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Here lies poor Fred

How a cricket ball is supposed to have changed royal history

By Dawn NelsonPublished 3 years ago Updated 3 years ago 3 min read
Top Story - October 2021
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Frederick, Prince of Wales

Here lies poor FRED, who was alive and is dead

Had it been his Father I had much rather,

Had it been his Sister nobody would have miss’d Her,

Had it been his Brother, still better than another,

Had it been the whole Generation, so much better for the Nation,

But since it is FRED who was alive and is dead,

There is no more to be said!

This quirky little poem marks the odd death of a royal prince who was widely believed to have been killed by a rogue cricket ball.

Prince Frederick Lewis, Prince of Wales and eldest son of Hanover King George II and Queen Caroline, died at Leicester House, London on March 20, 1751 just a few weeks after his forty-fourth birthday.

A keen sportsman, he had been struck by a cricket ball (or a tennis ball depending on the story) some two years before his death. It is that which is believed to have caused an abscess on his lungs which never healed and plagued him for the rest of his life.

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. So, what really happened to the heir to the throne?

Days before his death, Frederick developed pleurisy which became so bad he had to be confined to bed under the watchful eyes of the royal doctors. At first, the prince appeared to be getting better, but the abscess burst causing him to cough painfully.

Shortly before his death, after a particularly painful coughing fit, he is said to have clutched his stomach and declared to his German page “Je sens la mort!”. The page alerted Frederick’s wife who had been sitting at the foot of the bed, but by the time she reached her husband, he was dead.

A post mortem was carried out and his death was declared to have been caused by ‘imposthume’ or an abscess that broke. However, general medical opinion today is that he probably actually died of pneumonia.

Frederick was buried at Westminster Abbey with a minimum ceremony and no royal family member present. Despite being popular with the British public, he was not liked in the palace… especially by his own parents. His mother, Queen Caroline famously called him “‘the greatest ass and the greatest liar and the greatest canaille and the greatest beast in the whole world”.

Part of this could be explained by Frederick’s childhood. His parents left Hanover to take up the British throne in 1714 when he was seven and he did not see them again until 14 years later. He arrived in Britain a grown man and could never get close to his mother and father.

A spendthrift and a womaniser, Frederick’s early antics embarrassed the royal family and there were regular arguments whilst the King and Queen tried to reign in their wayward son.

There was so much rancour between them that when his wife, Augusta, was in labour, rather than having his child born at Hampton Court Palace where the King and Queen were, Frederick snuck her out to St James’ Palace to give birth. Traditionally royal births take place in front of family members and senior courtiers. By taking his wife away, Frederick broke with that tradition and humiliated his parents. Frederick was banished from court and set up his own court in his new home, Leicester House. This further isolated him from his family.

Despite all of this, the King and Queen stuck to tradition when it came to bereavement. They commanded that following Frederick’s death there should be a six-month period of mourning for their offspring.

However, and somewhat ironically, a cricket match was allowed to be held in his honour at Saltford Meadow in Bath in July that same year.

Born and brought up in Hanover, Frederick came to England in 1728 when his father ascended the crown following his own father’s (George I) death in 1727. Easy going, Frederick liked the good life: women, gambling and sports. He was keen on the arts, wrote songs and poetry, played instruments and was a keen hunter.

Following his death, his eldest son became heir to the throne and was later crowned King George III – yes, that’s right, the one who was also known as the mad one.

Historical
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About the Creator

Dawn Nelson

Dawn is a writer, journalist and award winning author from Scotland. She lives near Loch Lomond with her kids and numerous pets and is currently working on a couple of new book series.

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