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Anyone have knowledge about Willian Frederick - Duke of Gloucester or British mail? What is this??

PipestonePetePipestonePete Posts: 1,893 ✭✭✭✭✭

I came across this item this afternoon while sorting through the archives. I remember purchasing it a number of years ago in a group of old papers. A note note attached says "William Frederick - Duke of York1763-1829 Second son of King George III".
But, when I read the writing on the card it appears to say "Bergshot January twenty four, 1823........Colonel Williamson...... Royal Military Asylum Chelsea....William Frederick London". Someone has written "Duke of Gloucester d. 1834" along the bottom of the card. After doing a little research I believe that this IS the Duke of Gloucester and not the Duke of York. The card itself appears to be a postal item as there seems to be a postmark that might read "FREE FRANK(????)1823". I have no knowledge of British royalty or the British postal system. Can anyone shed any light on what this might be? Thanks!!


  • JBKJBK Posts: 14,242 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 13, 2020 2:20PM

    Easy for me, for once! :D

    That is the front panel of a folded letter (pre-envelope) bearing a "free frank". They are usually found this way. I have a bunch of these and only one is the entire "wrapper".

    Presumably all the writing is in the hand of the sender, William Frederick, whose signature appears in the lower left. Members of Parliament/House of Lords (also Royalty?) could mail letters this way.

    The top line is the place and date the letter was mailed. The red postmark says FREE but the rest is probably the date.

    The signature in the lower corner is the signature of the sender, which is how they exercised their free franking privileges. (In the US the signatures of politicians are in the upper right hand corner.)

    Now, I have no idea who William Frederick is, and if the later addition under the signature applies to the sender or the recipient.

    You mention "card" - these would be on the good quality thin paper of the era, so if it is stiffer than that then it was probably glued to a backing.

    Great item - when I lived in London I lived around the corner from the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, no doubt the same compound as the "Royal Military Asylum Chelsea" mentioned here.

  • JBKJBK Posts: 14,242 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 13, 2020 2:25PM

    A quick Internet search:

    **Prince William Frederick (15 January 1776 - 30 November 1834) was the son of William Henry, 1st Duke of Gloucester, a younger brother of George III. He became the 2nd Duke of Gloucester on his father's death. **

    So it appears he was the Duke of Gloucester, and presumably a member of the House of Lords.

  • 291fifth291fifth Posts: 23,732 ✭✭✭✭✭

    JBK has nailed it. A letter from this period would not have had a postage stamp as those were not introduced until May of 1840. In the case of this piece the "Free" frank adds interest.

    It is too bad the entire piece does not exist. I'd like to know what the message was.

    All glory is fleeting.
  • PipestonePetePipestonePete Posts: 1,893 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited May 14, 2020 7:59AM

    Thank you, JBK and 291fifth for the information!

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