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Prince Augustus Frederick
Timeline: Cherry, Plum, and Chrysanthemum

Prince Augustus Frederick
Portrait of Prince Augustus Frederick

Archbishop of Canterbury
August 6, 1828 – April 21, 1843

Predecessor Charles Manners-Sutton
Successor John Bird Sumner

Bishop of Chichester
August 1, 1824 – August 6, 1828

Predecessor John Buckner
Successor Robert Carr
Born January 27, 1773
Westminster, London, Flag of Great Britain (1707–1800).svg Kingdom of Great Britain
Died April 21, 1843 (aged 70)
Lambeth, Surrey, the Flag of the United Kingdom.svg United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Religion Christianity (Anglicanism)
Profession Clergyman

Prince Augustus Frederick, KG, KT, GCB, GCH, PRS, FRSA (January 27, 1773 – April 21, 1843) was the sixth son and ninth child of King George III and his queen consort, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Prince Frederick was a bishop in the Church of England who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1828 to 1843.[1] He was the only surviving son of George III who did not pursue an army or navy career.

As bishop, Augustus Frederick was known for promoting High Church thinking of the Oxford Movement to the royal family, especially to Queen Victoria, to whom he served as spiritual advisor. On other hand, he was remembered as progressive social reformer in addressing the issues such as poverty, slave abolition and political and civil liberties of British citizens, especially during his later years as the archbishop.

Biography

Augustus Frederick was a younger son of George III of England and Ireland (and later of the United Kingdom). As a young man, he decide to become a minister. At first his father opposed him, but later consented. Augustus Frederick rose quickly through the ecclesiastical ranks, thanks to royal tutelage and ended up as a bishop by 1810. Augustus Frederick became the 'conscience' of the House of Hanover, a role which its other members were all too ready to concede to him.

In 1820, the rise of the Plymouth Brethren and Methodists, which were Low Church evangelical movements, led to Augustus Frederick's support to Oxford Movement later when he consecrated as Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1824, Augustus Frederick was consecrated as the Bishop of Chichester, replacing deceased John Buckner, a post he was to occupy until 1828, when he became Archbishop of Canterbury. Under royal patronage, the Oxford Movement grew more quickly and spread farther. Augustus Frederick became a favorite uncle of his niece Victoria, and therefore influenced her thinking, pushing her further towards High Church thinking.

Academic assessments in the 20th and 21st centuries regarded Frederick as progressive on many social issues but conservative on matters of faith and morals, which included reform of Parliament, abolition of the slave trade and the removal of existing civil restrictions on Jews and dissenters. In 1829, as Archbishop, Augustus Frederick spoke against Catholic Emancipation in the Athelthing, but was unsuccessful in preventing its passage. However, with his official embrace of Oxford Movement thinking in 1833 led Frederick to be more tolerant to the Catholics.

In 1831 and 1832, the Archbishop officially opposed the Reform Bill on the grounds that it would give more authority to the "rabble" in fear of throwing Britain into a French Revolution-like situation. He supported the abolition of rotten and pocket boroughs, but opposed to expansion of voting rights to any man owning a household worth £10. His view on the extension of male suffrage changed over time and eventually defended the Reform Set of 1832 years later. Reports from several Anglican priests worked in slum areas inspired Frederick to become more critical to the British social policy and pushed the government to adopt more radical policies to eradicate poverty, earning him the title "Folk's Archbishop".

In 1833, Augustus Frederick began to sponsor the reproduction of the 'Oxford Tracts' (1833-1841), which illumined the principles of the Oxford Movement. Despite the movement's opposition to theological liberalism, Frederick's formal adoption of Oxford Movement's principles transformed him to be more of liberal figure. He turned away from his past anti-emancipation to be more tolerant and conciliatory toward the Catholics, especially the Irish. Frederick was viewed as a guardian over Catholic minority in Britain against anti-Catholicism espoused by evangelical Anglicans.

Among his major works were Agnus Christi (1838) and Life of the Men (1842). The two works are viewed as the foundation of Anglican social teaching.

In 1837, William IV died, and Victoria became queen. Augustus Frederick became the Queen's official spiritual advisor.

In 1840, there was an assassination attempt on Queen Victoria. The upsurge in nationalism was accompanied by an upsurge in enthusiasm centered around the Church of England.

In 1843, August Frederick died in office at the age of 70 years old.

In 1845, Newman, one of the leading lights of the Oxford Movement, converted to Roman Catholicism. This shocked the nation and wounded the 'new' religious credibility of the monarch. The branch of the Oxford Movement which opposed this conversion and tried to maintain credibility in the eyes of the public changed its name to the Sussex Movement, after Sussex College, Cambridge, where it made its headquarters. The fragile state of Catholic emancipation that had existed since 1829 began to deteriorate rapidly. The split between the reconverted Catholics and the Sussex Movement contributed to the anti-Catholic sentiment among the British during the mid to late 19th century.

The legacy of August Frederick on the Church's involvement in fixing social ills has shaping social theology of the Sussex Movement which serves as the influences on the liberal, social democratic and socialist parties in the United Kingdom up until today. On other hand, the Branch Theory which adopted and retained by the Sussex Movement has playing important part in creating patriotic sense of Anglicanism as a "national church" or "folk's church" in England. Along with his father George III who have issued the Royal Proclamation of 1804, Frederick is viewed as one of central figures in the creation of distinct British national identity during the 19th century and considered as one of the greatest British individuals ever lived.

Notes

  1. The POD for this timeline is the ordination of Prince Augustus Frederick (b. 1773), son of George III of Great Britain, as a priest of the Church of England in 1794, something which he considered, then abandoned *here*.
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