Prince William County is named after Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland. Prince William was born on April 15, 1721, at St. James’ Palace, Westminster. He was the second son born to England’s King George II and his wife Caroline. In 1726 at the age of five, he was named Duke of Cumberland. Prince William County was formed in 1730 and named by the General Assembly to honor King George II’s second son who was nine years old at the time. (Cumberland County and Cumberland Gap, both in Maryland, are also named after him.)
Although many historic accounts state that Prince William was liked far better than his older brother Frederick, he was not named heir to the throne. Instead, when Frederick died in 1751, Parliament and the King’s ministers chose the late Frederick’s oldest son, George to become King George III. In 1760, King George II passed away and young George III was crowned. His 39-year old uncle, Prince William, remained the Duke of Cumberland.
Prince William was trained initially to be Lord High Admiral of the British Navy, but he preferred the army. He saw his first active service under his father in the Battle of Dettingen where he was wounded in the leg, an injury that caused him great trouble all his life.
In April 1745, he was appointed Captain-General (practically Commander-in-Chief) of the British Army. He joined the Dutch-Hanoverian-Austrian forces in Flanders and was, with them, defeated after a gallant resistance at Fontenoy. His military track record contains many victories and defeats in battles at Culloden, Edinburgh, Aberdeen.
Back in England:
Prince William was made Ranger of Windsor Forest in July 1746 and made his official residence in England at “Cumberland Lodge” in the center of the park. He had the “Virginia Water” built nearby from an insignificant stream. The Virginia Water, a large man-made lake, forms an efficient drainage system for the Park. The Virginia Water project was continued by Henry, brother of George III. The lake is 130 acres in area, and its total length is slightly over two miles and one-third of a mile wide at its widest point. Its circumference is about seven miles. It was at the time one of the largest artificial lakes in England.
After a long illness, Prince William died on Oct. 31, 1765, in Westminster. He was 44 years old.