HENRY FREDERICK, Prince, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn (1745-1790). Autograph manuscript logs of two voyages on HMS Venus in the Mediterranean and the Channel, 25 June 1768 - 9 March 1769 and 15 June - 28 July 1769.
Recording course, wind, weather, ships encountered, military exercises undertaken and remarks on noteworthy events onboard. 62 written leaves, 4to (233 x 180mm), (first two and last written leaves detached). Original reverse calf (boards detached).
The log opens with Prince Henry's note of his enrolment as a midshipman on the Venus, and goes on to record the ship's voyage to Corsica, including their encounters with Rear Admiral Sir John Moore [commander-in-chief of The Downs] and his division of guardships, and their exercising of the arms aboard the vessel. Misadventures are also reported: before leaving Woolwich, one Robert Simpson falls overboard and is drowned, later in the voyage three deserters are returned to their rightful ship, the Dragon. Having completed just short of a year as midshipman, Henry made the direct transition to Rear-Admiral, and on 15 June 1769 he hoists his flag in the same ship, taking control of a squadron [the Venus, Tweed, Seaford, Glory and Lively, with the Fly and Wolf sloops], whose tactical exercises in the English Channel he continues to record, on one occasion taking the rather innovative decision to watch his tactics play out at a remove: 'the Squadron was employed forming Lines of Battle and different Manoeuvres, the better to observe which I went on board the Hind, which ship kept always to windward to repeat the Signals'.
Prince Henry's brief naval career appears to have been a futile attempt by his brother, George III, to keep him out of trouble. If so, only the choice of his ship's name can be said to have been a success. Immediately after his return from his first voyage, Henry began an affair with with Harriet, the wife of Richard, 1st Baron Grosvenor, which was to culminate in them being caught in flagrante delicto in an inn at St Albans in December 1769, whereupon Henry was successfully sued for the substantial sum of £10,000 in damages by the indignant husband. Nothing abashed, he went on to marry the widow Anne Horton in October 1771, a union which so enraged the king that it precipitated the passage of the Royal Marriages Act 1772, by which no descendant of George II could marry without the consent of the monarch. No doubt inspired by his sea-going days, Henry went on to establish the forerunner of the Royal Yacht Club in 1775, and he passed full admiral in the navy in 1778, on the express condition that he assume no command. He was an early influence on his nephew, the future George IV, and was the first royal patron of the resort of Brightelmstone (Brighton).