Duelist and Rake
The Duke may have earned respect as a military reformer. But he also had a reputation for irresponsibility. He and his elder brother, the future Prince Regent and George IV were close friends. And like George, the Duke had a reputation for extravagance and was perpetually in debt through gambling.
That close relationship with his brother could have ended his life prematurely. On May 26, 1789, the Duke fought a duel on Wimbledon Common with Colonel Charles Lennox, the future Duke of Richmond. The colonel had been appointed to the Coldstream guards, against the Duke’s wishes as Lennox was opposed to his brother. So when York made disparaging remarks about Lennox’s family, the colonel challenged his superior officer to a duel.
The Duke may have been an incompetent commander. But he was no coward. He avoided using his rank to avoid the challenge and met Lennox at the appointed place. Lennox fired first and the Duke received the shot, without flinching.
The short grazed his hair. When it came to the duke’s turn to fire, he simply shot into the air declaring he bore Lennox no animosity. Honor was satisfied and the colonel quietly switched regiments.