EARLS AND DUKES OF. GLOUCESTER The English earldom of Gloucester was held by several members of the royal family, including Robert, a natural son of Henry I., and John, afterwards king, and others, until 1218, when Gilbert de Clare was recognized as earl of Gloucester. It remained in the family of Clare until 1314, when another Earl Gilbert was killed at Bannockburn; and after this date it was claimed by various relatives of the Clares, among them by the younger Hugh le Despenser (d. 1326) and by Hugh Audley (d. 1347), both of whom had married sisters of Earl Gilbert. In 1397 Thomas le Despenser (1373-1400), a descendant of the Clares, was created earl of Gloucester; but in 1399 he was degraded from his earldom and in January 1400 was beheaded.
The dukedom dates from 1385, when Thomas of Woodstock, a younger son of Edward III., was created duke of Gloucester, but his honours were forfeited when he was found guilty of treason in 1397. The next holder of the title was Humphrey, a son of Henry IV., who was created duke of Gloucester in 1414. He died without sons in 1447, and in 1461 the title was revived in favour of Richard, brother of Edward IV., who became king as Richard III. in 1483.
In 1659 Henry (1639-1660), a brother of Charles II., was formally created duke of Gloucester, a title which he had borne since infancy. This prince, sharing the exile of the Stuarts, had incensed his mother, Queen Henrietta Maria, by his firm adherence to the Protestant religion, and had fought among the Spaniards at Dunkirk in 1658. Having returned to England with Charles II., he died unmarried in London on the 13th of September 1660. The next duke was William (1689-1700), son of the princess Anne, who was, after his mother, the heir to the English throne, and who was declared duke of Gloucester by his uncle, William III., in 1689, but no patent for this creation was ever passed. William died on the 30th of July 1700, and again the title became extinct.
Frederick Louis, the eldest son of George II., was known for some time as duke of Gloucester, but when he was raised to the peerage in 1726 it was as duke of Edinburgh only. In 1764 Frederick's third son, William Henry (1743-1805), was created duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh by his brother, George III. This duke's secret marriage with Maria (d. 1807), an illegitimate daughter of Sir Edward Walpole and widow of James, 2nd Earl Waldegrave, in 1766, greatly incensed his royal relatives and led to his banishment from court. Gloucester died on the 25th of August 1805, leaving an only son, William Frederick (1776-1834) ,who now became duke of Gloucester and Edinburgh. The duke, who served with the British army in Flanders, married his cousin Mary (1776-1857), a daughter of George III. He died on the 30th of November 1834, leaving no children, and his widow, the last survivor of the family of George III., died on the 30th of April 1857.
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