Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Richard of Gloucester

The baby of King George V and Queen Mary's family turns seventy today.  Richard, Duke of Gloucester is the youngest grandchild of George and Mary and marks his big birthday in private. Born as World War Two raged, this prince spent the early part of his life in relative obscurity - even the details of his christening were kept scarce for security reasons.  But he was called to a very different role by tragic circumstances.

Richard, Duke of Gloucester who turns 70 on August 26th 2014
(By Allan warren (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons)

Born fifth in line to the throne, behind his two cousins, his father and his brother, by 1972 Prince Richard of Gloucester was tenth in the succession and settling down to married life with his new wife, Birgitte, having qualified as an architect.  Then, six weeks after the joy of his wedding, the prince was plunged into mourning when his older brother, William, was killed when his light aircraft crashed.  Prince Richard was now heir to his ailing father, Henry, as Duke of Gloucester.

The unexpected duchess - Birgitte of Gloucester
(By The National Churches Trust [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons )

He became Duke of Gloucester on June 10th 1974 when Henry, third son of George V and Queen Mary, died.  A quiet life on the fringes of royal life was no longer a possibility and the new Duke and Duchess of Gloucester took on more engagements representing the Queen.  In the last forty years, their schedule has slimmed down as younger members of the Royal Family take on more duties.  But the life they have led since the start of their marriage has been very different from the one imagined for the little boy who was born in Hadley Common, Hertfordshire seventy years ago today.  The last grandchild of a king and emperor who tried for a quiet life and ended up very royal indeed.

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