Finding a Royal Treasure Inside a Used Book


When you buy a used copy of an obscure biography of a forgotten uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, there’s no guarantee that his wife will have signed the book for a friend, but you never know….



Here are two signatures documented as being that of the late Duchess of Gloucester.


Photo found at https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-us/auction-catalogues/special-auction-services/catalogue-id-srspe10090/lot-76aaac61-7fd2-44eb-aeda-a45400949be0


I paid $7.21 plus shipping from the U.K. Other non-signed editions of the book are selling for between $11 and a laughter-enducing $300+ for an ex-library edition! I got a deal. Even though Royal signatures are pretty easy to find.


If you are interested, here are the two people we are talking about:

Prince Henry William  Frederick Albert, Godson of Kaiser Wilhelm II [his father’s first cousin] was born March 31 1900. He was the first son of the soverign educated at Eton [where William and Harry went].  As a child at boarding school he exasperated his mother, Queen Mary, by writing too often about his “everlasting” football! He became an Army Officer nicknamed “the unknown soldier.” He lived a pretty fast life as a young man–spending much of his time playing polo, [fox] hunting,  or having a lively time out in Kenya. He is sometimes rumored to be the father of famed aviatrix Beryl Markham’s (West With the Night author) son, Gervase.  He lost his looks pretty early. Being built like Queen Mary’s brothers (and today’s Prince Andrew) he became heavy and thin-haired pretty early.

Finally in 1935 he took the hint and married the young woman his parents liked (and who also had a love of hunting and Kenya) Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, daughter of the Duke of Buccleuch, one of the weathiest landowners in Scotland (among the few people who could make The Queen Mother’s family look “common” in terms of wealth and land holdings). She defied conventions of the day and traveled widely and won a photography contest. He was so un-romantic he “mubbled something” and the wedding was arranged. (The quote is the  bride’s.) [Sidebar: they frequently hunted with Mark Phillips’ (Princess Anne’s ex-husband) maternal grandparents.)

After a miscarriage, she had Prince William–best known as one of the two page boys in Queen Elizabeth’s wedding and then Prince Richard who is today’s Duke of Gloucester. Alice is one of the longest lived members of the Royal family.

Later, Harry, as he was known, was a wartime Governor General of Australia, sent in the place of his late brother, Prince George, Duke of Kent. For the rest of his life he supported the Queen carrying our royal tours and engagements and he rode in Trooping the Colour each year as well. All his life he had a rather-too-fond relationship with whiskey. His eldest brother, the Duke of Windsor, remarked in a letter to his wife that “brother Harry was feeling no pain,” a refrain that echos throughout his life. He had an embarassing need to be reminded, when wearing a kilt, to sit like a lady.


When Uncle Harry died, the Queen allowed her Aunt Alice the unusal honor of being known as “Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester,” rather than more forbidding “H.R.H. Alice, Dowager Duchess of Gloucester” or the even worse, “H.R.H. Princess Henry, Dowager Duchess of Gloucester.” Her husband had lingered for years after a stroke at the wheel of their Rolls Royce that nearly killed them both. Then their elder son, the heir to the Dukedom, Prince William, was killed in a flying accident. I guess Alice earned that title of “Princess.”

Both her memoirs and her pictorial autobiography are excellent. I especially love the photograph collection. If you watched Downton Abbey, she is about 6 years younger than Lady Mary.

Click the image to see the other photos.

Embed from Getty Images



2 thoughts on “Finding a Royal Treasure Inside a Used Book

    1. No clue! I imagine the bookseller didn’t either. I have seen the wedding registers in books and something about that signature stayed in my mind (I’m weird like that). I also thought–this book wasn’t a huge seller. How many Alices would be giving it to someone!

      Liked by 1 person

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