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BORN TO BE KING

 

Children of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra:

Albert Vicotr ( known as Eddy) George ( known as the Duke of York, later King George V) Louise, Victoria, Maud and John (who lived only for 1 day).

Children of King George V and Queen Mary:

Edward (later Edward VIII), Albert (later King George VI). Mary, Henry, George (later the Duke of Kent) and John ( who died when he was 13)

 

The Duke of York at Mount Edgcombe

The Duke of York at Mount Edgcombe

Photographed by James Dinham

© Gordon Higham

 

This is a portrait of a man who was not expecting to become a King and who had looked forward to a long career  in the Royal Navy. He was born at Malborough House 3 June 1865, the second son of the then Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and Princess Alexandra and was baptised George Frederick Ernest Albert Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

 

His older brother, the first child of Edward and Alexandra was also a boy, known in the family as Eddy. The names chosen for him by Queen Victoria though were Albert Victor, and from birth, he was 2nd in the line of succession after his father and destined to  become King.  Most accounts of him simply say that he died in an influenza outbreak January 14, 1892 aged 28. All kinds of scurrilous rumours surrounded his life for years which gradually came to be thought of as being true - fortunately research has changed in recent years as more source material has become available and would-be readers should pick the most modern biographers if they want to get at something like the truth.

 

The one fact that should concern us is that it had been arranged through Queen Victoria that he should marry Princess Mary of Teck. The wedding of Eddy and Mary had been fixed for 27 February 1892, just days after he died.  The following year, Princess Mary married the Prince George, Duke of York, and it seems to have been a happy match.

 

Prince Albert Victor known as Prince Eddy

Prince Albert Victor known as Prince Eddy

1864 - 1892

From our postcard collection

 

The age difference between "Eddy" and George was only 17 months and as they began to develop, the differences in their characteristics became more and more apparent. George picked up things he was taught quite quickly and seemed to enjoy his education - "Eddy" was slow and found it hard to concentrate for any length of time and he would often appear distant. It was decided at an early stage to educate them together and to use the affection the two children felt for one another as a catalyst - George would lead his brother in the tasks their tutors set and his brother would copy and learn from him. Poor Eddy - he had been a month premature and today we would understand how that may have affected his development. And there might be other reasons for those occasions when he seemed to be distant or opting out from what was going on around  him.

 

As a second son, George was destined from birth to go in to the Navy. Led by Queen Victoria, the family decided that the best thing would be if Eddy followed this path too - at least for a few years. So in 1877, after George passed his entrance examination, the  brothers, along with their tutors and various staff members, were packed off for three years to Dartmouth, to begin their nautical careers on board HMS Britannia, the elderly training ship moored in the River Dart.

Through letters written by George V, we can tell it turned out to be a very hard experience for two children who had had very little contact with other  children or prior knowledge of boarding school life. 

 

The Princes under instruction at Osborne

Prince George and Prince Eddy

under instruction probably at Greenwich Naval College

 

CONTINUED

 

 
 
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