Anne Horton (née Anne Luttrell) was born on 24 January 1743 as the daughter of Simon Luttrell, later first Earl of Carhampton, and his wife, Judith Maria Lawes.
Anne’s first husband was another commoner, Christopher Horton, on 4 August 1765 but he died just four years later. 1 Horace Walpole described her as, “a coquette beyond measure, artful as Cleopatra, and completely mistress of all her passions and projects.”2
She attracted the attention of Prince Henry, Duke of Cumberland and Strathearn, the sixth child of Frederick, Prince of Wales and Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, and a younger brother of King George III. He had quite the colourful past and was allegedly married to Olive Wilmot in a secret ceremony in 1767 and in 1769, he was sued to by the Richard Grosvenor, 1st Earl Grosvenor after being caught in an affair with his wife.
Prince Henry and Anne married on 2 October 1771. At the age of 26, he did not require the permission of his brother the King, and there was no law forbidding him to marry a commoner. He probably realised his brother would never give his permission and so presented him with a fait accompli.3 In a letter to his mother, George III confided, “The more I reflect on his conduct, the more I see it as his inevitable ruin and as a disgrace to the whole family.”4 He also expressed his feelings in a letter to another one of his brother, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, who unbeknownst to him, had also contracted a clandestine marriage to Maria Walpole, the Dowager Countess of Waldegrave in 1766.
King George III refused to permit Anne to use the title of Duchess of Cumberland, though nearly everyone addressed her as such. He refused to see Anne and or his brother and courtiers who visited Cumberland House were no longer welcome at St. James’s Palace. George III had the Royal Marriages Act 1772 passed to prevent any of George II’s descendants to marry without the consent of the sovereign. Five months after the passing of this act, he finally found out about William’s marriage to Maria, but as it had already taken place, it was considered to be legal. William and Maria went on to have three children, of which two survived to adulthood, while Henry and Anne’s marriage remained childless. The act has just recently been restricted to only apply to the first six persons in line for the succession.
In 1780, both brothers were reconciled to the King, although not fully. The Cumberlands still spent much time living in Europe, to stave off creditors. On 18 September 1790, the Duke of Cumberland dropped dead in Pall Mall, just outside Cumberland House. An autopsy confirmed that his right lung “was universally diseased.” Anne was granted an annuity of £4,000, which she did not think was enough. She began to sell off her husband’s collection of manuscripts and instruments. She continued to be haunted by creditors and moved to Europe once more. She died in the small town of Gorizia near Trieste on 28 December 1808.5
She had just outlived Maria Walpole, who died on 22 August 1807.