Do you recognize these faces? If you don’t that’s ok. Most people would not recognize them, but in the United Kingdom (aka England) they play an important and often unrecognized role. They are “minor royals.” The gentleman in black tie and glasses is H.R.H. the Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester and his Danish wife Birgitte. The gentleman in the the business suit with the reseeding hairline is H.R.H. the Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and with him is his sister H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra of Kent (by marriage she tacks on “Lady Ogilvy” to that already long title). The two Dukes and the Princess, like Queen Elizabeth, are grandchildren of King George V and Queen Mary through their younger surviving sons Prince Henry (Gloucester) and Prince George (Duke of Kent). Although a good bit younger than Her Majesty (Edward was born in the Abdication year and was named for the uncrowned king–Edward VIII; Alexandra in 1937 and Richard in 1944).
So why should you care? Well, they do the “ordinary soldiering” of the Monarchy. They open new school buildings, visit with Old Age Pensioners in nursing homes, buck up the troops, represent the Queen in nearly forgotten outposts of the former Empire. When the Marquee Royals (The Queen, Philip, their children, William and Harry) gather around the card table at Sandringham to apportion new charities, Eddie, Alex and Richard get what no one else wants but that still needs a Royal patron. Edward, having been an Army officer like Harry until Northern Ireland got in the way, goes off to see the troops, takes the Salute at military parades and lays wreaths when necessary and does it all in a Uniform he EARNED. This matters. No one snickers when he does this, unlike when the Queen’s son, the “other” Prince Edward shows up at Trooping the Colour in his hotel doorman-ish London Scottish Regiment’s honorary colonel uniform. (He’s the one who famously quit the Royal Marines.)
|Photo: Prince Richard, now Duke of Gloucester, front left in front of his Grandmother, Queen Mary. Princess Alexandra and Prince Edward, Duke of Kent are in the back row far left with Princess Margaret in front. Christmas at Sandringham, 1951 just before King George VI’s death. from https://hopewellslibraryoflife.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/81e8c-lastxmas.jpg|
|Copyright Ponopresse Anthony Cricknay|
H.R.H. the Princess Alexandra of Kent has always been the glamorous one. She took over that role when the late Princess Margaret married in 1960. Her late husband was “an ordinary businessman,” at least as “ordinary” as the younger son of an Earl and educated at Eton can be. Today, with the estrangement of her older brother’s wife, she often fills in and goes along with Edward to events such as Memorial Services and things like that. It says a lot that the Queen recognized Alexandra’s status as a “Princess of the Blood” by giving her precedence the social and diplomatic pecking order ahead of Camilla–the wife of the heir to the throne.
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H.R.H. the Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, had to give up a thriving practice as an architect (he’s published books on the subject), when his older brother, the “other” Prince William (Prince William of Gloucester as he was known) died in a plane crash in the early 70s. But, as a Grandson of Queen Mary, duty was in his blood and he has been cutting ceremonial ribbons, declaring Stock Shows and Fetes open and the rest of it ever since. Thankfully he still goes by tube and motorcycle when not on duty.And, like Edward, he is a neighbor of William and Harry (yes Harry has his own place these days) at Kensington Palace).
As all of these folks are now certified Old Age Pensioners, the question looms large: Who will replace them when Charles and then William ascends the throne? As we saw in the Diamond Jubilee, Charles is for a very streamlined Royal Family and not the yards and yards of distant cousins featured on the balcony after the Trooping of the Colour each summer. But is this realistic? Can Posh Spice (Mrs. Becks) or other celebrities take this over? Is this really even “relevent” any more. You bet your charitable contribution it is! A royal on the letterhead as “patron” makes raising money for charities, schools and general good causes much easier. Bono and Sting and the footballers and the movie stars can only do so much. There’s nothing like those three little letters–H.R.H. to bring in the pounds and pence!
Who is out of the running?
Well, let’s start with those who are out of the running. In times past (i.e. Victoria’s day) the title H.R.H. continued down the (male) line a while. Today there are term limits. Not past the soveriegn’s grandchildren of the male line. While it can be overlooked, it is helpful if the said H.R.H. is still in the line of succession (that’s a euphemism for not having married a Catholic–though that’s being fixed I believe since its terribly un-pc to knock someone out of the running just for marrying someone with an older religon).
|copyright Desmond O’Niell Features|
So, that knocks out the three children of the Duke of Gloucester and their many exotically named Grandchildren. Though Alexander, Earl of Ulster and in time, his son, Xan (yes, Xan! Prounounced ‘ZAN’), the very un-pc titled Baron Culloden, will each in turn become Duke of Gloucester, they will not inherit the title of H.R.H.as they are not Princes of the Blood. They will be garden-variety, Downton Abbey type toffs. The sort who go to Eton and party with Harry. That sort. Only they don’t–well Alexander DID go to Eton and Sandhurst, but he’s a consultant now–pretty ho-hum like his father. Low profile. His wife is a pediatrician. Their daughter Cosima is more likely to go to a fashionable University than a fashionable debutante event.
Photo (left) Earl and Countess of Ulster
|Copyright Sam Greenhill|
Photos: Edward (yes another Edward) Baron Downpatrick, Grandson of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent is in the tartan trews in the Bullingdon Club photo on the right. He’s also in the photo below with his sisters, Lady Marina and Lady Amelia Windsor.
|Copyright Getty images|
Photo (right) Prince Edward Edward, Duke of Kent with daughter, Lady Helen Taylor
Also knocked out of the running are the children and grandchildren of the Duke of Kent. His sons married Catholics and none of the Duke’s offspring are H.R.H.s. His heir, George, Earl of St. Andrews, so un-Royal that he won a King’s Scholarship at Eton, managed to begat a son who shares membership in the notorious Bullingdon Club at Oxford [think richest, most obnoxious frat on campus] which boasts members such as Diana’s nephew and Prime Minister David Cameron among many others. Lord Downpatrick (as this “Eddie” is known) and his sisters only came to light recently with an appearance in the society magazine Tatler. Their Aunt, Lady Helen Taylor, is the former “Ambassador” for Armani. Her children are also not H.R.H. but ARE C.of E. (Protestant).
The potential replacement (minor) royals:
So, who are the up-and-coming “Minor Royals?” There are four of them–all the “other” grandchildren of the Queen and Prince Philip–the children of their two younger sons. Not being Royal (i.e. not of the male line) Princess Anne’s successful, apparently normal and well-adjusted, children are free to make money off their sponsorships and patronages so they don’t count. I wrote about all of them a few years ago HERE, but its time for a different look at them–a job interview, if you will.
|copyright Getty Images|
Lady Louise Windsor, daughter of the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, (the “other” Prince Edward–the one closest to the throne) Earl of Wessex. She was one of the bridesmaids at William and Kate’s wedding. She is of boarding school age now, but it remains to be seen if her parents will select Gordonstoun for her, like Princess Anne did for her children, or a more traditional school like her female royal cousins Beatrice and Eugenie each attended. Her father will become Duke of Edinburgh when Prince Philip dies, so she may then be given her “real” status as Princess Louise of Edinburgh. Her parents chose to have their children take the style and tile due to the children of an “ordinary” Earl (like Diana’s father and brother or Downton Abbey’s Lord Grantham–that kind of “ordinary”). Though much younger than William and Harry (a similar age group the Queen and the Duke of Gloucester) she could grow up to be a stunning young “helper” for her Uncle and Cousin when they each take the throne in turn. Could she grow up to be the first female royal since her Grandmother to serve in the military? That would add luster to the family and would give her credibility in taking over for Old Cousin Eddie Kent. Or perhaps she’ll follow her cousins (except Harry) to a trendy university and then have a typical upper-class career in say, movie production or nightclub owning, and marry well at about age 30 to someone she’s lived with for years. Perhaps, just perhaps though, she could have inherited the “Duty” gene like Prince Richard and be willing to devote her life to showing the Flag and declaring new primary schools “open” and such. Remains to be seen–she’s just coming up to her eleventh birthday.
|copyright Getty images|
Louise’s little brother, James (Viscount Severn) is 30 years younger than Queen Elizabeth’s oldest grandchild, Peter Phillips, and is an unknown quantity. Even his balcony appearances aren’t regular. He did make binoculars with his fingers one year at the balcony photo op for Trooping the Colour, though. Could be a blot on his copybook. His main event is the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show which is more or less held in his back garden.I have not read where he goes to school, but a likely guess would be the same as his big sister–the coed St. George’s Windsor Castle, a day school located at his Granny’s favorite “home.” He has a good seat on a pony–very essential for a male minor royal, so perhaps at some later date he will become an honorary Colonel of one of the Household Regiments and ride behind Uncle Charles or Cousin William at the Sovereign’s Birthday Parade (aka Trooping the Colour) and make visits to members of his Regiment in Afghanistan or wherever they are stationed by then. Like his sister, James will experience a title change upon the death of his grandfather Prince Philip, but it remains to be seen if he will be H.R.H. Prince James of Edinburgh or if he will simply, again, be known by his father’s (lesser) courtesy title Earl of ________.
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It remains to be seen where James will really go to school–preschool IS crucial these days, but its the secondary school that really “makes” a man. Since his father’s old prep school (that’s a private elementary school in England) has closed, perhaps he will stay on at St. George’s. Day Schools have risen in popularity along with Mummy blogs, cupcake decorating parties and, so unpleasant to have to say, tuition increases. But, Charles’ old prep (to which he did NOT send HIS sons) is hugely popular again, so perhaps with the endorsement of the Tatler ringing in James’ upwardly mobile Mummy’s ears, he could get packed off to Cheam (now coed). He will be seven in December, so next Winter could find him shuttling off to boarding school, cricket boots and tuck box at hand. But will it be Eton like the sons of Prince Charles and the Dukes of Kent (well his elder son went to Eton) and Gloucester? Or Gordonstoun like Papa and Aunt Anne’s children? With his father taking on so many of Prince Philip’s charities and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme, Gordonstoun may be the eventual choice. An added plus is that (at least at age 7) James looks a good bit like Uncle Charles, which doesn’t
hurt, either. Overall he has excellent potential to replace the Duke of
Kent–or at least fill the gap until Prince George is of age.
H.R.H. the Princess Beatrice of York and H.R.H. the Princess Eugenie of York are the daughters of the Queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, Duke of York. Were that all they’d no doubt be wearing coat dresses and sensible hats and opening things right and left. But let us remember that their mother is the notorious Sarah Ferguson, Prince Andrew’s adoring ex-wife once known to the world as “Fergie” (before the singer) and “The Duchess of Pork,” who before she made a career of praising Her Majesty to the skies and crying over Di and proclaiming Andrew her “bestest” friend and “her boy” on American talk shows, was famously known for her big mouth, brash ways, and love of having her financial people suck her toes in public. Yes, THAT Fergie. Both have done a limited amount of the “Royal Round”–including a joint venture to Germany in support of British Trade (well, their Papa IS the Queen’s favorite child). And, aside from bad taste in hats (that could be dealt with), both seem
capable of standing on the balcony and doing the required pointing and
waving and both have shown they can sit on a raised platform before an
audience and not let their knickers (or lack-there-of ) show.
Sadly their royal “jobs” are consistently overshadowed by their bar-hopping on two continents with their mother and their vacation jaunts to private islands. Then there are the boyfriends. Bea seems to be about of age (upper class folk take years to grow up these days) to finally marry her live-in boyfriend of, (has she had any other boyfriends?) years–Dave Clark (not the 60s singer). Eugenie, too, has a very steady chap named Jack Brooksbank, that she probably lives with as well. Both really DO need to marry soon or they won’t likely be able to have it at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor (attached to James and Louise’s school) as Uncle Charles probably won’t pick up the tab like Granny will. Of course they could simply sell the photos to pay for it like cousin Peter did. The weddings will certainly boost their worldwide popularity ratings, if not their domestic ratings. Best for the Royal Family to capitalize on that while they are a “hot” commodity. Plus William’s children will need more “safe” children to have over for play dates.
Beatrice has tried “work,” in a financial firm, but having a degree in the History of Ideas put her at a disadvantage to those people who have attended say, the London School of Economics or Harvard Business School. Plus it was difficult to work in her long nights of bar-hopping with Mom and vacations with Dave. It was just announced she’s doing yet another “work experience” (i.e. volunteer) stint learning the ropes in television production or something like that. So, becoming a full-time minor royal really could improve her C.V. [‘resume’ to Americans]. Still, “History of Ideas” could perhaps have run her thru the major science ideas of human history so she could take on that sort of thing so Harry doesn’t have to be tutored in the difference between Ortho- and Osteo- and bytes and kilowatts in order to avoid the dreaded “How did you come–by car or train?” sort of chit-chat at charity dinners and receptions for the science-minded. And she does seem to be terribly sweet to oldies -always a plus when the nursing home visits rota gets doled out. Having “come out” as dyslexic was a wise move–made her seem almost grown up and gave her her first “cause.”
Princess Eugenie attended Kate’s (and Princess Anne’s ex Mark Phillip’s) old school, Marlbourough, followed by the party school New Castle University and made headlines by….wait for it….living in a dormitory. Yes, you read that right. (More recently she has made headlines as a friend of Harry’s sprite-like ex-girlfriend, Cressida Bonas.) She has a degree in art history and literature. That’s good–that frees Harry from having to read something other than girlie magazines and tedious summaries of his Army training manuals the equerries prepare for him. She can take on the “high brow” stuff. And, God knows what a “charity benefits auctions manager’s” long-term career outlook is anyway. That’s what her Wilipedia entry claims she does as “work.” Plus, like Beatrice, she has a personal cause–scoliosis–based on her surgically corrected childhood disability. You could look on this as “royal street cred,” if you will. A good candidate for minor royal duties if ever there was one.
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What remains to be seen is whether or not Prince Charles, when reigning as he claims he will be, as King George VII, will give his nieces and nephew the nod and have them fill the gaps left by the old age or death of his mother’s cousins. To my mind the balcony looked pretty empty at the Diamond Jubilee. We’ll just have to wait and see.