British Royalty: Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester (1900-74)

Figure 1.--Prince Henry is shown here in one of several kilt outfits he wore as a boy.

Henry William Frederick Albert Windsorr (1st Duke of Gloucester) was was born in 1900, the first British royal of the 20th Century. He was the third son of George V. As a small child, he wore cotton frocks with tartan sashes tied at the waist with lace-edged pantaloons showing just beneath the hem of the frock. He was the first British royal to attend a preparatory school, although he did not live with the boarders. He wore the school uniform. Due to ill health, he did not follow his older brothers into the navy.


Prince Henry was born in York Cottage (1900). York Cottage was a relaively small house on the the Sandringham estate of the Prince of Wales and his Alexandra. It was used by their second son Prince George and his wife Mary. There title was the Duke and Duchess of York, hence their home was called York Cottage. At the time of his birth Queen Victoria was still allive. The following year she died and Prince Henrry's grandfather became King Edward VII. Henery and his brothers grew up in the cramped quarters of York Cottage.

The Nursery

Henry his brothers and sisters were cared for by Lala, Charlotte Bill, who not only looked after them, but delt with two demanding personalities with very definite ideas of how the children should be cared for, George V and Queen Victoria. She treasured a photograph of Queen Victoria holding Prince Henry as a baby and surrounded by other members of the royal family. Lala does not appear in the photograph, but is crouched behind the Queen to support the Prince in case his weight proved to much for the aging monarch. Henry was dressed like a beautiful doll, with the skirts of two voluminous petticoats, one of flannel and the other of muslin, emerging from beneath his cambric frock. Thick white stockings and tight buttoning boots encased his legs and feet.

Figure 2.--Henry is pictured here in a dress like his sisters, only he has a lace collar while his brothers have a normal sailor collar.


All the sons of George V were dressed very similarly. As boys after they were breeched they mostly wore sailor suits, except when they went north to Balmoral where they wore kilts. As a result, most photographs show them wearing sailor suits. This was of course the same for Prince Henry.

Younger Child

Queen Mary outfitted the boys, including Henry, in dresses until about 5 years of age. Quite a few images exist of the younger boys aring dresses. The dresses were usually long, worn well below the knees. This shows that the practice of dressing little boys in dresses was quite common right up to World War I. Photographs exist of Henry and his younger brother George wearing cotton frocks with tartan sashes tied at the waist with lace-edged pantaloons showing just beneath the hem of the frock. Even before breeching, Henry like his brothers began wearing sailor dresses or middy blouses with skirt-kilts rather than kneepants. One photograph shows Henry wearing a blue winter sailor dress just like his sister. The only difference is that he has a lace collar rather than a normal sailor collar. While in the nursery, the boys for every day wear were often dressed in tussore smocks. They were not often photographed in smocks. I on't think George V liked them to be phtographed in such informal clothes.


Henry's curls appear to have been cut at a very early age, well before he was breeched.

Figure 3.--This photograph taken about 1908 shows Queen Mary and all of the children. Princess Mary and David (Edward VIII) are at the back. Prince George and Prince John are in the baby buggy. Prince Henry and Prince Albert (George VI) are at the front. Notice that the older brother wear identical kilt outfits. There are some differences in Prince Henry's clothes. His sporan has no black fur, he has solid colored kneesocks, and buckle shoes.

Sailor Suits

After breeching at about 5 years of age, their father almost always had Henry and his brothers dressed in sailor suits. They also wore kilts, especially on trips to Scotland. Actually they had several different kilt outfits and their father had very definite ideas about which kilt should be worn to what event or activity. Sailor suits, however, were the normal everyday wear for the boys and sometimes even for Princess Mary when they were not in Scotland. The Victorians very commonly made small distinctions in the boys' clothes to reflect the age of the older boys. Princess Mary also wore sailor suits, but usually appeared in smocks and dresses. Many of her dresses had sailor motiffs. Such distinctions someimes were barely noticeable, but no doubt important to the children. Their father before and after the boys were breeched appears to have been particularly partial to sailor suits, first with kilt skirts and then as the boys got older, knee pants. This no doubt reflects his nautical background as he had expected to pursue his career in the Navy. He never expected to be king. Many boys in the late 19th Century wore sailor suits. I do not think, however, it was common for them to almost exclusively wear sailor suits. One wonders if Queen Mary didn't want to dress the boys in other fashions once in a while. But she dutifully ffollowed her husband's instructions. Henry, like his brothers, wore different bottoms with their sailor middy blouses. As we have seen, as younger boys they wore kilt skirts. After breeching they wore short pants and kneepants with long stockings. The short pants were only worn during the summer when the boys were very young. (The Duke of Windsor never remembers wearing shorts and short socks.) Finally by about 10 years of age, Henry and his brothers wore their sailor suits with long pants. I am not sure jus who devised this schedule. Perhaps he was happy to see them in sailor suits and let his wife take care of the details, but one suspect he was also involved in these details.


As the boys got older, their father Mary would increasingly outfit them in kilts. They almost always wore kilts while on trips to Scotland, but there were occasiond for kilts in England as well. They each had several different kilt outfits. One style, for example, had military style jackets which they boys wore with Eton collars and bow ties.

Figure 4.--This photograph taken about 1910 or 1911 shows all of George V's and Queen Mary's children. Princess Mary is the girl. David (Edward VIII) looks rather sullen in a stiff Eton collar. His brother the future George VI is in his cadet uniform. Prince Henry and George wear sailor suits, the normal dress for the boys. Prince John who looks to be about 5 years old still wears a dress.

Coordinated outfits

Henry and his brothers were often dressed in very similar outfits. A close examination, however, will often show subtle differences. This was a form of age rading that was very common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Differences could include the style and size of the sporan, the collar and tie, the kkneesocks, the type of shoes, and other stylistic details. I'm not sure what Henry and his brothers thought about these differences or whether they discussed them with each other, their parents, or their nannies and governesses. The fact that there clothing was closely ordered by age means that the issue must have been picked up on by the boys. The formality in their relationship probably meant it was difficult for the boys to raise the issue with their parents. The did, however, almost certainly have raised it with their nannies and governesses. Presumably the issue was then raised by the nannies and governesses when discussing the boys with their parents.


Harry was timid, quiet and sensitive. As a little boy he had atendency to lisp. He pronounced his name "Hawee," instead of"Harry". He retained to a degree all his life. He was given to unaccountable fits of crying and spates of nervous giggling. It is likely that Harry suffered from dyslexia, although of course in thosedays, he was merely thought stupid and slow.

Relationship with His Father

Henry's father was very strict with his sons, especially as they got older. Some of the interactions with his sons as younger children was quite touching, quite unlike the severe relationship the Duke of Windsor describes. As older boys their relationship was very formal. I think that perhaps George V became a littke less severe with his younger sons, but I'm, not positive about this. The correspondence between George and his son Edward VIII often sounded like official correspondence. I'm not sure about his correspndence with Henry.

Prep School

George V reportedly severely criticised his sons when after being thrown into a rough military academy with little preparation, they performed poorly. Perhaps because the education of the younger princes was less important or perhaps their parents saw the need for formal schooling, Henry and his younger brother George were sent to a preparatory school. (Information on British preparatory schools is available from Apertures Press.) Henry and George were the first members of the royal family to attend a preparatory school--St. Peters, in Broadstairs on the South Coast. Prince Henry (known as Harry to his immediate family) suffered from what was then known as a 'weak chest' (asthma) and it was thought that the temperate air of the South coast would be salutary to his lungs. Henry and George, like their older brother Bertie, suffered from knock knees and like him they both wore corrective splints at night beneath their flannel nightgowns to correct the disability. At St. Peter's the boys did not live in the school's dormitories, instead they were installed in a house in the vicinity of the school with a tutor and a Nurse named Sister Ethel. But they did attend the daily morning chapel with the other schoolboys and wore the regulation uniform of black serge pants (pleated at he sides), a black vest, a starched cotton shirt with a stiff Eton Collar, a shortened black jacket and of course the school cap embroidered with the school crest.

Figure 5.--This photograph taken about 1912 at Balmoral shows the four surviving sons of George V. Can you notice the subtle differences in dress. The younger boys (Henry and George) wear large Eton collars with military style jackets (note the buttons on the jacket and sleaves). Albert (future George V) wears a jacket like his older brother David (Edward VIII), but a different style tie and collar. The older boys also are allowed walking cains.


Harry, due to his poor health, was exempted from this, going to the Royal Navy cadet school as Osborne. Instead he attended Eton College and Cambridge University. Later he entered the Army.


Prince Henry's titles were 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 Culloden. His principlal titles were awarded by his father King George (1928). Notice that his titles included the different paets of the United Kingdom, exceot Wales. Note that he was Earl of Ulster. The constitutional status of Ireland had changed in the 1920s with the creation of the Irish Free State. Ireland at the time was still legally a possession of the British Crown. As result, with the accordance of the Irish President of the Executive Council, Eamon de Valera, King George as King of Ireland made Prince Henry a Knight of St Patrick (KP) which was Ireland's chivalric order (1934). Prince Henry was the last person to receuve this award. Ireland subsequently declared itself a republic.

World War II

I'm not sure at this time what role the Duke played in World War II. His second brother brother had become king as George VI just before the War and served as Britain's war time king. His older brother Edward VIII had given up the crown and after an embarassing interlude in France and Spain (1940) was posted as Governor General of the Bahamas. His brother Geotge was killed in a military plane crash in Scotland (1942).

Public Service

The Duke of Gloucester served as the 11th Governor-General of Australia (1945-47). This appointment in late 1944 was unexpected. The Labor Party in Australia had made a practice of appointing to the vice-regal post. war-time Prime Minister John Curtin felt because of the War an appointmebnt of a member of the Royal fmily had certain advantages. It strengthened Britain to Australia's defense. By late 1944 Japan no longer was an serious threat to Australia. I'm not sure what was on Curtin's mind, perhaps Australi's position after the War. Britain had played no effective part in Australia's defense. The British bastion in Singapore with a substantial number of Australian troops surrendered early in the War (1942). A Japanese carrier groop essentially forced the Royal Navy to with draw from the Indian Ocean, let alone the Pacific (1942). Actually it was America that had prevented a Japanese invasion of Austrlia. American carriers turned back athe Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea (April 1942) at a time when the Australian Army was fidhting with the British in North Africa leaving Australia itself virtually defenseless. Apparently the appointment was Curtin's way od demonstrating Australia's traditional ties to Britain, an interesting position for a Labor primeminister. TheDuke did not prove a very popular choice in Australia. He got on well with Curtin. Tge Duke was throroughly English abd very formal. He had trouble with the informality and openess of Australians. The Dutchess proved more popular. Primeminister Curtin died and the War ended (1945). Australia's new Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, was less favorably disposed toward the Duke who resigned his post and returned to England (March 1947).


The Duke married Lady Alice Christabel Montagu-Douglas-Scott, a daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (1935). Lady Alice and her family were family friends of the Royal Family. Her father had been a fellow midshipman of the future king George V. The Duke and Duchess had two sons, Prince William of Gloucester (1941-1972) and Prince Richard of Gloucester (1944- ). Richard was born at Northampton, he was christened Richard Alexander Walter George. The boys were to Australia, where for 2 years (1945-47) their father was Governor-General. Prince William died in a tragic airplane crash without a heir. As a result, Richard is now the Duke of Gloucester. He succeeded his father in June 1974.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 2:43 AM 9/19/2009