The Queen’s Royal Maundy Money.

Today is Maundy Thursday and throughout her sixty-eight year reign, Queen Elizabeth II has-with a few exceptions (sadly, including this year due to the Coronavirus outbreak)-taken part in the Royal Maundy Service when she distributes Maundy Money (a selection of specially minted silver one-, two-, three- and four-penny coins) to an equal quota of men and women. The exact number of recipients-who are all retired pensioners and have been active in their local church or community-is determined by the Queen’s age. For instance in 2016, when Her Majesty was aged ninety, ninety-men and ninety-women each received sets of these coins which are distributed in red and white purses similar to those used in Tudor times.

The ceremony, which dates back to A.D. 600, is based on the holding of the Last Supper when Jesus gave his disciples a command or mandatum (the Latin word from which maundy is derived) to love one another. The Order of Service is composed of two lessons and the distribution of the Maundy money takes place following upon each lesson. Fortunately, the Sovereign is no longer required to wipe or kiss the feet of the poor, as some earlier monarchs (including James II) are recorded as having done. However, those attending Her Majesty still wear white linen towels as a poignant reminder of these times. Another nod to the past is that all the principal participants-such as the wonderfully named Lord High Almoner who is officially (and historically) responsible for the organisation of the service-carry nosegays of flowers and herbs (to guard against infection).

In past years, the Queen was invariably accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh. However, since his retiral, she has, on occasion, been accompanied by other family members (in 2019 this was her granddaughter, Princess Beatrice of York.) In another-even greater-break with tradition, due to the recent cancellation of the Royal Maundy Service at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Her Majesty has written to those who were due to have been presented with the Maundy money this year and enclosing the much-coveted coins. In her communication, the Queen reflects that, ‘This ancient Christian ceremony…. is a call to the service of others, something that has been at the centre of my life. I believe it is a call to service for all of us.’ Among those honoured are 100-year-old Bill Allen, from Chelmsford in Essex, who was a dispatch rider to Field Marshal Montgomery during the Second World War and has since been an active member of the Royal British Legion.

Queen Mother’s Highland Hideaway.

Following the death of King George VI, on 6 February 1952, his widow, Queen Elizabeth was left feeling bereft and vulnerable. Unsure as to what the future held, the Queen Mother (as she was now more often referred to in the popular press) decided to fly north, on 16 June, for a four-day visit to her beloved Scotland to visit her childhood friend, Lady Doris Vyner and her husband Commander Clare Vyner at their Caithness home at Dwarick Head, The House of the Northern Gate. She took with her a Lady-in-Waiting, the Hon. Mrs Mulholland.

Although dressed in deepest black, the Dowager Queen descended from her Vickers Viking aircraft of the Queen’s Flight at Wick Airport to a warm welcome from not only her friends but thousands of curious locals too, for a royal visit to the windswept and barren County of Caithness was rare indeed. Yet, Queen Elizabeth was enthralled by the open views of the sea and beaches as she travelled the thirty-mile drive by coast-road from Wick to Dunnet, especially when she espied a small 16th century castle, Barrogill, which Lady Vyner indicated had been for sale for many months and was in danger of being demolished. Intrigued, the Queen Mother arranged to return a few days later to make a thorough inspection.

Elizabeth soon discovered that the current owner, Commander Imbert-Terry, lived in only a few of the edifice’s thirty rooms, which had served as a billet for Coastal Defence troops during the Second World War. The castle’s roof had mostly been destroyed by a recent storm and there was no proper sanitation or electric light. Nor did Barrogill come with a large land area-its immediate policies extended to only 30 acres. Nevertheless, the views over to Orkney and the Pentland Firth were uninterrupted and spectacular. Queen Elizabeth was adamant that ‘It must be saved.’ Although the Commander offered to sell Her Majesty the castle for nothing, she declined, but accepted his suggestion of a nominal price of £100.

Many thousands of pounds now required to be spent on it, over the next three years, including the reconstruction of the roof (which took twelve months alone) and the purchase (for £300) of another parcel of land for grazing and shooting. To keep costs down, much of the furniture was sourced by Lady Vyner from local antique shops, including that of J. Miller Calder in nearby Thurso, owned by Miss B Calder. The Queen Mother also frequented another antique establishment, ‘The Ships Wheel’ run by a local ‘character’ Miss Hetty Munro and her brother Alistair. The siblings eventually became good friends of Her Majesty and the business was awarded a prestigious Royal Warrant. There were occasional indulgences including a selection of antique clocks and a four-poster bed trimmed in chintz to enliven an otherwise austere white-washed bedroom.

Finally, in the summer of 1955, the castle was ready for habitation. The Queen, Prince Philip and their children Charles and Anne disembarked, on 12 August, from the Royal Yacht Britannia at nearby Dwarick Pier to inspect the castle, which Queen Elizabeth had decided to restore to its ancient name of the Castle of Mey. After a scrumptious tea, the royal party returned to the yacht. The Queen was ‘terribly impressed’ by all that she had seen ‘and…sorry to depart’. These family nautical interludes at Mey would become an annual tradition until the Royal Yacht was finally decommissioned in 1997.

The Queen Mother quickly adapted to life in Caithness. She would make a short visit in the late Spring to inspect the daffodils and her herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, followed by a three-week stay in August and she invariably returned for final week’s holiday in October. Royal etiquette was deliberately kept to a minimum, with picnic lunches at some local beauty spot being the order of the day. Daily pastimes included walks on the beach to collect shells, country drives, shooting, fishing for mackerel and hunting for crab. Evenings were a more formal affair, with pre-dinner drinks served in the large drawing room with its warming peat fire and impressive 16th century Flemish tapestry. Dinner was served around 9pm in the adjacent 19th century dining room, at a mahogany table festooned with roses from the castle’s walled garden (which also supplied vegetables, herbs and fruit) and accessorised with good glass and Derby china. Dishes served included artichokes and fresh salmon, augmented by Veuve Clicqot champagne and cheeses (the latter supplied by another Royal Warrant holder, the Thurso grocers, Hamish Cameron). A game of cards (Racing Demon was a favourite) might follow.

In addition to the Vyners’, Her Majesty was well-acquainted with Viscount Thurso (the local Lord Lieutenant) and his wife Marigold. She also became a staunch friend of the local Presbyterian minister, the Reverend Bell, and his wife Christianne, and faithfully attended Sunday service at nearby Canisbay Old Church. The local people also took the Dowager Queen to their heart and, in August 1956, she was presented with the Freedom of the Royal Burgh of Wick. In later years, Queen Elizabeth would invite her former equerries to join her at Mey, when the house party could take on a more rumbustious flavour. However, Her Majesty could always retire to her small private sitting room, situated in one of the castle’s turrets. This contained a poignant reminder of her late husband: a marble fireplace with a heart medallion which the King had gifted to her many years earlier.

As she reached her mid-nineties, the Queen Mother was determined that the Castle of Mey-the only property she had ever owned-prospered well into the future. Ownership of the castle was transferred to a charitable trust, headed by her grandson Prince Charles as President, on 11 June 1996. Her Majesty paid her final visit to Mey in the autumn of 2001. She died at her other home, Royal Lodge, in Windsor Great Park, on 30 March 2002 at the age of 101. Today, the castle is a thriving tourist centre with a busy visitor centre and a newly opened bed and breakfast facility in the grounds. The profits of these enterprises are channelled into the care and maintenance of a place that brought Queen Elizabeth great comfort over nearly five decades.

Greek Princesses in Wartime Europe.

The three daughters of the Russian-born, Romanov Grand Duchess Helen (Ellen) and her husband Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark were regarded as the most beautiful and sophisticated in Europe. Marina, Elizabeth and Olga were also extremely close, having been raised together by their beloved, brusque English nurse or ‘nurnie’, Miss Kate Fox, at the Nicholas Palace in Athens, as well as at the Greek royal family’s country retreat at Tatoi, in the wooded foothills of Mount Parnitha. The Princesses made frequent trips to England, where they spent the summer months living in simple hotels or Norland hostels at Westgate-on-Sea or Bognor. Yet, the trio were equally at home amongst the grandeur of the Imperial court in St Petersburg, where their powerful maternal grandmother, Grand Duchess Vladimir, showered them with exquisite gifts and instilled in them a deep understanding of their Imperial Romanov heritage.

The best-known (and youngest) of the trio was Princess Marina. In November 1934, she had made a highly desirable marriage to Prince George, Duke of Kent (the youngest son of Britain’s King George V). The middle sister, Princess Elizabeth, is a more obscure figure. She married a wealthy Bavarian aristocrat (and nephew of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians), Count Carl Theodor of Toerring-Jettenbach and settled in Munich. However, it was the eldest sister, Princess Olga, who would hold the highest rank as the wife and Consort of the Prince Regent (Paul) of Yugoslavia.

Despite their impeccable royal credentials, the sisters were actually more interested in a ‘cosy’ life en famille, and whenever their individual official or domestic duties permitted, they would meet up in London, Munich, Belgrade or Slovenia for a grand family get- together. When all else failed, long and detailed letters (chiefly concerning domestic matters or news of extended family) flew between England, Bavaria and Yugoslavia on a weekly basis. Grand Duchess Helen encouraged these strong inter-family bonds from her homes in Paris and Athens.

In late 1935, Paul and Olga had purchased a large Slovenian castle at Brdo which was large enough to accommodate all of the extended family for visits throughout August and into late September. The emphasis was firmly on fun: Games of tennis were interspersed with riding, swimming, film shows, charades and fishing trips, as well as excursions to the Slovene capital, Ljubljana. On occasion, several members of the party might travel further afield to enjoy a relaxing cruise down Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. When all else failed, there was always the joy of the popular card game, Lexicon.

However, as early as September 1938, the shadow of war threatened this almost idyllic family existence. All the extended family happened to be staying at the Toerring’s country home, Frauenbuhl Castle at Winhöring when, during a rally in Nuremberg, the German leader, Hitler, denounced Czechoslovakia as a ‘fraudulent state’, focused on subduing the German-speaking minority in the Sudetenland. The Führer also encouraged the Sudeten Germans to demand union with Germany and even offered to provide them with military assistance. Anticipating a deterioration in the European political situation, the Duke and Duchess of Kent returned to England, with heavy hearts, on 14th September. Next day, the Prince Regent and Princess Olga journeyed home to Brdo. Meanwhile, Count Toerring, being of military age, joined the Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops) and was called up to the Czech frontier, leaving his anxious wife to mind their two young children. War was temporarily averted following peace negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 30 September signed by Hitler, Neville Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister), Mussolini and the French Premier Edouard Daladier. However, Czechoslovakia paid a heavy price as the accord permitted the annexation of the Sudetenland into the Third Reich. Gallingly, the Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted over the matter.

As 1938 drew to a close, Princess Olga feared for her husband’s safety as it was no secret that the Prince Regent was a prime target for terrorists as he sought to thrash out an agreement between the Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. She was cheered by a visit from Marina in February 1939. However, within weeks of the Duchess of Kent’s return to England, German forces invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, in direct contravention of the Munich Agreement. Suddenly, it seemed to the British government that Hitler was intent on dominating Europe and Britain’s policy of appeasement was now abandoned. As it appeared likely that Poland would be the Fuhrer’s next target, on 31 March, Neville Chamberlain informed the House of Commons that ‘in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence’ the British government would ‘feel bound.. to lend the Polish Government all support in their power’.

On Good Friday, 7 April, Italy invaded Yugoslavia’s southern neighbour of Albania. This troubled Olga greatly as it put extra pressure on the Prince Regent and served to underline that much of the weight of Yugoslavia’s uncertain future rested squarely on his shoulders. Princess Elizabeth and Count Toerring happened to be spending Easter in England with Marina and the Duke of Kent at their country home, Coppins. Prince George’s correspondence with Prince Paul indicates that there was a frank exchange of (often differing) views on the situation in Europe between the couples.

However, the Duke of Kent and Marina were mostly focused on preparing for their departure to Australia where Prince George was due to take up an appointment as the Dominion’s Governor-General. Elizabeth and Olga were both in despair at the thought of their youngest sibling moving to the other side of the world for a period of up to five years. Fortunately, Olga was distracted by her own official duties, as she and the Prince Regent were due to make State visits to Italy and Germany in May and June respectively. The visit to Berlin provided Olga and her sister Elizabeth with the chance of several brief reunions at the Bellevue Palace, amid a busy week of official engagements.

In early July, it was the turn of Marina and the Duke of Kent to greet Olga and Paul, when they arrived on a visit to London. The stay was a more relaxed family affair, despite the Yugoslav royals being quartered at Buckingham Palace. While the Prince Regent had talks with government ministers, Olga-keenly aware that her sister would be departing in only a few months for Canberra-spent quality time with Marina at the Kent’s home in Belgrave Square. She and Paul also managed a weekend trip down to Coppins.

In early August, Olga and Paul returned to Bled for what remained of the summer; Grand Duchess Helen was already in residence and the house party was soon completed by the arrival of the Kents and the Toerrings. It so happened that Prince Albrecht of Bavaria was a fellow guest. Albrecht was strongly opposed to Hitler and his National Socialist Party and was currently employed by Prince Paul to run his shoots at Petrovčić and Belje. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was somewhat strained for if Britain and Germany went to war, as seemed increasingly likely given Chamberlain’s guarantee, the Kents and Toerrings would, technically speaking, be enemies. Since Yugoslavia intended to remain neutral, Olga would be Marina and Elizabeth’s mutual point of contact.

Within a few weeks the situation deteriorated considerably: On 22 August, it was confirmed that Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact. The Treaty had a secret protocol appended to it which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and signalled the green light for further German advances, including into Poland. Aware of the implications, both the Duke of Kent and Count Toerring left Brdo for their respective homelands as soon as they received the news. Marina remained in Slovenia until the end of August before departing by train for London.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and Elizabeth Toerring immediately left for Munich. On 3 September, in line with the guarantees it had earlier given to the Polish government, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Olga was ‘stunned’ by this development realising all too well the implications for Marina and Elizabeth. Count Toerring had already been called up to the western front and Prince George-his move to Australia now put on hold-was serving in the Royal Navy at the Admiralty in London. To exacerbate matters, Princess Olga’s sons Nicholas and Alexander were currently attending school in England, a place which now seemed increasingly far off as telephone communications with Yugoslavia were suspended.

Suddenly, the sisters’ life of privilege was gone. In Bavaria, Princess Elizabeth had taken to riding a bike as petrol was rationed, while Princess Olga had been appointed President of the Yugoslav Red Cross. Olga and Elizabeth had originally been able to communicate by telephone (with a German censor listening in), but this facility was withdrawn in late October. Although letters could still be sent (in Olga and Marina’s case via the official diplomatic bag) the process was slow and tedious; there were also limits as to what could safely be committed to paper. In England, Marina had joined the Navy as Commandant of the Women’s Royal Naval Service-‘the Wrens’-and was soon undertaking tours of inspection throughout England. On occasion, she travelled to Scotland to join the Duke of Kent who had been transferred to Admiralty House in North Queensferry. This meant that she was sometimes separated from her young children, Edward and Alexandra, who, with Coppins closed-up and the London house vacated, often spent time staying with their paternal grandmother, Queen Mary, at Badminton.

In early November, Princess Elizabeth and her children Hans Veit and Helen arrived in Belgrade. The main reason for her visit was that food was increasingly scarce in Bavaria. However, the erratic political climate must have been another factor. Countess Toerring feared for her husband’s welfare, particularly when she learned that there were random, ‘new wholesale arrests’ following an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life in Munich’s Bürgerbräukelle. Yet, as 1939 drew to close, the sister’s remained resolute. Elizabeth and her children returned to Bavaria, in early December, to be with Count Toerring (who had now been released from active duty), while Olga sought to try and provide some Festive cheer in Belgrade for King Peter (whose mother, Queen Dowager Marie, now lived in England with her younger sons Andy and Tommy), her three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and the Prince Regent. Meanwhile, Marina busied herself with organising accommodation for the Christmas school holiday period, in Cambridge, for Olga’s sons and Miss Fox. She later visited the trio to help them celebrate the Festive Season.

As 1940 dawned, Olga noted that, ‘The future looks dark I must admit- but I know the light is there behind it all the time.’ Yet, in the years ahead, all of the sisters would face terrible challenges, which would test them-and their close bond-to the limit.




Queen of Scots Arrives in Edinburgh.

Today, Her Majesty the Queen commences her annual visit to Edinburgh for what the Royal Household refer to as the ‘Holyrood Week’, so-named as the focus of this stay is the Queen ‘s official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the Royal Mile. Normally frequented by tourists, this infrequently-used Royal Palace closes it’s doors well in advance of the Queen’s arrival (this year on 24 June) and then comes alive as royal staff arrive from London to man the ground-floor kitchens, fill the State Rooms with flowers and give the private apartments a much-needed airing.

The visit always follows a traditional, time-tested format: When the Queen arrives at the Palace, she is formally welcomed in the forecourt to her “ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’’ by the handing over of the keys of Scotland’s capital city by the Lord Provost (the Scotch equivalent of a Lord Mayor). The Queen then returns them, entrusting their safekeeping to Edinburgh’s elected officials. The Ceremony of the Keys concludes with Her Majesty inspecting the Guard of Honour, this year formed by F Company, Royal Scots Guards.

The Palace is also the focus for two other events: an investiture and a garden party. The Investiture takes place, watched over by the portraits of Scotland’s Kings, in the Palace’s largest room, the Great Gallery. The event is for Scottish residents whose outstanding achievements to their profession or community have been recognised in the twice-yearly Honours List . The Royal Garden Party, meanwhile, is held on the sweeping lawns of the Palace and is usually attended by 8000 guests, including the First Minister of Scotland and other local worthies. Guests feast on dainty finger sandwiches and cakes. During this event, the Royal Company of Archers, the Sovereign’s Official Bodyguard in Scotland, are much in evidence, dressed in their distinctive dark green tunics and feathered Highland bonnets.

Away from the Palace, another ‘hardy annual’ of Holyrood Week is the Order of the Thistle Service at St Giles Cathedral, half-way up the Royal Mile in the Old Town. The Thistle is Scotland’s highest Order of Chivalry and the sixteen Knights or Ladies appointed reflect a cross-section of individuals who have made a significant contribution to national life. Participants, including the Queen (who is Sovereign of the Order), process in their distinctive green velvet robes or ‘mantles’ from the nearby Signet Library to the service held in the Order’s Chapel inside the Cathedral.

Most unusually, 2019’s Holyrood Week commences on a Friday, with a visit to a High School in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow, where Her Majesty will receive a greeting in Gaelic from some of the pupils and be serenaded by North Lanarkshire Schools’ Pipe Band. Various members of the Royal Family, including Prince Charles, the Duke of Rothesay and Prince Edward, the Earl of Forfar will support the Queen. The highlight of this years’ visit is the Sovereign’s attendance, accompanied by Prince Charles, at the Scottish Parliament’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations. Her Majesty is no stranger to the Parliament (this is her ninth visit) and she will make a congratulatory speech in the debating chamber.

Although the Queen spends around 11 weeks of the year in Scotland (mostly at Balmoral, her private estate on Royal Deeside), this week of engagements in Edinburgh helps to maintain the strong links between the Queen of Scots (her preferred title in Scotland) and her Scottish subjects.

Royal Feud: The Duke of Windsor and King George VI in Wartime.

Although buoyed up by the success of his recent tour of Canada and the United States, when King George VI landed at Southampton, in late June, the deteriorating political situation in Europe was a pressing source of concern given Germany’s and Italy’s recent invasions of Czechoslovakia and Albania respectively. Another worry was the situation surrounding the King’s eldest brother, the former King Edward VIII. Following his much-publicised Abdication in December 1936, ‘David’ had been given the title of Duke of Windsor. He subsequently married his paramour, Wallis Simpson, in June 1937, and the couple currently resided, ostracised by the Court at Buckingham Palace, in France.

The King (‘Bertie’) had good reason to be concerned about his brother, as in political matters, the Duke had already shown that he could not be relied upon to display the traditional royal circumspection. In October 1937, David (who spoke good German) and Wallis had paid a controversial visit to Nazi Germany, where they were serenaded by an SS band and met with Hitler at the Berghof in Obersalzberg. Furthermore, as recently as May 1939, while George VI was in the course of crossing the Atlantic, the Duke of Windsor made a radio broadcast at the invitation of the American network, NBC, during which he appealed ‘as a soldier of the last war’ for peace and asked that all statesmen ‘act as good citizens of the world and not only as Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, Americans or Britons.’ Soon letters of appreciation were flooding in, particularly from American listeners. Tellingly, the BBC had decided not to carry the broadcast; while the British press probably more accurately reflected the King’s view that the Duke’s intervention, just prior to such an important royal tour, had been both ill-judged and ill-timed. Indeed, David’s youngest brother, the Duke of Kent went so far as to describe him as ‘a fool’.

In late June, the Duke of Windsor was again back in the headlines, when Buckingham Palace indicated that they were unable to confirm a rumour that the former king and his wife ‘would shortly settle down in England.’ Intriguingly, the Paris correspondent of Reuters added that he had been informed by the Duke ‘that he has no definite plans after the summer‘, which he was spending at the Château de la Croë, his residence at Antibes, in the south of France.

King George VI must have been disturbed by the thought of his predecessor arriving in England at such a precarious time. Nonetheless he carried on with his duties, reviewing a march past of National Service Volunteers in Hyde Park, visiting the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth and entertaining the Prince Regent of Yugoslavia at Buckingham Palace. On reaching Balmoral, in early August, Bertie attended his Duke of York Camp at nearby Abergeldie Castle; this annual event had been established to encourage the integration of boys from different social backgrounds. However, on 9 August, the King broke off his highland holiday to travel south to Weymouth to inspect the Reserve Fleet, before returning to Scotland.

On 23 August, with a German attack on Poland looking increasingly likely, the Duke of Windsor asked the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain to keep him informed of developments in order that he could make plans for the future. David would have been aware that as early as March, Chamberlain had given an undertaking to Poland that the British government would ‘lend all support in their power’ in the event of any action which threatened Polish independence. Four days later, the Duke telegraphed Hitler from the French Riviera and made a ‘very earnest appeal for your utmost influence towards a peaceful solution of the present problems.’ The King, meanwhile, had returned to London as the crisis worsened and offered to make a similar personal approach to Hitler. However, he received a polite rebuff from Chamberlain. Bertie later dined at Buckingham Palace with his brothers the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. It seems highly likely that the matter of the Duke of Windsor was discussed in light of the earlier press reports of his possible return to England; the King had doubtless also been informed of his brother’s recent approach to Chamberlain. He probably had knowledge too of David’s view (expressed to his friend and legal adviser Walter Monckton during the Munich crisis of the previous year) that since the British government were responsible for him and the Duchess having to live in exile, they must therefore accept responsibility for getting them and their possessions out of France if the need arose.

On 1 September German troops invaded Poland. At 9AM on 3 September, the British Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Nevile Henderson, handed a note to the German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop. In this, the Foreign Secretary, Lord Halifax indicated that if hostilities against Poland did not stop by 11AM, a state of war would exist between Great Britain and Germany. Germany did not respond and at 11:15 Neville Chamberlain went on the radio to announce to the British people that they were at war with Germany. In the evening, the King broadcast to the nation and asked that everyone stand ‘calm and firm and united.’

In Antibes, the Duke of Windsor had received news of Britain’s declaration war in a personal phone call from the British Ambassador in France, Sir Ronald Hugh Campbell. David then telephoned Walter Monckton and instructed him to convey to the King his desire to serve in any capacity His Majesty deemed suitable. George VI responded by offering to send a plane to the South of France to bring his brother and sister-in-law to Britain. However, when Monckton telephoned the Duke with this news, rather than being grateful, he seemed more intent on establishing exactly where he and the Duchess were to be accommodated. When informed that his equerry Edward Dudley ‘Fruity’ Metcalfe might arrange for the couple to stay with him at his home in Sussex, the Duke became difficult and insisted that he would not return to England unless he and his wife were invited to stay at one of the royal residences as a guest of the King. Unsurprisingly, this latest “request” fell on stony ground and the plans to send a plane were put on hold.

However, despite this impasse, Walter Monckton flew out on 7 September to discuss the various posts that were to be offered to the ex-king when he eventually decided to return home. These included a civil defence post as Deputy to the Regional Commissioner in Wales and a job as a liaison officer in the British Number 1 Military Mission attached to the French General Headquarters in Paris. It was also made clear that there was no question of the couple staying at a royal residence; nor should the Duchess expect to be received by Their Majesties. In the meantime, another problem emerged: The Duchess had a fear of flying and asked if it might be possible to provide transport by sea to England. One can imagine the sighs in London as the harassed powers-that-be struggled to arrange this. In the interim, the Duke and Duchess departed Antibes and headed northwards via Vichy to await further instructions. The Duke of Windsor’s old friend and champion, Winston Churchill soon came to the rescue: He had recently been appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and arranged for Captain Louis Mountbatten, a cousin and former naval Aide-de-Camp to Edward VIII, to travel to Cherbourg aboard his ship HMS Kelly and transport the Duke and Duchess to Portsmouth.

Following a six-hour crossing, the ducal party landed in England late on the evening of 12 September. The difference in David’s status was immediately apparent to him. As a Prince of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the Duke was only entitled to the first six bars of the National Anthem from the Royal Marines band (rather than the full version he had become accustomed to as Sovereign). Furthermore, there was no member or representative of the royal family to greet him and his wife. After an overnight spent at Admiralty House (a kind gesture arranged at the last-minute through the intervention of Churchill), the Duke and Duchess were ferried in the Metcalfe’s car to their country residence, South Hartfield House. From there, the Duke and Duchess would make regular visits by car to London, using the Metcalfe’s town house in Wilton Street as a daytime base.

On 14 September, the Duke of Windsor had an afternoon meeting with the King at Buckingham Palace, their first meeting in three years. George VI would later recall in his diary that ‘we talked for an hour. There were no recriminations on either side…’; yet to his youngest brother George, the Duke of Kent, he confided that David’s demeanour ‘was his usual swaggering one, laying down the law about everything.’ The Duke thought it ‘cordial enough’ and indicated his preference for the civil defence post in Wales, which was unsurprising given that he had a deep affection for the Principality which he had visited on numerous occasions during his years as Prince of Wales. The King replied vaguely that there was no hurry about making a decision.

Next day, the Duke had meetings with Churchill at the Admiralty, followed by an uneasy encounter with the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street. The reason for this would soon become apparent: During a subsequent meeting at the War Office with the Secretary of State for War, Leslie Hore-Belisha, David was informed that the King had now withdrawn the offer of the post in Wales for which he had expressed a preference. Bertie felt that his older brother would be ‘most suitably employed’ in France. The Duke would now return there as a member of the Military Mission with the temporary (lower) rank of Major-General. As a “sweetener” the Prime Minister was ‘making enquiries’ as to whether the former king and his wife could first make fortnight’s tour of the English Commands before returning to the Continent.

However, on 16 September, Hore-Belisha had two audiences with the King. He observed that George VI was ‘in a distressed state’ and took the view that if the Duchess of Windsor visited the Commands she might receive a hostile reception, particularly in Scotland. Nor did he want the Duke to visit the Commands in England. During the second audience, the King remarked that while all his predecessors had succeeded to the throne after their predecessors had died, ‘Mine is not only alive, but very much so.’ He concluded that it better for the Duke to return to France as soon as possible. Within the hour, Hore-Belisha met up with his former king at the War Office. He handled the delicate situation with great tact by explaining that if the Duke was to tour the Commands, it might attract undue attention and be a threat to security. By contrast, if David showed readiness to take up his new appointment at once, it would create an excellent impression with the public-at-large. Hore-Belisha also pointed out that the Head of the British Military Mission, Major-General Richard Howard-Vyse was awaiting his new royal liaison officer’s arrival in Paris as a matter of urgency. Tellingly, as he departed the War Office, the Duke was cheered by onlookers. He also received many letters of encouragement from his former subjects. Word of this would have reached the Palace and would hardly have endeared David to the King.

In the event, owing to red tape, the Duke and Duchess did not return to France until 29 September. The couple made use of the time to drive out to their former love nest, Fort Belvedere at Sunningdale. It proved to be a sad visit as the gardens were overgrown and the house was shuttered up and decaying.

On 30 September Major-General HRH the Duke of Windsor reported for duty at his HQ at Nogent-sur-Marne, east of Paris. He quickly settled in and was popular with his fellow officers. In the first instance David was dispatched, with the approval of the French Commander-in-Chief, General Maurice Gamelin (who was delighted to have an ex-king and former combatant of the Great War of 1914-1918 in his midst) on a tour French fortifications along the Belgian border with France. However, unknown to the French High Command, the Duke’s expedition had a serious purpose. He had been asked to write a report on how secure the French defences were in this low-lying area as this would be of relevance to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) who were responsible for the defence of Lille and the surrounding locality but who, in the words of one British officer, ‘knew so little of the doings of the French army’. After a brief visit to the British GHQ at Arras , where he took tea with his younger brother Harry, the Duke of Gloucester (currently serving as ‘Chief Liaison Officer’ to the Commander-in-Chief of the BEF, Major-General Lord Gort), David set out on four day, 50-mile tour of inspection. His report, dated 10 October, was damning: French tank defences were inadequate, while the main fortified positions were not camouflaged and lacked any anti-aircraft cover. Furthermore, not only was their a shortage of French military personnel but many of those the Duke encountered seemed to lack proper training. Major-General Howard-Wyse was impressed by the ‘valuable’ report and forwarded a copy to Gort. The Duke took the trouble to send a copy, with a personal letter enclosed, to General Edmund Ironside, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff in London. Sadly, the report seems to have been left to gather dust.

As the Duke was not due set out on his next tour of inspection (along the Vosges section of the Maginot Line) until 26 October, it was decided to send him on a visit to the BEF. The ex-king was ‘full of go and interest’ according to one British General and his spirits had undoubtedly been lifted by the warm welcome he received from the troops. However, an unfortunate incident occurred when a guard at headquarters presented arms and the Duke, without thinking, returned the salute, as he had been accustomed to doing in the past, both as Prince of Wales and as King. Unfortunately, the salute was intended for the senior officer present, the BEF’s commanding officer, Lord Gort. It also so happened that the Duke of Gloucester was part of the official group. Technically speaking, he also outranked his eldest brother, both militarily and in terms of royal precedence. An aggrieved Harry Gloucester later informed the King of his ‘horror’ at David’s behaviour. The Duke of Kent only added to George VI’s disquiet when he asked if the rumours were ‘true’ that David had ‘seemed to get all of the attention’ when he and Harry had reviewed the troops together. The King in turn was furious and felt that the Duke of Windsor had ‘made everything extremely difficult for all concerned during his recent visit to the Front.’ It appears that secret instructions were subsequently sent from London to say that the British Sector was to be off-limits to the ex-king. Furthermore, David also received a formal reprimand from his superiors over his actions.

Nevertheless, the Duke was allowed to continue with his tour of the Maginot Line, probably because no other member of Howard Wyse’s staff would have been permitted similar access by the French. He covered this stretch in three days (26-28 October) with visits to Fort Hochwald (where the French greeted him with the firing of some shells into no-man’s land and the British National Anthem) and army headquarters at Ingwiller. However, when David-keen to compare defence methods used by the BEF with those of the French forces-learned from an embarrassed Howard-Wyse that his contact with British troops was now being deliberately restricted to occasional visits to GHQ, he became most annoyed. The Duke wrote to Churchill in mid-November, indicating that this blow was ‘merely fresh evidence of my brother’s continued efforts to humiliate me in his and his courtier’s power.’ He was now determined to travel to London and have it out with the King. Monckton, who continued to act as an intermediary between David and Bertie, indicated that he doubted the King ‘would be willing to discuss the matter yet.’ Walter also pointed out to the Duke that should he be involved in ‘an open quarrel’ with the King, ‘people would in the vast majority support him because there is a war on and because he is who he is.’ Matters then seemed to settle down and, at the end of November, David was informed by Howard-Vyse that London had indicated, ‘there was no objection’ to him visiting British military units ‘for a definite purpose, and with prior approval.’ The Duke informed Monckton ‘I have won my point…’ Nevertheless, the altercation left the ex-king disillusioned, and as I will explain in a later instalment, highly unpredictable and increasingly difficult to handle. It also left relations with his brother, the King, in a fraught state, for when George VI paid a visit to the BEF in northern France in early December, there was no contact between the brothers.

The Scottish State Coach At the Trooping.

Most unusually, the Queen today made use of the Scottish State Coach at the Trooping of the Colour. Apparently, the decision to use a closed carriage, was taken as a precaution against inclement weather. I thought it might be worth looking at the history of this item which currently graces the Royal Mews at Buckingham Palace.

The coach was originally constructed in 1830 as a glass ‘town’ coach for Queen Victoria’s uncle, Prince Adolphus, the Duke of Cambridge. The Duke travelled in the ‘Cambridge Coach’ (as it was then known) to the coronation of his brother William IV in September, 1831. After Adolphus’s death, the coach was sold to William Keppel, 7th Earl of Albemarle, who converted it to a semi-State Landau. Interestingly, William’s son, the Hon. George Keppel, married (in 1891) Alice Edmonstone, who would later become a mistress of King Edward VII. George and Alice Keppel are the great-grandparents (on the maternal side) of the present Duchess of Cornwall.

In 1920 the coach was presented as a gift by the Keppel family to Queen Mary. It was remodelled and restored to its original enclosed state in 1968–9 on the present Queen’s instructions so as to create a coach specifically for state occasions in Scotland. The emblems of the Order of the Thistle (the highest order of chivalry in Scotland), as well as the Scottish version of the Royal Arms were painted on the sides. In addition, a model of the Crown of Scotland was placed atop the roof. This distinguishes it from the other carriages in the Royal Mews which feature the royal arms of England and the Order of the Garter insignia.

The Queen made use of the remodelled Scottish State Coach for the first time when she attended the opening of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh on 20 May 1969. The coach proved to be a popular choice as the combination of a glass roof and large glass windows provides onlookers with a better view of the occupants, as well as vital extra light.

The Coach has also been used regularly for events in other parts of the United Kingdom. It was particularly favoured by the late Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother who travelled in it, accompanied by some of her grandchildren, to Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s Cathedral in June 1977. She again made use of the coach during her Installation as Lord Warden and Admiral of the Cinque Ports at Dover in the summer of 1979. This usage seems particularly apt given that Her Majesty was a direct descendent of Scotland’s famous King, Robert the Bruce and had Stuart blood coursing through her veins.

The Scottish State Coach has made several more forays north to Edinburgh: In 1994 it was used as a reserve carriage during the State Visit of the King and Queen of Norway; while in August 2016, it was displayed on the forecourt of the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse to mark Her Majesty 90th birthday year.

Most recently, in October 2018, the coach was used by Princess Eugenie and her husband Jack Brooksbank, for the procession that took place after their wedding at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor .