Sir Augustus Frederick d'Este KCB KCH (1794–1848)

son of Prince Augustus Frederick‚ Duke of Sussex and
Lady Augusta Murray and the grandson of George III.

Augustus Frederick d'Este almost certainly suffered from multiple sclerosis, keeping a detailed diary in which he describes 22 years living with the disease. His diary, began in 1822 and ended in 1846, remained undiscovered until "The Journal of a Disappointed Man" was published on 31st March 1919 by one 'WNP Barbellion'1. In 1948 this publication was revealed by Douglas Firth2.

By 1817 d'Este had embarked on a military career in the 9th Light Dragoons, formed during the Jacobite Risings of 1715. His symptoms began at age 28 with a sudden transient loss of vision following the funeral of his close friend. During the course of his disease, he developed weakness of the legs, clumsiness of the hands, numbness, dizziness, bladder disturbances, and erectile dysfunction3. In 1844, he started using a wheelchair. Despite his illness, Augustus Frederick maintained an optimistic view of life.

early wheelchair

  • The Scottish Connection

  • Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex

    His father, the Duke of Sussex, was born in 1773, ninth child and sixth son of George III. Augustus, was educated abroad and supposed to follow his brother William into the navy, but he suffered from severe asthma and so avoided military service. His father. George III, tried to keep him abroad, firstly for his health and secondly to avoid English women who might lead him astray!

    While travelling in Italy, he met Lady Augusta Murray (1768-1830), the second daughter of 4th Earl of Dunmore. The couple married in Rome on 4 April 1793, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. Mr Gunn. and again in England at St. George's, Hanover Square, London on 5 December 1793. They subsequently had two children; a son, Augustus Frederick, born 13 January 1794, London, and a daughter, Augusta Emma, born on 11th August 1801.

    Although his mother, Lady Augusta Murray was born in London, she was of ancient Scottish stock. Augustus Frederick's grandfather was John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore and his grandmother, Lady Charlotte Stewart daughter of the Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway.

    Neither ceremony was with the knowledge of, nor received the consent of, Prince Frederick's father, George III. The King's minister of Hanover affairs Ernst zu Münster, was dispatched to Italy to escort the errant prince back to London. The following year, in August 1794, the Prerogative Court annulled the marriage on the grounds that it contravened the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 because it had not been approved by the King. Later that year Augustus left her, so as to be granted a dukedom obtaining a higher parliamentary allowance. (Lady Augusta Murray had the distinction of being the only lady whose marriage from contracting unsuitable alliances.) Nevertheless, Prince Augustus continued to live with Lady Augusta until 1801, when he received a parliamentary grant of £12,000.

  • Mount Albion House, Ramsgate

  • Lady Augusta retained custody of their two children and received a maintenance of £4,000 a year whereupon the family returned to England moving into Mount Albion House, Ramsgate. In 1806 Prince Augustus brought an action to stop her using the Royal Arms and in 1809 a further action to take the children away as he understood that she was bringing them up to believe that they were "Prince" and "Princess".

  • Este family title

  • In 1809 the children were given the name "d'Este". The House of Este is an ancient European princely dynasty. Originally split into two branches; the House of Welf-Este and the House of Fulc-Este, later simply the House of Este these were re-united in 1705. Both houses are related in antiquity to the 800-year-old House of Wettin. The former, the House of Welf, produced dukes of Bavaria, Saxony, and a German king, but most impactful upon history, the dukes of Brunswick and Lüneburg — later styled the "Electors of Hanover" - a more prestigious title in the Holy Roman Empire than 'Arch-duke' or 'duke'.

    After the peace ending the Napoleonic wars reshaped Europe, the Electorate of Hanover (the Duchy of Brunswick and Lüneburg held by King George III in personal union) was dissolved but passed from being a personal union of the male British rulers to an "uncle" under salic laws of inheritance. The House of Este was hence given to the Hanoverian monarchs of the United Kingdom and Augustus' grandfather, George III could therefore confer the name "d'Este" upon his grandchildren.

    Este coat-of-arms

    George III created Prince Augustus Frederick, Augustus d'Este's father, Duke of Sussex, Earl of Inverness, and Baron Arklow and a Knight of the Garter. Not to be outdone, his mother, Lady Augusta called herself 'Duchess' conferring upon herself the title of "Lady d'Ameland" obtained by a Royal licence in 1806 referring to her family connection with the House of Orange. Lady D'Ameland died in 1830 and the estate passed to Augustus' sister Emma d'Este alone not shared with her disabled brother.

    In 1831 Prince Augustus Frederick, The Duke of Sussex re-married Cecilia Underwood, Duchess of Inverness. was the favourite uncle of Queen Victoria. On 10 February 1840, in the Chapel Royal of St. James's Palace, he gave her away at her wedding to Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Duke of Sussex died at Kensington Palace in 1843. In his will he specified that he was not to have a state funeral and was accordingly buried in Kensal Green Cemetery on 5 May 1843. Since he died without legitimate issue, the titles of Augustus' father became extinct.

  • Freemasonary

  • His father, Prince Augustus Frederick, was probably the most liberal of the sons of George III. Like his brother Edward, he involved himself in Whig politics, social reform and charity work. He was also interested in languages, art and science. Five of his brothers were Freemasons and he became a Mason whilst living in Berlin in 1798. Once back in England in 1800 he joined the Prince of Wales’s Lodge. In 1810 he became Grand Principal of the Grand and Royal Chapter, and in 1812 Deputy Grand Master. Three years later he succeeded his brother, the Prince Regent, as the Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England. When the two rival English lodges ratified the Articles of Union, signed by two Dukes, Kent and Sussex, Augustus proclaimed, "This is the happiest day of my life". Augustus Frederick was now Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England, a position he would hold until his death.

    Knight Commander Order of the Bath (KCB)

    Like his father before him, Augustus eventually became Past Junior Grand Warden in the United Grand Lodge of England. He was made a Knight Commander Order of the Bath (KCB) and Knight Commander of The Royal Guelphic Order(KCH)- sometimes referred to as the 'Hanoverian Guelphic Order'- an Hanoverian order of chivalry instituted in 1815 by the Prince Regent (Later George IV).

    Augustus Frederick d'Este died 28 December 1848 (aged 54) at 21 Gore, Kensington. London. Initially he was buried in All Souls Cemetery, London. Later his body later his remains were moved for reinterment in Ramsgate.

    Knight Commander Order of the Royal Guelphic Order(KCH)

    Autograph Letter

    Autograph Letter Signed ‘Augustus d’Este’‚ 2 9 x 7½ inches explaining that his father is in Wales‚
    and that his correspondent should write requesting the return of the papers.
    Written at The Pavilion‚ Brighton‚ 19 October 1830.
    Royal Pavillion, Brighton

    1. This pseudonym concealed the identity of Bruce Frederick Cummings (1889-1919).
    2. Firth, D. (1948), "The Case of August D'Esté", Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    3. Abstract of symptoms in 'European Neurology'.

    4. See also:
    5. Alastair Compston et al. (2005), McAlpine's Multiple Sclerosis, Churchill Livingstone.
    6. Landtblom, Anne-Marie; Fazio Patrik, Fredrikson Sten, Granieri Enrico (2010). "The first case history of multiple sclerosis: Augustus d'Esté (1794-1848)". Neurol. Sci. (Italy) 31 (1): 29–33. doi:10.1007/s10072-009-0161-4. PMID 19838623.
    7. Landtblom, Anne-Marie; Enrico Granieri, Sten Fredrikson (2007). "Augustus d'Este ­ the first documented case of MS" (Swedish). Lakartidningen (Sweden) 104 (26-27): 2009–11. ISSN 0023-7205. PMID 17639800.
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    Last edited May 2011. ©Terence Wilson MMIX