The Duke of York affair (1809) and the complexities of wartime patriotism

Philip Harling

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23 Scopus citations


The essay examines the forced resignation of the duke of York as commander-in-chief of the British army in 1809 as a case study in the complexities of patriotism during the Napoleonic war. The recent work of Linda Colley and others has emphasized the conservative use of wartime patriotism as a means of defending the established political order in general and royalty in particular. But the parliamentary and outdoor pressure that prompted the duke to step down in response to suspicions that he had permitted his mistress to trqffick in army commissions indicates that staunch supporters as well as critics of the status quo did not hesitate to invoke patriotism as a means of criticizing royalty when it was thought to have neglected its duty to set a good moral example to the nation. There is no question that a large majority of the duke's critics felt that royalty was integral to what they believed was Britain's uniquely privileged position in the world. But the York affair suggests that a great many ‘patriotic’ Britons felt that the royal family had to be protected from its own occasional indiscretions as well as from the Napoleonic peril.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)963-984
Number of pages22
JournalHistorical Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


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