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Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester

The Duke of Gloucester

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (Henry William Frederick Albert Windsor) (March 31 1900 - June 10 1974), was the third son of King George V of the United Kingdom and Queen Mary, the brother of Kings Edward VIII (later Duke of Windsor) and George VI, and the uncle of Elizabeth II. He served as the eleventh Governor-General of Australia from 1945 to 1947.

His Royal Highness Field Marshal The Prince Henry William Fredrick Albert, KG, KT, KP, GCVO, GCMG, PC, GCStJ, Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron of Culloden, was born in 1900 in York Cottage, the residence on the Sandringham estate of the then Duke and Duchess of York, in the last full year in the life of his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. In 1928, his father, by now king, created him as Duke of Gloucester, Earl of Ulster, and Baron of Culloden, three titles that linked him with the three parts of the United Kingdom, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. In 1934, with the agreement of the Irish President of the Executive Council, Eamon de Valera, King George as King of Ireland made him a Knight of St Patrick (KP), Ireland's chivalric order. It was the last time this order was awarded.

In 1935 Gloucester married Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott, a daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, and they had two sons, Prince William of Gloucester (1941-1972), and Prince Richard of Gloucester (born 1944), now the Duke of Gloucester.

In late 1944 Gloucester was unexpectedly appointed Governor-General of Australia. The Labor Party of the Prime Minister, John Curtin, had a policy of appointing Australians to the vice-regal post. But in the circumstances of wartime Curtin decided that appointing a member of the Royal Family would have two advantages. It would improve the likelihood that Britain would maintain its commitment to the defence of Australia, and make the point that Australia had not become a dependency of the United States. Curtin also thought that appointing an Australian would cause unnecessary partisan division.

Although Gloucester formed a close friendship with Curtin, the appointment was not an enormous success. The Duke was a man of limited outlook and rigid views. He was very stiff and formal, and did not get on well with Australians, although the Duchess softened his image somewhat. When Curtin died in 1945 and the war ended, the justification for his appointment lost its relevance, and the new Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, was a less congenial character than Curtin had been. Gloucester left Australia in March 1947, after only two years in the job.

Back in Britain, Gloucester resumed the round of royal duties. His last years were saddened by the death of his eldest son in a 1972 plane crash. He died in Northamptonshire in 1974.

Preceded by:
Lord Gowrie
Governors-General of Australia Followed by:
Sir William McKell