The lid is wreathed by a jewelled and tail-biting serpent emblematic of Eternity.
The Duke of York was the second son of King George III and brother of the Prince Regent, later King George IV. Educated at Kew, Prince Frederick entered the army in 1780 as a colonel. He left England for Hanover the next year and on his travels around the courst of Europe he studied not only French and German, but also the military methods of the Austrian and Prussian armies. He was created Duke of York and Albany in 1784 and returned to England in 1787 when, in the following year he took his seat in the House of Lords, where his opposition of William Pitt's Regency Bill was seen as being the will of the Prince of Wales, of whom he was a constant companion. He was seen as being a man of generous disposition and courtly manners, as illustrated by his refusal to return fire when challenged to a duel by Colonel Lennor, later Duke of Richmond, in 1789. The Duke received Lennox's fire and then calmly fired his shot in the air. He married Princess Frederica, eldest daughter of H.M. King Friedrich II of Prussia in 1791.
Following the example of his brother the Duke amassed a fabulous collection of silver which was both in the fashionable and neo-classical style and also in the antiquarian taste. On his death from dropsy in 1827 his affairs were a parlous state and his executors estimated his debt totalled between ¨200,000 and ¨500,000.