and one had no children with his wife. The current Duke of York, Prince Andrew, has no heir for the title either because it is limited to the male line. Unless he re-marries and has a son, the title will die out again with him.

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