Prince Philip: The Early Years.

Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was born on 10 June 1921 in the dining room of Mon Repos, the Corfu summer home of his parents, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (the second youngest son of King George I of the Hellenes) and his English-born wife, Alice, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and eldest daughter of the first Marquess of Milford Haven, a former First Sea Lord of the Royal Navy and, until the ‘Anglicisation’ of royal titles by King George V in 1917, styled as Prince Louis of Battenberg. Philip was the couple’s only son and by far the youngest of their five children, the oldest of whom, Margarita, was sixteen years the new-born’s senior. Prince Andrew must have been glad of a son but he had little time to reflect on this latest addition to his family, for Greece was in the midst of yet another war with the Turks (officially referred to in the textbooks as the ‘Greco-Turkish War 1919-1922’) and he was about to assume command of the 2nd Army Corps with the rank of Lieutenant-General. It would be many months before he would even set eyes on his son.

Meanwhile, Prince Philip settled into a familiar nursery routine at Mon Repos under the watchful ‘Nana’ Emily Roose. However, when his maternal grandfather,the Marquess of Milford Haven died in early September, Alice decided to take her young son with her to England (for she was still nursing him) to visit her widowed mother, Victoria, at Kensington Palace. This would be the first of many such visits by this Greek Prince.

Prince Andrew had, meanwhile, grown increasingly dissatisfied with his time in the military, feeling that he was surrounded in the current campaign in Asia Minor by ‘riff-raff’ and that ‘all military prudence had vanished.’ Nor was he a fan of his Commander-in-Chief, General Papoulas, and seems to have disagreed with an order to make ‘an immediate violent attack’ to the north, deeming this manoeuvre to be ‘impossible’. Andrew thought it would instead be more expedient to use his men to bolster the manpower of another corps. Papoulas was ‘astonished’ at this plan and ordered the Prince to desist. He also relieved Andrew’s Chief of Staff of his position, prompting the aggrieved Prince to demand that Papoulas also ‘order my immediate relief.’ The General refused. However, eventually, on 30 September 1921, Andrew was granted three months leave. Nevertheless, as readers will later learn, this altercation with his superior officer would have serious repercussions.

Thereafter, Alice and Philip returned to Corfu from their English visit and Prince Andrew was at last able to meet his son. However, with Greece still at war, Andrew returned to his military duties; he was transferred to the command of the 5th Army Corps Epirus and the Ionian Islands, at that time stationed in Janina [Ioannina]. However, the military situation for the Greeks was now increasingly perilous for, as 1922 progressed, the Hellenic forces continued to extend their lines of communication and supply in Anatolia to the utter limit. In the meantime, young Philip accompanied his mother and sisters to London for the wedding, in July, of Alice’s younger brother, Louis (‘Dickie’) Mountbatten to the wealthy socialite Edwina Ashley at St Margaret’s, Westminster. Philip’s four sisters were bridesmaids, although their small brother remained in the care of his nurse at his maternal grandmother’s Kensington Palace home. As summer drew to a close, the Turks, under the command of the legendary Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), were diligently driving Greek forces back to towards the sea, with predominantly Christian towns such as Smyrna being overrun by the enemy with great loss of life. Furthermore, those Greeks who survived this advance were forced to abandon lands on which they had lived peaceably for centuries to resettle in Athens and other areas of Greece. Estimates put the number of these refugees at around 1.5 million.

In addition to the returning refugees, there was a large group of returning Greek soldiers who were still smarting at their recent humiliation. Thus, on 11 September, a Revolutionary Committee was established in Athens led by Colonel Nikolas Plastiras (who had previously served under Prince Andrew) bent on exacting revenge for the defeats in Asia Minor. The Committee demanded that the royalist government resign and also insisted that (an already ailing) King Constantine abdicate the throne. This he did on 27 October. ‘Tino’ was succeeded by his eldest son, who took the title of King George II of the Hellenes. However, the new monarch had neither real power nor influence and lived mostly in isolation at his country estate at Tatoi. In addition, these avenging revolutionaries rounded up a group of politicians and soldiers (including General Hadjianestis, who had succeeded Papoulas as Greece’s Commander-in-Chief) to face trial before a ‘Court’ largely composed of headstrong junior officers.

During this unsettled period Prince Andrew sojourned at Mon Repos, where the new powers-that-be were initially content for him to remain providing that he resigned his commission. Then, in late October, Andrew was interviewed by a member of the revolutionary committee in Corfu and summoned as a witness in the trial of the aforementioned individuals. However, on his arrival in Athens, the Prince found himself placed under house arrest and charged with offences, including disobeying orders and abandoning his post in the face of the enemy. The pretext for the trial was the acrimonious disagreement with General Papoulas the previous year. While her husband languished in a prison cell, a despairing Princess Alice (who had returned from London with Philip and her daughters in late September and was now under police surveillance at Mon Repos) contacted her brother Louis in London. Dickie subsequently lobbied Andrew’s cousin, King George V and the new Prime Minister, Bonar Law, on his sister’s behalf. Eventually, a Commander Gerald Talbot (who had previously served as the British Naval Attaché in Athens) was sent to Greece by the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Curzon, to try and negotiate Andrew’s release or, at the very least, attempt to save his life.

In November, the trials of five Greek politicians (three of whom had served as Prime Minister) and General Hadjianestis commenced. They were tried for high treason, found guilty and sentenced to death. On 28 November, they were taken to a piece of exposed ground outside Athens and executed by firing squad. That same day, the the British Legation in Athens telegraphed the Foreign Office in London to say that Prince Andrew’s situation had now grown ‘more dangerous’ and his trial was now scheduled for 30 November.

Meanwhile, Princess Alice had now arrived in Athens and a British battleship, HMS Calypso, was dispatched by the British government to lie off coast of the Greek capital to await further developments. Commander Talbot eventually obtained a promise from General Panagalos (the newly appointed Greek Minister for Military Affairs) and the aforementioned Colonel Plastiras, that Prince Andrew would stand trial and be sentenced. Plastiras would subsequently pardon the Prince who would then be handed over into Commander Talbot’s care for immediate transportation by sea to Brindisi and onwards to England.

On 3 December, Prince Andrew’s trial took place in the Chamber of Deputies and he was unanimously found guilty of the charges against him by a jury of officers. His sentence was that he was ‘degraded and condemned to perpetual banishment’ from Greece. As previously agreed, the Prince was subsequently taken down to Phaleron Bay where he boarded HMS Calypso (under the command of a Captain Buchanan-Wollaston) accompanied by Commander Talbot. Princess Alice was already aboard to greet her husband and the vessel immediately set sail for Corfu-which was reached the next day-to pick up the couple’s children and pack up such belongings as was possible. 18-month-old Prince Philip was taken aboard the Calypso in an orange box which acted as his cot.

On reaching Brindisi on 5 December, the Greek royals were far from out of the woods. Lacking financial means, they were advanced funds by the British Ambassador in Rome before travelling onwards to Paris. They reached London on 17 December and checked-in to the Stafford Hotel in Mayfair. Interestingly, there had already been questions on the British House of Commons regarding the cost (£1200) of sending HMS Calypso to Greece. During this brief English interlude, Prince Andrew had a meeting with his cousin King George V. However, at this interval, it seemed that Philip and his family’s best option-given their state of relative poverty-was to return to Paris and the benevolent care of the wealthy Marie Bonaparte (the wife of Prince George of Greece and Denmark [‘Big George’]) at St Cloud. She would subsequently place a small house adjacent to her own larger mansion at the disposal of these exiled relations.

Paris would be the home of Prince Philip for the next seven years and provided a safe haven in a time of continuing turmoil in Greece. 1923 brought mixed fortunes: In January, Prince Andrew and his wife made a visit to the United States to holiday with Prince Christopher and his wealthy wife, the former Mrs Nancy Leeds, leaving Philip in the care of ‘Roosie’. However, they had no sooner started out on their journey aboard the liner RMS Olympic, than they received word that ex-King Constantine had died of heart failure on 11 January in Italy, where he had been living in exile. Subsequently, in Athens, following a failed royalist coup in October, King George II was effectively hounded into exile by Plastiras and his Revolutionary Committee cronies; in March 1924, the Greeks would vote to ditch the monarchy in favour of a republic. Another blow to the family was the death of Philip’s grandmother, Queen Olga, in Rome, in June 1926, at the age of 74. Olga had been by far the most respected member of the Greek royal family and with a following that transcended across all political boundaries.

Philip, meanwhile, was now a of school age. He attended school at the wonderfully titled MacJannet Country Day and Boarding School (habitually referred to as ‘the Elms’ after the name of the house in which it was located). This catered mainly for the children of American clients and diplomats and was near enough for Philip, who was always full of energy and boisterous enthusiasm, to cycle to. The youngster also liked nothing better than going for motor drives through the Bois de Boulogne in his father’s car or partaking of a generous Sunday lunch at his Aunt and Uncle’s neighbouring home. Also in Paris, were Philip’s Uncle Nicholas and his charming (but intimidating) Russian wife Grand Duchess Helen, along with their daughters, Elizabeth and Marina (their eldest child, Olga, Philip’s godmother-by-proxy, was already married to Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and lived in Belgrade). These cousins were-like his sisters-much older than Philip but, as was true of most members of that generation of the Greek royal family, they were full of fun and possessed of a decidedly unique sense of humour which appealed to the youngster.

The young Prince enjoyed holidays too with his older cousin Crown Princess (later Queen Mother) Helen and her son Michael at their home in Romania. France was an obvious destination with Berck Plage, near Le Touquet, a decided favourite. Another welcome French summer retreat was the holiday home, in Marseilles, of Madame Anna Foufounis, the widow of a wealthy Greek royalist. When visiting England, Philip also enjoyed vacationing with his sisters Sophie (‘Tiny’) and Cecile (Blakeney in Norfolk being a particular favourite). Apparently, Prince Andrew was keen that his son should also be educated in England and, in 1929, it was decided to send him to Cheam, a preparatory (or ‘prep’) school in Surrey, whose purpose was-as the name suggests-to prepare boys for passing the Common Entrance examination which was required (along with payment of the large fees) for entry to exclusive public schools such as Eton or Harrow. Discipline was tight at Cheam and it is fair to say that he did not excel academically other than in French for which he won a prize. The headmaster, the Reverend Taylor would later remember Philip’s strong personality and leadership skills.

The months between December 1930 and August 1931 saw the marriage of all of Philip’s sisters to members of the German aristocracy. The Prince’s time at Cheam also saw him draw closer to his maternal grandmother, Victoria, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven (born a Princess of Hesse and by Rhine and the eldest sister of the late Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia) and various other Mountbatten relatives in England, particularly his maternal uncle, George, the 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and his Romanov wife Nadejda (‘Nada’), the younger daughter of Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich of Russia. Conveniently, they lived at Lynden Manor on the upper reaches of the Thames. It was the Marquess who paid Philip’s school fees during this period and some have referred to George as a ‘surrogate father’ to the young Prince, while the couples’ son David-who also attended Cheam-assumed a sort of quasi-brother role in his Greek kinsman’s life. This affinity to his British-based relations coincided with a deterioration in the mental health of Philip’s mother Princess Alice, who had entered a clinic in Tegel, Germany in February 1930, for a period of rest and psychoanalysis. She was subsequently diagnosed with schizophrenia and was moved to a psychiatric sanatorium in Kreuzlingen. Until her recovery in 1937, Philip would only see his mother intermittently. His father Andrew too was not much on the scene, spending much of his time on the French Riviera, where he had many rich friends and a mistress, Madame Andrée de la Bigne.

In the 1930’s, Prince Philip spent periods at Wolfsgarten, the home of his sister Cecile (now married to Georg Donatus [‘Don’], Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse) as well as with his sister Theodora (‘Dolla’), who lived at Schloss Salem with her husband Berthold, the Margrave of Baden. Dolla seemed keen to take an interest in her brother’s education during this period and Philip was soon enrolled at the Schloss’ school founded, in 1920, by Prince Max of Baden (Dolla’s father-in-law) and Kurt Hahn, a German Jew who had served as Private Secretary to Prince Max. Hahn was an outspoken critic of Hitler and the anti-Semitic Nazi regime and this led to his arrest in March 1933. Kurt was eventually released (thanks to the intervention of influential British friends including Ramsay MacDonald, the former Prime Minister) and subsequently moved to Scotland where he founded a new school, Gordonstoun, situated near Hopeman on the Moray coast. After only a couple of terms at Schule Schloss Salem (by which time Hahn had already departed for Britain and Berthold had assumed the role of headmaster) Philip-who was also far from respectful of the Third Reich’s foibles (he detested the ‘heel clicking’ style and thought the Nazi salute quite ridiculous as it reminded him of having to put up his hand in class at Cheam to ask to use the lavatory)-relocated to Scotland, thanks to the assistance again of George Milford Haven, to commence his studies at Gordonstoun.

Gordonstoun was an ideal school for this energetic boy with no surname, who was usually known simply as ‘Philip’, or occasionally more formally as ‘Philip of Greece’. As at Salem, the day started with cold showers and a brisk run. Meditation was also encouraged. Sailing was on the curriculum, as was amateur dramatics (a production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is frequently mentioned by past biographers). The Prince also played cricket and hockey (eventually captaining both teams). Philip seemed keen to fit in and according to one contemporary never ‘swanked about his relatives.’ Like other pupils he undertook work to help out the local community. Kurt Hahn recalled that, ‘He was often naughty, never nasty.’ During the long summer holidays, he would continue to spend time in Germany with his sisters and their families. Wolfsgarten remained a particular favourite and Philip’s father, Prince Andrew, was sometimes present too and this made for brief, but welcome, reunions.

In November 1935 the Greek monarchy was restored following a plebiscite and, on 22 November of the following year, Philip paid a visit to Athens to join other members of the Greek royal family for the reburial, at Tatoi, of the three senior members of the Hellenic royal house who had died in exile, namely King Constantine I, Queen Olga and Queen Sophie. Their bodies had earlier been exhumed from the vaults of the Russian Orthodox Church in Florence. All of the extended royal family stayed at the Grande Bretagne Hotel which seems to have been commandeered for the occasion. This provided the young Prince with ample opportunities to discuss the history of the family with his aunts, uncles and cousins. He would also return, in January 1938, for the wedding of his cousin Crown Prince Paul (‘Palo’) to Princess Frederika of Hanover.

However, there was one disaster during this early period of the Prince’s life which was to have lasting consequences: On 16 November 1937, a Belgian Sabena aeroplane carrying his sister Cecile (pregnant with her fourth child), her husband Don, their sons Ludwig and Alexander and Cecile’s mother-in-law, Eleanore, hit a chimney in thick fog as it approached Ostend’s Steene Aerodrome. All of the passengers (who had been en route to London to attend the nuptials of Don’s younger brother, Ludwig [‘Lu’] to Margaret ‘Peg’ Geddes) were killed. Philip was informed of the tragedy by Kurt Hahn and, although in deep shock, he travelled south from Gordonstoun to rendezvous with his father in London and travel on to the funeral, which was held on 23 November in Darmstadt. Philip’s mother Princess Alice-who was now much improved health wise-was also in attendance.

In April 1938, more tragedy followed when Philip’s mentor, George Milford-Haven, died of bone cancer at the age of only forty-six. Aged sixteen, the Prince was at an impressionable age. Meanwhile, his father’s continued absence in the South of France and his mother’s recent decision to return to Greece to live in a small flat in Athens, left the way open for George’s younger brother, Louis Mountbatten, to exert considerable influence over his nephew, especially when Philip commenced his naval career, in the spring of 1939, as a cadet at the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. By going to sea, the young Prince thus followed in the footsteps of both his maternal and paternal grandfathers. Philip often spent the weekend at Mountbatten’s London home in Chester Street, where he invariably slept on a camp bed in the sitting room.

Yet Philip’s maternal grandmother, Victoria, also remained an influential presence in his life and he sometimes spent time at her grace-and-favour apartment at Kensington Palace. Indeed, during the summer of 1939, as the storm crowds of war gathered on the horizon, Philip stayed there for a month along with his mother, Princess Alice. The duo then travelled via Paris to Italy from where they sailed to Athens. They arrived in Greece just prior to war being declared between Britain and Germany on 3 September. Philip returned to England, in late September, to resume his nautical training at the instruction of his cousin, King George II of the Hellenes. He then graduated as best all-round cadet of the term at Dartmouth, an accolade which won him the King’s Dirk. Philip would go on to serve in the Royal Navy for the duration of World War II and beyond, until 1951.

However, there was already a far greater prize on the horizon. Just prior to Philip’s summer holiday with his mother, he had enjoyed a reunion with his distant cousin, Princess Elizabeth, and her sister, Princess Margaret Rose, at Dartmouth, during a tour of inspection of the Royal Naval College by their parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). Captain Louis Mountbatten was also ‘in attendance’ in his role as the King’s Aide-de-Camp. There happened to be an outbreak of mumps at the College so, rather than attend a morning church service as previously planned, the Princess’ were placed in the care of Philip. The trio played games (both croquet and tennis are frequently cited) together on a lawn, during which the Prince was observed jumping enthusiastically over a tennis net. Later, as the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert sailed out of the Dart Estuary, a plucky Prince Philip jumped into a small boat and determinedly continued to follow the yacht long after his fellow cadets had given up the effort. Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth (or ‘Lilibet’ to her family) was captivated by her older kinsman’s exploits that day and somehow this Greek princeling found a niche in her young heart which would only grow fonder with the years.

Robert Prentice is the author of the latest biography on a member of the Greek Royal Family, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia Her Life and Times. Available, at time of posting from the bookdepository.com with FREE Worldwide Postage. Click on link below:

Princess Olga of Yugoslavia : Robert Prentice : 9781839754425 (bookdepository.com)

Queen Mary’s Wartime Escapades

As the rumours of war intensified in the first days of September, 1939, Queen Mary was holidaying at the royal family’s Norfolk estate at Sandringham, close to the ancient market town of King’s Lynn. On the morning that war with Germany was declared, 3 September, the Queen was listening to a radio broadcast by the Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, on the vicar’s radio in her stall at the small estate church of St Mary Magdalene. Soon thereafter, the local parishioners were temporarily diverted from their devotions by the drone of the local air raid siren. This was a false alarm, being merely a test of the system. Presumably, the Queen Dowager spent the rest of what remained of that first Sunday of wartime in a state of nervous anticipation.

In the early hours of 4 September, Queen Mary was roused from her sleep by another ‘alarm.’ She and her detective Green and her grandchildren Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra of Kent (the children of Prince George, the Duke of Kent and his wife Marina, who were temporarily under her care) all rushed to the basement, where they sat stoically until the ‘all clear’ was sounded at 3.30 am. Although Mary returned to her bed, she remained wide-awake till morning.

Indeed, by 10am the Queen Dowager and her large entourage of staff had already packed their cases and departed ‘the Big House’, under a pre-arranged plan, for an even grander edifice, Badminton House, in rural Gloucestershire. This was the home of the Duke of Beaufort (‘Master’) and his wife, Mary, who was a niece of Queen Mary. As the Duke had already joined his Regiment, it was Mary Beaufort who was faced with the daunting prospect of greeting her royal aunt and her staff of around fifty, along with seventy pieces of the Queen’s luggage.

Queen Mary-who had lunched en route at the Northamptonshire home of Lord and Lady Spencer at Althorp-quickly selected a first-floor bedroom, with a splendid view over across the park, together with an adjacent sitting room and bathroom. For her private dining room, she made use of the so-called Oak Room, the main feature of which was its dark, heavy Jacobean panelling. Yet, even this generous accommodation was deemed insufficient, so she commandeered a large dining-room to serve as a formal drawing room for receiving important guests. To protect her royal personage, four despatch riders were on constant call to lead the way to safety in case of a sudden attack or a German invasion. They were augmented by 120 men of the local Gloucestershire Regiment who were quartered in the old stables. Of course, Inspector George Gardner, the Queen’s personal police protection officer, was also on hand.

It must be said that the Queen Dowager never wanted to go to the country. She would far preferred to have remained at Marlborough House, but the King persuaded his mother that if she were to remain in London, he would be constantly fretting over her wellbeing. To combat her initial restlessness and feelings of uselessness, ‘Bertie’ ensured that Mary should receive regular news summaries from the Foreign Office. These were sent down by motorbike courier in official red leather dispatch boxes. Another weapon to combat country boredom was Queen Mary’s weekly train visits up to London, during which she sometimes lunched with the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace and visited her favourite shops. Filled with purpose, the Dowager was up with the lark to catch the 8.28 train from nearby Chippenham. The journey took two hours. Her only complaint was that the blackout requirements, on the evening return trip, hampered her ability to read.

Looking out of her bedroom window one day, Queen Mary espied a whole wall of the house covered in ivy ‘of 50 years standing.’ She had always hated the plant with a vengeance, believing that it was destructive to a building’s stone work. Some of the park’s trees were also covered in the dastardly plant. Soon, her Equerry, Sir John Coke, was pressed into joining his mistress for a morning of clearing ivy. This ‘Ivy Squad’ was eventually augmented by the enrolment of Her Majesty’s duty Lady-in-Waiting and Private Secretary, aided by any visiting guests. Given the old Queen’s zeal, it is not surprising that Badminton’s considerable stock of Ivy was quickly exhausted.

Undeterred, by the autumn of 1940, Queen Mary turned her attention, most afternoons, to the clearance of areas of the local woodlands. A ‘Wooding Squad’ was established, mainly composed of the four dispatch riders and their royal charge. As Mary now rarely went to London due to the German bombing campaign or ‘Blitz’ (during which most of Marlborough House’s windows were blown-out, as were many of the interior doors), this diversion proved particularly welcome. The Queen was a thoughtful ‘employer’ and happily passed round cigarettes to her workers during their breaktime from chopping and sawing, always ensuring, of course, to have one herself. Mary also took great pains to find out the birthdays of her ‘wooders’, so that she could give them a small gift.

However, the Dowager Queen’s efforts at undertaking a salvage campaign to collect scrap iron for the war effort proved less successful. Her enthusiasm often led her into ‘salvaging’ the local farmers’ perfectly serviceable field implements which had to be discreetly returned to them at a later date. Yet, her dedication to the task is evidence that her patriotic heart was in the right place. Mary’s patriotism was also apparent in her insistence on obeying the strict rationing rules. Many was the evening that a dinner guest left her table hungry after consuming only half a snipe. By contrast, the Queen loved to fill her rooms with exuberant displays of geraniums and orchids, the latter often sourced (doubtless at great expense) from neighbouring nursery gardens.

Another outlet for Queen Mary’s talents was to undertake a varied array of official engagements in the locality, be it visiting a munitions factory or a hospital or a woollen mill or a group of evacuees from London. Although Her Majesty’s movements were meant to shrouded in secrecy, on a visit to a spitfire production factory at Trowbridge, one of the workers let the secret slip, so a group of children were there to greet her as she alighted from her old green Daimler saloon ‘prim as always’ with her trademark rolled-up umbrella in one hand. Sometimes, on her outings, Mary would come across members of the military plodding along the road and she soon took to offering them lifts. Many were unaware of who this kind and inquisitive old lady was, particularly in the case of foreign combatants.

For relaxation the Queen Dowager often visited antique shops in nearby Bath. She also enjoyed embroidery (or ‘stitchery’ as she sometimes referred to it). Mary would also visit local gardens and if it happened to be raining, she would don a pair of short rubber boots and prod tentatively at the flower beds with her stick or umbrella. Family members often visited, particularly her youngest son, the Duke of Kent, and his sister Mary, the Princess Royal. The Duke’s death in an air accident in northern Scotland, in August, 1942 was a severe shock. However, Mary stoically put her own feelings aside and arranged to motor to Buckinghamshire next day, to comfort his widow, Marina. The only night the Queen Dowager spent away from Badminton during the entire war period, was at Windsor Castle on the eve of the Duke’s funeral on 29 August.

On occasion, Badminton was subjected to air raids due to its proximity to Bristol and Bath. Queen Mary initially ‘descended’ to a reinforced room on the ground floor where, dressed to perfection and sitting bolt upright, she would attempt to solve a crossword puzzle. Eventually, she decided to remain upstairs in bed and take her chances. However, Mary was less sanguine when it came to the bombing of her beloved Marlborough House noting, ‘The dear old House cannot stand much more of this, & I tremble each day for news of it’s having succumbed.’

By early 1945, the old Queen had resumed her journeys up to London. Their primary purpose was so that she could assess the extent of the damage to Marlborough House, with a view to preparing the place for her eventual return. From the outset, it became clear that only her private suite of rooms could be made habitable in time for her return home, as materials to undertake repairs were almost impossible to obtain.

After celebrating VE day (8 May) with a visit to the local pub (where the villagers were celebrating with a sing-song), Queen Mary departed Badminton on 11 June. She insisted on personally bidding farewell to the Heads of each of the nine ‘departments’ of the estate and presented a gift to each. It was an emotional occasion and with tears streaming down her face, the Dowager acknowledged to Mr Perks, the Head Gardener, ‘Oh, I have been happy here! Here I’ve been anybody to everybody, and back in London I shall have to begin being Queen Mary all over again.’ She also admitted to having ‘gained much’ from her time there, which is an understatement given that, prior to moving to Badminton, she had not even known what hay looked like.

The writer of this blog is the author of a new biography: Princess Olga of Yugoslavia Her Life and Times published by Grosvenor House Publishing and available as a hardback or e-book from Amazon and other on-line booksellers and local bookshops.

Royal Wedding Tiara’s Tantalising History.

It was a most touching gesture of the Queen to lend her diamond fringe tiara to her granddaughter Princess Beatrice of York on her recent wedding day. Interestingly, Her Majesty had worn the self-same tiara at her own wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh in November 1947. Fortunately, for Beatrice, there was no mishap, or drama, involved in the wearing of it. The same cannot be said for the then Princess Elizabeth as, on the morning of her wedding day, the tiara’s fragile frame snapped, as the bride-to-be was dressing. Fortunately, the court jeweller was on hand to rush it-accompanied by a police escort-to his workroom for a quick but necessary repair.

But what is the history of this sparkling jewel which the catty diarist, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon referred to, dismissively, as ‘an ugly spiked tiara’? According to Suzy Menkes in her worthy examination of royal jewellery, the Royal Jewels and Leslie Fields in the exhaustively-researched Queen’s Jewels, the ‘sunray’ tiara was made, around 1830, to be worn as a necklace from brilliant-cut stones belonging to King George III (and referred to as the King George III fringe tiara). Fields indicates that Queen Victoria was the first person to use it as a tiara, when the graduated necklace was mounted on a thin wire band. In her book, she even includes an image of a young Victoria wearing it in a Winterhalter painting, carrying her infant son Prince Arthur (later the Duke of Connaught) in her arms. This necklace/tiara was one of an extensive list of items of jewellery (sometimes referred to as the ‘Crown Jewellery’, to distinguish it from the Sovereign’s personal gems) left in perpetuity to the Crown by Victoria on her death in 1901.

This tiara/necklace eventually passed into the hands of that most acquisitive of royal consorts, Queen Mary. However, this is where the story takes an unexpected and confusing turn. According to more recent sources (and meticulously highlighted in a post in the blog, The Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor in 2017), although Queen Mary did wear this 1830 version as a tiara, she also subsequently had a similar-styled tiara made from stones from a necklace she had received as a wedding present from Queen Victoria in 1893. This new ‘Queen Mary Fringe Tiara’ was manufactured by E. Wolff & Co. for the royal jewellers, Garrard and Company, in 1919 and was apparently easier to wear. She passed this version on to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (along with a portion of the Crown Jewellery) following the accession of her second son, Albert (‘Bertie’), to the throne as King George VI in December 1936.

While both Menkes and Field state that it was the 1830 version which was worn by Princess Elizabeth as the ‘something borrowed’ on her wedding day in 1947, the more recent sources, including Hugh Roberts in his publication The Queen’s Diamonds, point to the later 1919 Queen Mary Fringe Tiara version’s use. He and the Royal Order of Sartorial Splendor Blogspot (17 February 2012) also point out that the two tiaras are frequently confused, as was the case when the Queen wore the later version in a formal portrait to be used in New Zealand to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee. The tiara was also worn by Princess Beatrice’s Aunt, Princess Anne (the Princess Royal) on her wedding day in November 1973.

Queen Elizabeth was glad of the acquisition of jewels from Queen Mary-which she wore on a tour of Canada in the summer of 1939-for as she revealed to the photographer, Cecil Beaton, ‘The choice [of jewellery available] is not very great, you know.’ Although this is an exaggeration, it was a tactful acknowledgement by her successor that Queen Mary, now Queen Dowager, still held on to the vast majority of royal gems, much of which had been amassed from often impecunious relatives during her husband, King George V’s reign. Fortunately, Queen Elizabeth’s jewellery box would be augmented by a wonderful bequest from the shrewd Scottish brewery heiress, Mrs Ronnie Greville in 1942.

Centenary of the Royal Tour of Australia.

100 years ago, today, on 26 May, 1920 the British cruiser HMS Renown entered Port Melbourne. On board, was the darling of the British Empire, HRH The Prince of Wales. Edward (or ‘David’ to his friends) was about to undertake his first tour of this great continent and the local populace were in a frenzy. In Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, numerous triumphal arches had been built in his honour, the most notable of which was the ‘Wool Industry Arch’ in Sydney’s Bridge Street, which featured the figure of a ram atop. The local populace had also been tutored to sing the words of ‘God Bless the Prince of Wales.’ This would invariably be accompanied at events by a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, ‘God Save the King.’ In addition, various public buildings throughout the country were being illuminated electrically in the royal visitor’s honour.

After disembarking at Port Melbourne, the Prince and his party drove in a convoy of Crossley cars the eight miles to Government House, Melbourne, at that time the largest in the Empire. The pavements on both sides of the road were thronged with flag-waving crowds, anxious to catch their first glimpse of ‘Our digger Prince.’ The events then began in earnest: A visit to the Federal Houses of Parliament, a dinner for 300 at the Queen’s Hall, followed next day by a gathering of 18000 worthies at the State Exhibition Building. Somehow, the Prince also found time to review the Australian Fleet on the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Laws at the University of Melbourne. Edward was immediately caught up in the general bonhomie and wrote to his mother, Queen Mary, of the ‘enthusiastic’ crowds which even surpassed his experience on an earlier portion of his World Tour in Canada.

The Prince departed Port Melbourne by sea on 12 June. As the focus of the tour was very much on honouring military veterans and ‘returned’ sailors and servicemen, en route to Sydney, a visit was included to The Royal Australian Naval College at Jervis Bay. Edward arrived in Sydney, the largest city in Australia, on 17 June. After a formal reception at the Town Hall and a State Government Dinner, the Prince progressed to the Central Station to join the Royal Train for an overnight journey to Canberra, to lay the foundation stone of the new Federal capital. On his arrival, on 21 June, HRH must have been a trifle confused for apart from a power station and a water works, there was, as yet, little evidence of the fine city Canberra would one day become. Nevertheless, he diligently did his part before returning to Sydney by rail in time for dinner. The remainder of his time there quickly passed in a blur of lunches, banquets, receptions, speeches, late-night private parties, as well as a parade for 10000 returned sailor and soldiers at Centennial Park.

On 25 June, the Prince departed Sydney for a long sea voyage along the south coast of Australia to the port of Albany in the West and thence, on 30 June, by train to Perth. After many days of official engagements there (including a sail down the Swan River), Edward embarked the royal train for the journey eastwards across the vast Nullarbor Plain and onwards to Adelaide. However, at Jarnadup, three carriages of the train came off the line. Fortunately, the Prince had been spared injury by rolling up into a ball shape the moment he experienced the heavy jolting movement of the train. A highlight of this stretch of the tour was HRH’s encounter with fifty Aboriginal people, dressed only in loin cloths, at Cook. Edward was transfixed during this ‘corroboree’ by a boomerang display.

Adelaide was reached on 12 July. The itinerary here included a Boy Scout Jamboree at the Jubilee Oval, a visit to the Military Hospital at Keswick and a march past of military veterans at Government House. Then it was the turn of Tasmania. As the two main towns of Hobart and Launceston enjoyed a friendly rivalry, both had to be visited.

On returning to Sydney by sea, the official party immediately travelled by rail up to Queensland. At Brisbane, the Prince was greeted by a party of Women War Workers and feted by crowds the length of Edward Street. Events included a Peoples’ Reception at the Botanic Gardens, an official dinner atop Finney’s Department Store and a tour of an Agricultural Exhibition. As in the other cities, many of the large buildings were festooned with decorations and Prince of Wales feather motifs. Postcards were now available featuring the ‘Digger Prince’, as were little metal medallions.

By this stage of the tour, the Prince was complaining to one correspondent in England that, ‘mentally, I’m absolutely worn out.’ Late nights at the various Government Houses en route, as well as sleepless nights aboard the royal train were to blame. Therefore, Edward must have been delighted when the final period of his tour in Australia was mostly devoted to rural pursuits. On 2 August, he visited a cattle station near Boonah, Queensland to watch the cattle being dipped against ticks. 7 August found him attempting to shear sheep at Wingadee Station, New South Wales. He was amazed to learn that a man could shear 200 in a day. Finally, there was a ‘buck jumping’ display and some Kangaroo hunting at another venue near Miowera.

The successful tour ended with HMS Renown steaming through the Heads at Sydney on the early evening of 19 August, following a 21-gun salute by HMAS Australia. The Prince informed the Governor-General that he had been ‘deeply touched’ by the ‘openhearted affection’ of the Australian people.

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.

Yugoslav Royals’ ‘Private’ Visit to London 1939.

As the volatile political situation in Europe throughout the spring and early summer of 1939 threatened to escalate into war, Prince Regent Paul of Yugoslavia, whose Balkan Kingdom was already under threat both from Italian expansionist desires and an increasing economic dependence on Germany, was feeling decidedly unsettled. A recent State Visit to Berlin, which included a massive military display, had only served to increase his disquiet. Worryingly, he also confided to his old friend, Infante Alfonso, Duke of Galliera, that Hitler was ‘mad’.

It must have been somewhat of a relief to receive a telegram from his friend, King George VI (‘Bertie’) asking him to pay a visit to London for ‘important, though informal, discussions with British Ministers’. Paul was the supreme anglophile: he had been educated at Christ Church, Oxford and counted the British aristocrats (and fellow Oxford graduates) Walter, the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and Robert, Viscount Cranborne (‘Bobbety’) as close friends. Furthermore, the British Queen Consort (formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) had often entertained Prince Paul at her childhood home, Glamis Castle, near Forfar and counted him as a member of her ‘inner circle’. However, the Prince’s most recent link with England was through his wife, Princess Olga. The latter’s youngest sister, Marina, had married Britain’s Prince George, the Duke of Kent, less than five years previously. It also happened that King George VI was godfather to both fifteen-year-old King Peter of Yugoslavia and to Paul and Olga’s (British-born) eldest child, Alexander.

On 17 July, the Prince Regent and Princess Olga arrived at Victoria Station for a two-week visit. The Kent’s were waiting to greet them, as was Alexander, who was currently attending Eton. Although the visit was not a ‘State’ but a ‘private’ event, the royal couple’s strong links to the British monarchy ensured that they were quartered in great comfort in Buckingham Palace’s ground-floor Belgian Suite. The British press were suitably kind to the Regent noting that in Yugoslavia, ‘Prince Paul is bearing a burden a heavy burden and bearing it exceedingly well.’ Furthermore, as the senior ‘trustee’ of the Yugoslav crown, they observed that, ‘his policy is that nothing should be done which will jeopardise the position of King Peter when he attains his majority in two years’ time and will then take over the responsibilities of government.’ The press, nevertheless, praised Paul for ‘striving for peace within and without the country’ and acknowledged it had been ‘an exceedingly difficult task to hold the balance evenly between the [Orthodox] Serbs and the [Roman Catholic] Croats’ whilst also having to ‘resist the overtures’ of Italy and Germany.

On 18 July, Paul and Olga joined the King and Queen on the front stalls of the Little Theatre to watch the musical revue “Nine Sharp” starring the Australian actor, Cyril Ritchard. Next day, the Prince lunched and held talks with the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at his residence, 10 Downing Street. Lord Halifax, the Foreign Minister was also present, as were various British military chiefs and the President of the Board of Trade. Paul was at pains to point out that Germany and Russia were in talks with a view to signing a non-aggression pact. If Britain did not consummate a deal with the Russians then Germany would. Later, the King invested Prince Paul as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain’s oldest (and most prestigious) order of chivalry. In the evening, Bertie and Elizabeth hosted a ball attended by 800 at which the Prince Regent and Princess Olga were the guests of honour. This would be the last major event to be held at the Palace until after the Second World War.

Yet, despite this lavish display of royal hospitality, the British press later seemed surprised that the Yugoslavs maintained such a ‘living sentiment’ for all things British which went beyond simple royal family ties, even although Britain had failed to offer Yugoslavia similar aid or guarantees as those offered to its neighbour Greece. Indeed, Lord Halifax, appeared slow to appreciate Dr Ivan Subbotic’s, [the Yugoslav Minister in London] recent entreaties for armaments and improved trade terms. This situation had continued despite the fact that the British Minister in Belgrade, Sir Ronald Campbell, had pressed his Foreign Office masters in London, prior to Prince Paul’s visit, for ‘more substantial assistance to this country.’ Campbell’s intervention was driven by a sense of embarrassment exacerbated by the Prince Regent’s oft expressed ‘surprise that we do nothing practically to help [Yugoslavia].’ Campbell was also aware that despite the lack of British military aid, Halifax had tried to press the Regent into making some sort of declaration as to what Yugoslavia intended to do should Germany invade Romania. Paul was furious at such a crass display of diplomacy, fearing that such a declaration would antagonise the Germans at a time when his country was short of arms and unprepared militarily. Furthermore, it remained a delicate time in Yugoslav internal politics, as the Prince was involved in trying to obtain an agreement (Sporazum) between the Serbs and the Croats. (This would eventually be achieved in late August.)

Meanwhile, in late July, following a weekend stay at the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s home at Coppins, near Iver, the Prince Regent entered a London nursing home for three days for an operation by orthodontist Mr Bowdler Henry on a wisdom tooth. He and Princess Olga departed for their summer home in Slovenia on 2 August. The couple’s loyal friend, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon waved them off at Victoria Station. However, the presence of 100 policemen, who formed a tight security ring around the Prince Regent (there had been numerous death threats against Paul over the years), somewhat unsettled Chips and caused him to take ‘a gulp of misery’ while wondering what the future held for his friends. Prince Paul, for his part, was left with the distinct impression that Britain had little interest in coming to Yugoslavia’s aid.

On 22 August it was announced-as Prince Paul had predicted to British officials in London-that Germany and Russia had signed a Treaty of Non-Aggression. The British press succinctly noted that ‘Nazi-ism and Bolshevism… are now shaking hands’. Worryingly, the Treaty had a secret protocol appended to it which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and gave the green light for further German advances, particularly into Poland. Indeed, within weeks, Germany would be at war with both Great Britain and France.


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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.