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Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester : biography

31 March 1900 - 10 June 1974

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (Henry William Frederick Albert; 31 March 190010 June 1974) was a soldier and member of the British Royal Family, the third son of King George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary.

He was appointed potential regent for his niece, when his brother (George VI) came to the throne in 1936, and was required to stay in the United Kingdom until she came of age in case her father died and she ascended the throne as a minor.

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

Governor-General of Australia

In late 1944 the Duke was unexpectedly appointed Governor-General of Australia. His younger brother, the Duke of Kent, had been offered the position, but he was killed in an air tragedy in Scotland. The Labor Party of the Prime Minister, John Curtin, had a policy of appointing Australians to the vice-regal post. In the circumstances of wartime, Curtin decided that appointing a member of the Royal Family would have three advantages. It would improve the likelihood that Britain would maintain its commitment to the defence of Australia, make the point that Australia had not become a dependency of the United States, and, given the protests that had arisen in conservative circles with the last Labor appointment, the Australian Sir Isaac Isaacs, would be a politically neutral choice.

The Duke had made a successful visit to Australia earlier, in 1934. The Duke was shy and appeared stiff and formal to some. He and the Duchess travelled widely using his own plane during their time in office. When Curtin died in 1945, the Duke appointed Frank Forde as prime minister. Gloucester left Australia in March 1947, after two years in the job, due to the need to act as Regent during the absence in South Africa of his brother, King George VI. As a parting gift he left his own plane for use by the government and people of Australia.

Later life

Returning to Britain, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester acquired Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire, while retaining an apartment in Kensington Palace.

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

The Duke attended the coronation of his niece, Elizabeth II in 1953. Both the Duke and Duchess carried out royal engagements, including several overseas tours. In 1954 the Duke served as the Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Gray's Inn. He suffered a series of strokes in later years, and was too ill to attend the funeral of the Duke of Windsor in 1972, and the wedding of his younger son. He was buried in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore.

In 1972, the Duke's elder son, Prince William, died in a plane crash. The Duke was the last surviving child of King George V and Queen Mary. When he died on 10 June 1974, his second son, Prince Richard, inherited the title of Duke of Gloucester. The Duke's wife, Alice, received permission from Queen Elizabeth II to be styled "Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester" to distinguish herself from Prince Richard's wife. She survived until 2004, becoming the longest-lived member of the British Royal Family in history.

Military service

Unlike his brothers, Prince Henry joined the Army instead of the Royal Navy. He attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1919. He later served with The King's Royal Rifle Corps and the 10th Royal Hussars before retiring from active service in 1937. Following the outbreak of World War II, he joined the British Expeditionary Force, serving as a Chief Liaison Officer. He was slightly wounded in 1940 when his staff car was attacked from the air. In 1940 he became second-in-command of 20th Armoured Brigade. He was appointed a Field Marshal in 1955 and a Marshal of the Royal Air Force in 1958.

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Living octopus

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