Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester

For the youngest son of Charles I, see Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester.
Prince Henry
Duke of Gloucester (more)

Photographic portrait as
Governor-General of Australia
11th Governor-General of Australia
Tenure 30 January 1945 – 11 March 1947
Monarch George VI
Prime Minister John Curtin (1945)
Frank Forde (1945)
Ben Chifley (1945–47)
Predecessor The Lord Gowrie
Successor Sir William McKell
Born (1900-03-31)31 March 1900
York Cottage, Sandringham
Died 10 June 1974(1974-06-10) (aged 74)
Barnwell Manor, Northamptonshire
Burial 14 June 1974
Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore
Spouse Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott
Issue Prince William of Gloucester
Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester
Full name
Henry William Frederick Albert
House Windsor (after 1917)
Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (before 1917)
Father George V
Mother Mary of Teck
Occupation Governor-General of Australia, military

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, KG, KT, KP, GCB, GCMG, GCVO, PC (Henry William Frederick Albert; 31 March 1900 – 10 June 1974) was a soldier and third son of King George V and Queen Mary.

Under the terms of the Regency Act 1937, the Duke would have been named regent for his niece, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), if his brother, King George VI, had died before Elizabeth reached her 18th birthday; he was also eligible to serve as a Counsellor of State from 1937 to 1974 (his death), if the monarch were incapacitated or absent from the country.

The Duke served as a soldier for most of his life. He was also the 11th Governor-General of Australia, from 1945 to 1947. At his death in 1974, he was the last surviving knight of the Order of St. Patrick, as well as the last surviving child of King George V and Queen Mary.

Early life

The royal children in 1912: (l-r) Albert, John, Henry, Mary, Edward and George

Prince Henry was born on 31 March 1900, at York Cottage, on the Sandringham Estate.[1] His father was the Duke of York (later King George V), the eldest surviving son of the Prince of Wales, (later King Edward VII).[1] His mother was Mary of Teck, the only daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge.[1] At the time of his birth, he was fifth in the line of succession to the throne, behind his grandfather, father and two elder brothers.

He was baptised at the private chapel of Windsor Castle on 17 May 1900, by Randall Thomas Davidson, Bishop of Winchester, and his godparents were: Queen Victoria (his great-grandmother); the German Emperor (his cousin, for whom Prince Albert of Prussia stood proxy); Princess Henry of Battenberg (his paternal great-aunt); the Duchess of Cumberland (his paternal great-aunt, whose sister, his grandmother the Princess of Wales represented her); Prince George of Greece (his cousin, for whom Prince Henry's paternal grandfather the Prince of Wales stood proxy); Princess Carl of Denmark (his paternal aunt, for whom her sister Princess Victoria of Wales stood proxy); Prince Alexander of Teck (his maternal uncle, for whom Prince Henry's great-uncle the Duke of Cambridge stood proxy); and Field Marshal The Earl Roberts (for whom General Sir Dighton Probyn stood proxy).[2] He was informally known to his family as Harry.[3]

Childhood and education

At Eton College in 1916

As a young boy, Prince Henry suffered from ill health very much like his older brother Albert. He also had knocked knees and had to wear painful leg splints. He was an extremely nervous child, and was often victim to spontaneous fits of crying or giggling, and also like his brother, Henry had a combination of speech disorders.[4] They both had rhoticism, which prevented them from pronouncing the sound r, but while Albert’s pronunciation was slightly reminiscent of the “French r”, Henry was completely unable to pronounce it, causing the intended r to sound like [w]. On top of this, Henry also had a nasal lisp and an unusually high-pitched tone, resulting in a very distinctive voice.[5]

By 1909, Henry’s poor health had become a serious concern for his parents. He was very small for his age and was prone to get very aggressive colds. “You must remember that he is rather fragile and must be treated differently to his two elder brothers who are more robust,” wrote Prince George to Henry’s tutor, Henry Peter Hansell.[6]

On 6 May 1910, Prince George became king and Henry, the third in line to the throne. The King was persuaded by Mr. Hansell that it would be good for Henry’s character to attend school, where he could interact with boys his age. The King, having previously rejected this proposition for his two elder sons, agreed on the basis that it would help him “behave like a boy and not like a little child”.[7] Prince Henry became the first son of a British monarch to attend school. After three days at St Peter's Court in Broadstairs, as a day boy, Mr. Hansell, noticing he liked it, asked the King to send him as a boarder, which he agreed to.[7]

Henry spent three years at St Peter's Court. Academically, he was not very bright. Although he did show a particular aptitude in mathematics, Henry’s sole interest became sports, particularly cricket and football. “All you write about is your everlasting football of which I am heartily sick,” wrote his mother, answering a fully detailed letter from Henry about a match.[7]

In September 1913 Henry started at Eton College[1] and during the First World War, a member of his house (Mr. Lubbock's,[1]) was Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium, later King Leopold III. His studies did not improve but his nerves and disposition did. He made friends through his enthusiasm for sports, and his masters were very pleased with him, noting in his report that he was “thoroughly willing, cheerful, modest & obedient”. To his father, these values were the most important, having no time or interest in what he called “intellectuals”.[7]

By the time he went to Cambridge in 1919 with his brother Albert, Henry had outgrown all his brothers both in height and size, and enjoyed very good health. Their stay at Cambridge would last only one year and was very uneventful for both of them, as they were not allowed to live in Trinity College with the other undergraduates, due to their father’s fear of them mixing with undesirable company.[7]

Military service

Unlike his brothers, Prince Henry joined the Army instead of the Royal Navy. He attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, in 1919.[1] He later served with the King's Royal Rifle Corps and the 10th Royal Hussars[1] before retiring from the active list in 1937.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the British Expeditionary Force, serving as a Chief Liaison Officer.[1] He was slightly wounded in 1940 when his staff car was attacked from the air.[1] In 1940 he became second-in-command of the 20th Armoured Brigade.[1] He was appointed a Field Marshal in 1955[1] and a Marshal of the Royal Air Force in 1958.[8]

Duke of Gloucester

On 31 March 1928,[9] his father created him Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron Culloden, three titles that linked him with three parts of the United Kingdom, namely England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Prince Henry visited Canada sometime in 1928.[10]

Before his marriage, Prince Henry´s greatest ambition was to someday command his regiment, the 10th Royal Hussars, or at least spend as much time in the army as possible. Although he was a capable soldier, as the King's son he was prevented from joining his regiment abroad, and this meant he was generally seen as an outsider to his fellow officers. To his increasing despair, he had to fulfill the many royal duties his father assigned him.[11]

In September 1928, Henry left England along with his brother Edward, Prince of Wales, to shoot big game in Africa. The brothers parted in Nairobi, where Henry was to stay for a while. There, he was entertained by Mansfield Markham and his wife Beryl Markham. Beryl and Henry soon started an affair (though sources differ over when the affair started; many say it wasn't until her visit to England). In November, the brothers were recalled to England due to their father’s worsening health, and soon after Beryl returned too. At the Grosvenor Hotel, close to Buckingham Palace, the affair continued with Prince Henry openly hosting parties with her in her suite and drinking too much.[7]

The affair, widely known by the London society, shocked the Queen, to the delight of the Prince of Wales who remarked that “for once, Queen Mary’s blue-eyed boy was in trouble instead of himself”. The King stepped in, he thought that keeping Henry busy would be the best way to end the affair, and also to keep him from drinking too much, too often. That year, he arranged a series of tours for his son to undertake.[7]

In 1929, he went to Japan to confer the Garter on the Emperor, and a year later he attended the coronation of Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in Addis Ababa.[1] In 1934 George V (as King of Ireland) made him a Knight of St Patrick, Ireland's chivalric order. It was the second to last time this order was awarded (the last appointment being the Duke of York, later George VI, in 1936); at the time of his death, the Duke of Gloucester was the only remaining knight. In 1934, he went to Australia and New Zealand where the people received him with such overwhelming enthusiasm that one journalist wrote, "(amounted) to something very near adoration".[11]

Marriage and family

Bernard Tussaud finishes the wax figure of Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott and Prince Henry.

When he returned from his trip to Japan in 1929, the affair with Markham ended. Her husband wanted a divorce and threatened to disclose Prince Henry's private letters to his wife if he did not "take care of Beryl". The Duke and Beryl never met again, although she did write to him when he visited Kenya in 1950 with his wife, but he didn't write back. Prince Henry's solicitors paid an annuity until her death in 1985.[7]

After his tour of Australia and New Zealand, and pressured by his parents, Prince Henry decided it was time to settle down and proposed to Lady Alice Montagu Douglas Scott, sister of one of Henry's best friends Lord William Montagu Douglas Scott. The proposal, wrote Lady Alice many years later, was not at all romantic as "it was not his way", instead he just "mumbled it as we were on a walk one day".[12] They were married on 6 November 1935. The marriage was originally planned to take place at Westminster Abbey, but was moved to the more modest Chapel Royal at St James's Palace due to the death of Lady Alice's father, John Montagu Douglas Scott, 7th Duke of Buccleuch, shortly before the wedding. Together they had two sons:[1]

The Duke with his son, William in 1943

The couple lived first at the Royal Pavilion in Aldershot, near the barracks of the Duke´s regiment. "It was a very simple cabin" recalled the Duchess of Gloucester, and "the only royal thing about it was my husband's presence".[12] After his father's death, the Duke bought Barnwell Manor with the larger part of his inheritance. It was a large country house in Northamptonshire which had belonged to his wife's ancestors. As their London seat, they were given York House in St. James's Palace.

Abdication of Edward VIII

In December 1936, Henry's brother Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry divorcée Wallis Simpson. While the consequences of the abdication crisis were a much heavier burden to his brother Albert, who became King George VI, Prince Henry too would suffer from the outcome. Apart from the deep personal shock to the whole royal family, the abdication meant the end of Henry's military career. Although third in line to the throne, following his two nieces Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, he became the first adult in line, meaning he would act as regent if anything were to happen to the King before Princess Elizabeth came of age. Because of this, Prince Henry could not leave England at the same time as the King. Furthermore, he and his younger brother, the Duke of Kent, would have to increase their royal engagements considerably to support the new King.[7]

Edward VIII, who became Duke of Windsor, recalled that it was Henry who least reacted to the news of his abdication. The brothers had never been close, and apart from horses, they didn't have much in common. But Edward did admit regretting the implications the abdication would have on "The Unknown Soldier", a nickname he teasingly used to refer to Henry, owing to his low profile.[13]

The abrupt change in Prince Henry's somewhat carefree life to that point was made clear by the new King on the very first evening of his reign. "If You Two think that, now that I have taken this new job on, you can go on behaving just as you like, in the same old way, you are very much mistaken! You Two have to pull yourselves together" warned the King to his two brothers at dinner.[14]

Although from that moment on, the Duke of Gloucester supported his brother, and later his niece, tirelessly and dutifully, he did have a deep fondness for whisky. On one occasion, Queen Mary wrote to the Duchess suggesting that if they were planning to visit, the Duke should bring his own supply of whisky, "as we have not got much left, and it is so expensive". Even Noble Frankland, who wrote the Duke's biography after his death at the request and supervision of the Duchess, wrote that : "He did not eschew a glass of whisky...or the occasional blasphemous oath."[7][15]

King George VI had great affection for his younger brother. Circumstances had made them closer following the abdication, and the King felt he could trust Prince Henry with important matters, which he dutifully undertook. Sometimes, though, the organized King found his brother's less systematic manner irritating. On one occasion after a day of shooting at Balmoral Castle, the King found a mistake on his shot game record, where there seemed to be a pair of grouse missing. A member of staff suggested the King to call and ask the Duke of Gloucester, who was staying at Birkhall. When the Duke confirmed he had taken the birds, said member of staff was surprised at the King's gruff warning to his brother that he should never again take birds without telling him.[16]

Second World War

After the outbreak of the Second World War, the Duke of Gloucester, as Chief Liaison Officer to Lord Gort, spent almost the entire first year of the war in France. Besides boosting the troops' morale, he became useful as a first-hand witness of the situation reporting to government officials and the King, to whom he continually wrote detailed and objective accounts of what was happening. Always eager to get involved, the Duke often found himself in dangerous situations, but did not seem overly worried. "Motoring about is not nice as many villages are being bombed," he wrote to his wife in his usual straightforward and dismissive manner. The Duke's two narrowest escapes both came in May 1940.

Having known King Leopold of Belgium from school days, the Duke wanted to meet with him personally to offer support after rumours that Belgium would surrender to Germany began circulating. On 14 May, he and his brother-in-law, Lord William Scott, drove from Hotel Univers in Arras into Belgium to see the King of the Belgians at a secret location. That night, Hotel Univers was bombed, resulting in several deaths, including those staying in the rooms next to the Duke's. The Duke wrote to his brother that King Leopold was "very depressed". As the Duke and Lord Scott drove back, they were caught up in heavy enemy bombing in Tournai, where their car caught fire. They managed to get out and dive into an alleyway, although not unscratched as the Duke needed medical attention for a profusely bleeding wound.[17]

Although generally optimistic, Prince Henry did sometimes suffer from bouts of depression during his service in 1940, especially at the end of his occasional leaves. "My beloved Alice, I did hate leaving you yesterday so very much that I could hardly keep a straight face," he wrote to his wife after reporting back. The strains of living in the French front also diminished his resolve at times: "I think I hate this country and war more than ever... it is such an awful waste of everything," he told the Duchess.[17][18]

In June, after the fall of Dunkirk, the Duke was ordered back to England by an embarrassed General Headquarters, which had not been able to assure the King's brother's safety. "Wherever I went or had been, I was bombed" the Duke explained to his mother, amused.[17]

The following year, the King arranged a four-month-long military and diplomatic mission for the Duke to the Middle East, India, and East Africa. The mission came just after Prince Henry had become a father for the first time, and it was considered a dangerous trip, as the Germans were rapidly advancing toward some of the territories the Duke would visit. The King even wrote to his sister-in-law that he would act as guardian of the newly born Prince William if anything should happen to his brother.[17][19]

After Prince Henry's younger brother, the Duke of Kent, died in a plane crash in August 1942, it was decided that the Duke of Gloucester would not be sent on any further missions that could prove dangerous.[19]

Governor-General of Australia

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester are seen off on their departure for Australia by the King and Queen.

In late 1944 the Duke was unexpectedly appointed Governor-General of Australia[1] after his younger brother, the Duke of Kent, who had been offered the position died in an aeroplane crash in Scotland. The Labor Party of the Australian Prime Minister John Curtin had a policy of appointing Australians to the vice-regal post. In the circumstances of wartime, Curtin decided that appointing a member of the Royal Family would have three advantages: it would improve the likelihood that Britain would maintain its commitment to the defence of Australia, affirm that Australia had not become a dependency of the United States, and would be a politically neutral choice (opposition had greeted his last appointment).

The Duke had made a successful visit to Australia in 1934. Because the Duke was shy,[1] he sometimes appeared stiff and formal, but he and the Duchess travelled widely in Australia using his own plane during their time in office. When Curtin died in 1945, the Duke appointed Frank Forde as prime minister.

Gloucester left Australia in March 1947, after two years in the post, due to the need to act as Senior Counsellor of State during a visit by King George VI and Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to South Africa.[1] As a parting gift, he left his own plane for use by the government and people of Australia.

Later life

Stamp of Australia, 1945, showing the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, when the Duke became Governor-General

In May 1949, the Duke temporarily served in the office of Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. This appointment afforded him, for its duration, its Scottish precedence (immediately below the King) and style, His Grace.

The Duke attended the coronation of his niece Elizabeth II in 1953. Both the Duke and Duchess carried out royal engagements, including several overseas tours.[1] In 1954 the Duke served as the Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn. He suffered a series of strokes in later years,[1] and was too ill to attend the funeral of his elder brother, the Duke of Windsor, or the wedding of his younger son, Prince Richard, both in 1972.

His first stroke was in 1965; together with later strokes, they left him required to use a wheelchair and he was unable to speak for his last remaining years. His last public appearance was for the unveiling of Queen Mary's plaque at Marlborough House in 1967, where he appeared weak and considerably older than the Duke of Windsor. In 1972, the Duke's elder son, Prince William, died in a plane crash.[1] The Duke was in such poor health that his wife hesitated whether to tell him. She later admitted in her memoirs that she did not, but, that he may have learned of their son's death from television coverage.[12]

The Duke was the last surviving child of King George V and Queen Mary. He died on 10 June 1974. He was buried in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore. His second son, Prince Richard, inherited the title of Duke of Gloucester. The Duke's wife, Alice, received permission from Queen Elizabeth II to be styled Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, to distinguish herself from Prince Richard's wife. She survived until 2004, becoming the longest-lived member of the British Royal Family in history.[20]


He is portrayed by Andy Sanderson in the Netflix television series The Crown.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

At the time of his death, Prince Henry's full style was: His Royal Highness The Prince Henry William Frederick Albert, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster and Baron Culloden, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Knight of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, Grand Master and Principal Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Grand Prior of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.


Prince Henry's coat of arms



In 1921, Prince Henry was granted a personal coat of arms, being the royal arms, differenced by a label argent of three points, the centre bearing a lion rampant gules, and the outer points crosses gules.[23]



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. Yvonne's Royalty Home Page – Royal Christenings
  4. Edwards, Anne Edwards, Anne (1984). Matriarch. William Morrow. p. 195. ISBN 0688035116. Matriarch
  5. Made on TV by Duke of Gloucester (Speech). Retrieved April 9, 2015.
  6. Van der Kiste, J Van der Kiste, John (2003). George V's children. Sutton Publishing LTD. ISBN 0750934689.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Van der Kiste, J
  8. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 41409. p. 3561. 3 June 1958. Retrieved 20 November 2008.
  9. Yvonne's Royalty: Peerage
  10. "Royal Visits from 1786 to 1951"
  11. 1 2 Royal Family: Years of Transition.
  12. 1 2 3 The Memoirs of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.
  13. Bloch Bloch, Michael (2012). The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor. England. ISBN 0349001081.
  14. Cadbury Cadbury, Deborah (2015). Princes at War. England. ISBN 1610394038.
  15. Frankland Frankland, Noble (1975). Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester. England. ISBN 029777705X.
  16. Corbitt Corbitt, F. J. (1956). My Twenty Years in Buckingham Palace. England. ISBN 1258094002.
  17. 1 2 3 4 Cadbury
  18. Aronson Aronson, Theo (2014). The Royal Family at War. England. ISBN 978-1910198032.
  19. 1 2 Aronson
  20. "Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, Later years and death". The Official Website of the British Monarchy. The Royal Household. 2008.
  21. In 1898, Queen Victoria issued letters patent granting the children of the Duke and Duchess of York the style Royal Highness. Thus he was styled His Royal Highness Prince Henry of York from birth.
  22. "Imperial Garter," Time Magazine, 13 May 1929.
  23. Heraldica – British Royal Cadency
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester.
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 31 March 1900 Died: 10 June 1974
Government offices
Preceded by
The Lord Gowrie
Governor-General of Australia
Succeeded by
Sir William McKell
Honorary titles
Preceded by
The Duke of Connaught
and Strathearn
Great Master of the Order of the Bath
Succeeded by
The Prince of Wales
Preceded by
The Earl of Swinton
Senior Privy Counsellor
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Slesser
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Duke of Gloucester
5th creation, 1st Duke
Succeeded by
Prince Richard
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