Thursday, August 26, 2010

Happy Birthday Your Royal Highness

The Duchy of Gloucester originated in medieval times; until recently, the most famous Duke of Gloucester of them all was probably number three, a man better known to history as Richard III.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAlas, the first six Dukes weren't terribly prolific; only one of them - number five, younger brother of George III - even managed to pass his title on, although in 1834 the title lapsed to the Crown for the fifth time since it was first conferred upon Thomas of Woodstock, the thirteenth child of King Edward III, in 1397.

Only after George V bestowed the title upon his son Prince Henry - the present Duke's father - in 1928 did it manage to survive; not only did the title pass from father to son in 1974, His Royal Highness has both a son and a grandson who stand to inherit in their turn. Interestingly*, neither the Earl of Ulster (the son) or Baron Culloden (the grandson) are royal; this means that the next holder of the title will be the first non-royal Duke of Gloucester ever. However, should the fledgling dynasty crumble the title will become extinct, and revert back to the Crown until such time as it's given another go.

His Royal Highness never expected to become Duke; six weeks after he married Brigitte van Deurs - a Dane - in 1972, his brother was killed in an air crash near Wolverhampton. Despite the personal turmoil this tragedy must have caused, the Duke seems to have taken it all in his stride.

Today the Duke and Duchess travel the UK extensively on behalf of their cousin The Queen, in support of various his-and-hers charitable causes, chiefly architecture and conservation (his) and medicine, education, and social welfare (hers).

*Or not, depending upon what you're into.

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