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1809: The resignation of the Duke of York

In January 1809, Lt Colonel Gwyllym Lloyd Wardle accused the Duke of York (the second son of George III) of abusing his position as Commander-in-Chief of the British army. Wardle claimed that the Duke’s former mistress, Mary Ann Clarke, had received money in return for obtaining promotions from the Duke by adding names to lists for his signature. Although he was cleared of wrongdoing (he was unaware that the names had been added), the Duke resigned his post in March.

The Triumverate of Gloucester Place, by Rowlandson ©

The Duke’s troubles continued, however, as Mrs Clarke, with whom he had ended contact in 1806, attempted to publish a series of volumes about their relationship and had to be paid to desist. The Duke’s sister Princess Elizabeth lamented that ‘there never was so infamous a business’.

The caricaturists and pamphleteers had a field day. Rowlandson issued over 30 satires on the scandal, most of them published by Thomas Tegg, who issued cheap prints aimed at undercutting rival printsellers. Tegg, who promised his customers a daily caricature on Mrs Clarke, anticipated that the satires would be collected, and issued a title page to be used in binding the series.