Review: A Royal Life by H.R.H. The Duke of Kent and Hugo Vickers


My Interest

Unless you just found my blog today, you’ll know I follow the British Royal Family. 

The Book

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H.R.H. Prince George, Duke of Kent and wife Princess Marina of Greece with young Prince Edward of Kent

H.R.H. Prince Edward (the “other” Prince Edward) was born to Prince George, Duke of Kent (son of George V and Queen Mary) and his wife, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (first cousin of Prince Philip) in another Jubilee year–1935. It was George V’s Silver Jubilee that year, and few suspected the King would be dead in a matter of months. Born seventh in the line of succession, young Eddie with his dual royal lineage was related to just about everyone royal. Sadly, his father, Prince George, died in a flying accident during World War II. There are conspiracies theories about the death as you might imagine, fueled by the fact that no author has ever been allowed access to his papers in the Royal Archive at Windsor. 

Eddie progressed through the predictable posh schools, landing last at the poshest–Le Rothesy in Switzerland, before attending Sandhurst and joining the Army. He married a beautiful, talented lady, and had three children. He likes cars, music, and history. He hunts, shoots, fishes. He used to ride in Trooping the Colour on gray horse behind the Queen. His Army career, like that of Princess Anne’s first husband Mark Phillips, ended due to having to serve in Northern Ireland. He is interested in mechanical things and, like Princess Anne admitted recently, would possibly have enjoyed studying engineering.

My Thoughts

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Queen Elizabeth II and her paternal first cousin, H.R.H. Prince Edward, Duke of Kent

Eddie Kent has spent his life loyally serving the Queen. He is discreet, dutiful, and polite. Therefore, this book reads like a compilation of Court Circulars from 1952, when as a school boy he walked in King George VI’s funeral (and months later in that of Queen Mary) until today. It is not quite as dull as the official biography of his late paternal uncle, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, but close. Even the comments from his children were not terribly illuminating. His wife seemed vacant in her comments.

As this book is part of the counter-offensive to the preaching and moaning of the Queen’s third grandson and his wife, it is no surprise that the Duke supports working within the royal system and supports the Queen truly with his “life and limb and earthly worship against all manner of folk” exactly as he swore, on his knees, to do at her Coronation. He feels supporting the Queen is “by far the most important thing in life.” He has never felt “locked into” a system nor that any system was “working against [him].” According to co-author Vickers, the Duke “represents important values, not always appreciated by the present generation.” No question at whom that is aimed.

The only things I learned about Eddie that I did not know were that he hates getting rid of books, keeps meticulous records of the amount of time it takes for the performance of each opera he attends, and hated sports at school. He did not come to like riding and [fox]hunting until he joined the Army and had to learn to ride properly due to being in a mechanized cavalry regiment in which officers had to ride well. I learned at the Coronation one elderly peer stood and the his robes, antiques inherited from a previous holder of his title, disintegrated to the floor (hilarious) and that the late king of Thailand loved jazz.

I did like seeing some family connections of another sort. Eddie, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, and H.R.H. Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester who is an architect by education/training, all were/are fascinated by engineering or engineering-related fields. The Duke (and his lovely wife) loves music–especially opera, like Prince Charles and like the late Lord Harewood (the Duke’s paternal cousin–the eldest grandchild of George V). He also loves jazz (hence the mention of the King of Thailand) like the late Lord Harewood’s younger brother, Gerald. With Gerald, too, he shared his love of fast cars and auto racing. With Prince Charles he shared a difficulty with math at school and loathing of most team sports at school. He and his wife share with William and Catherine a love of Amner Hall as a wonderful family country home. The Kents had the house before Royal friends, the Van Cutsems, who had it before the Cambridges.

There is nothing revealing in this book what-so-ever. The Duke barely mentions being married. His children get a nod. His dogs are mentioned. No thoughts on anything except music, engineering, skiing, how lucky he was to go on all those royal trips, etc. Don’t complain, don’t explainto a “t”. Sing God Save the Queen, salute, and sit down. “And, quite right, too” one can hear him say in his basset hound-like club man voice (I heard him speak in a recent documentary about the Queen).

Read my post on the Duchess of Kent’s disguised pregnancy

The book has one fantastic photo of Queen Mary with many of her grandchildren from the Duke’s personal collection. Sadly, two of the photos have misidentifications. In one the Duke himself is left out–it is supposedly his christening, but it was clearly his sister, Princess Alexandra’s christening because a nanny is very clearly wrangling him as a toddler in her arms! The other identifies the current Queen as the Duchess of Gloucester! Surely the handbag was a tip-off? Apparently not.

Royal Life by H.R.H. The Duke of Kent and Hugo Vickers is available in the USA on Kindle and will be out in an outrageously high-priced hardbound edition later in the year.

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5 thoughts on “Review: A Royal Life by H.R.H. The Duke of Kent and Hugo Vickers

  1. I don’t know of anyone who knows about the British Royals as much as you do. It’s impressive how you find all those misidentifications and mistakes in books and articles.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish you could find a great-paying job editing books written about the Royals. You would find all the mistakes the authors make. Do they not bother to check what they need to check, or do they have inept editors? I am amazed at how knowledgeable you are about the Royals.

    Liked by 1 person

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