British Royalty: Prince George Duke of Kent (1902-42)


Figure 1.--Prince George is photographed here at about 2 years of age wearing a white dress which he and his brothers wore as young boys.

Prince George (1st Duke of Kent) was was born in 1902, the second royal of the 20th Century, the fourth 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. Like his brothers, agfter breeching, he almost always appeared in either kilts or sailor suits, or with the younger boys in school uniform. He was the second British royal to attend a preparatory school. He attend with his older brother Henry. They did not, however, live with the boarders. They did wear the school uniform. He followed his older brothers into the navy. He was the only member of the British royal family to be killed in the two World Wars. He was killed in a plane accident during 1942.

Clothes as a Younger Child

Queen Mary outfitted all of the boys, including George, in dresses until about 5 years of age. Quite a few images exist of the younger boys wearing dresses. The dresses were usually long, worn well below the knees. All of the dresses I have seen were white. The styles appear indistinguishable with girls' dresses. Boy dressescwith destinctive plainer styling had appeared in the late 19th century. Theseboy dresses are not what George and his brother wore. Their dresses have none of the plainer design, high neck lines, front bittons, and other stylistic elements often associated with boy dresses. Their dresses even included ribbons and other adornments on the sleeves.

The practice of dressing little boys in dresses was quite common right in the 19th century, but still widespread among the wealthy in the early 20th century up to World War I. Photographs exist of George and his older brother Henry George wearing cotton frocks with tartan sashes tied at the waist with lace-edged pantaloons showing just beneath the hem of the frock. As a slightly older boy he is often pictured in rather touching scences with the baby of the family, John who as a young boy also wore dresses.


Figure 2.--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.

Hair Styles

Geprge and his brothers never wore long ringlet curls, even before breeching. As younger boys they wore their hair long, but apparently not so long that it covered their ears (figure 1). The baby picture of Prince George here shows him with long hair and a right part. Even before breaching they appaear to have had their hair cut short (figure 5). All of the boys wore thaeir hair in the ame short style with aleft part (figure 2).

Breeching

One aspect of George's and his brother's childhood that HBC has been totally unable to obtain information on was breeching. How did Queen Mary decide it was time to breech the boys? Was there a specified age or was it a more subjective judgement? Did King George play a role here? Was there a ceremony? Perhaps it was done at a birthday party. Was it presented as a surprise? Or was the there a build up in advance? Was there only day that he wore dresses and aftwe breeching never again? Or was it a more gradual process? Did the boys discuss this among themselves? Were there familiy letters? Did the press comment on this monentous step in their young lives. Hopefully some information on the whole breeching process will emerge.

Boyhood Clothes

King George's preference for sailor suits and kilts ruled Prince Geoege's boyhood as it did his brothers. Apparently Queen Mary selected the clothes when the boys were little before breaching. After breeching at about 5 years of age, Queen Mary almost always dressed Henry and his brothers in sailor suits. They also wore kilts, especially on trips to Scotland, but sailor suits were the normal everyday wear for the boys and sometimes even for Princess Mary. Prince George after braeching is almost always seen in sailor suits, except when wearing his school uniform or when outfitted in kilts for a trip to Balmoral. The Victorians very commonly made small distinctions in the boys' clothes to reflect the age of the older boys. Such distinctions someimes were barely noticeable, but no doubt important to the children.

Sailor suits

King George V 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. I have not seen images of the boys in long pants sailor suits. As younger boys they mostly wore sailor suits. I am not sure if Queen Mary shared her husband's enthusisam for sailor suits, but she certainly saw to it that his wishes were carried out. Prince George except as a very young age right after breeching appears to have alwaays worn long pants with his sailor suits. Both his blue and white suits were worn with long pants. I'm not sure when he first wore sailior suits, but he appears to be wearing them immediately after breaching at about 5 years of age.


Figure 3.--Prince George is picturd here in one of the several kilt outfits he wore after breeching as a boy.

Kilts

As the boys got older, Queen Mary would increasingly outfitted them in kilts. They almost always wore kilts while on trips to Scotland, but there were occasiond for kilts in England as well. While both older and younger boys wore kilts, there were subtle differences. As younger boys they wore Eton collars and military-style jackets.

Eton suits

Prince George accompanied his older brother Henry to a preparatory school. Prince Henry was not considered strong enough for Royal Navy cadet school. The prep school had a uniform with Eton collars. George unlike Henry, followed his older brothers to the Naval Cadet School at Osborne. Thus he did not attend Eton and wear an Eton school uniform.


Figure 4.--Prince George is pictured here in a sailor hat with his older brothers Edward and Albert in their Cadet uniforms. He was the only one of the younger brothers to follow them into the Navy.

Boys' Attitudes

I'm not sure what George and his brothers thought about these difference or whether they discussed them with each other, their parents, or their 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. I have reviewed Edward VIII's book, A Family Albumn which he does mention clothes, but he never mentions discussing clothes with his brothers. Primarily the books discussion (one is tempted to say wining) about clothes dealt with him looking back and how his father dictated their clothes. Hopefully we can eventually find some details on what George and his brothers actually thought about their clothes as boys. Being closeted away in the nursery, you would think that they had a great deal of oportunity to discuss clothes and other such matters.


Figure 5.--Prince George is pictured here in a summer sailor suit with his younger brother, Prince. Notice the long pants. George V's sons only wore short pants with their sailor suits as very young boys. I would guess this photograph was taken about 1909.

Personality

Georgie was charming, confident and personable. His father thoughtthat he was "something of a handful," but much more the "real boy" than any of his brothers. He was gifted academically, musically, and culturally. He was the Queen's favorite child. It was must have been a great personal tragedy when she lost him during World war II.

Family Relationships

I'm not sure what Georege's relationship was with his older brothers were. I note that the Duke of Windsor (Edward VIII) in his book, A Family Album, barely mentions his brothers. I'm also not sure about the relationship between the brothers. Presumably the two older and three younger brothers were the cloest. George was partcularly devoted to his younger brother John. He loved John and cared deeply about him--treating him in an almost parental fashion.

Prep School

King George on the other hand was very strict with the boys and their relationship was very formal. The correspondence between George and the Future Edward VIII often sounded like official correspondence. I'm not sure if the King softened his demeanor with his younger sons. King George had reportedly severely criticised his older 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, George and his older brother were sent to a preparatory school. Prince George did eventually go to Osborne as well.

Preparatory schools

By the turn of the century it was becoming the accepted step of sending boys away to private preparatory, commonly called prep schools, at age 8. The schools were called preparatory schools, because they prepared younger boys for entrance to the public schools (elite private schools). Before the preparatory schools, younger boys were sent to the public schools and found the experience both daunting and often dangerous. The preparatory schools swere created to meet the special needs of younger boys. The schools like public schools were boarding schools and often set in rural areas with extensive grounds. Many of these schools still exist throughout Britain, although they are now more likely to be co-educational and more children attend as day pupils.


Figure 6.--This photograph taken about 1910 or 1911 shows all of George V's and Queen Mary's children. Princess Mary is the girl. Albert (George VI) looks rather sullen in a stiff Eton collar. His brother David (the future Edward VIII) 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.

St. Peters

Prince Henry and Prince George were the first members of the royal family to attend a preparatory school--St. Peters, in Broadstairs on the South Coast. This was a major step for the Royal family and a brek from centuries of tradition where the princes were schooled at home. It set a precedent for the education of future princes and princesses. 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. 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 the 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.

Knock Knees

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 They hated it and was apparently painful. There father, however, was adamant on this.


Figure 7.--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 canes and no longer have to wear Eton collars.

Osborne

George like his older brothers attended the Royal Naval Cadet Academy at Osborne. (Prince Harry, due to his poor health, was exempted from this, instead going to Eton College.) George, like his older brothers, was outfitted with the cadet's regulation uniform of cap, collar tabs, jacket and pants (the only exception being that his jacket and pants, unlike those of the other cadets, were fashioned from fine cashmere and not coarse serge). I'm not sure if he was hazed like Edward and Albert, but as he had been to a prep school, he was presumably better equipped to deal with it.

Young Adult

As most junior princes, Prince George had a difficult time finding a useful role. Prince George was the royal bad boy of the 1920s, although his older brother Edward got most of the headlines. He appears to have abandoned himself to illicit affairs, drugs (morphine, to which he became addicted), and unsuitable music (in his case tango dancing). He was reportedly intimate with Noel Coward. Prince George was handsome, cultured, fluent in five languages, and a decidely wild streak. This is a heaty mixture when combined with money and the kack of any real responsibility. He did not fit in with the rather stodgey royal family overseen by George V and Queen Mary. He found a kindred spirit in Edward, even so he was apalled by his abdication to marry Mrs. Simpson.

Marriage

Prince George mairred Princess Marina (1906-68). She was the daughter of Prince Nicholas of (1872- ) son of King William George I (1845- ). Her mother was the Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna Romanov of Russia (1882- ). She was the daughter of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovitch Romanov (1847- ), a son of Tsar Alexander II. George and Marina were married in 1934. Prince George's niece Elizabeth also married into the Greek royal family which was realted to the British royal family.

Children

Prince George and Princess Marina had several children. We have been unable, however, to find much about them.

Princess Alexandra

Princess Alexandra was born on Christmas Day 1936, Belgrave Square, her family's London home. She is the second child and only daughter of the late Duke and Duchess of Kent.

Prince Edward

Prince Edward was born on October 9, 1935 at Belgrave Square. He was baptised as Edward George Nicholas Paul Patrick and is a cousin to both Queen Elizabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh.

Prince Michael

Prince George's title is Prince Michael of Kent.

Political Attitudes

The Duke of Kent is reported to have had very conservative political views. He was intensely anti-Communist. Some argue that as a result, he was more favorably disposed toward Adolf Hiltler and the NAZIs than commonly publicized. Some authors speculate that he wanted Britiain to accomodate Hitler. Some of the same cgarges have been made against his older brother the Prince of WalesHe is reported to have been a frequent dinner guest with NAZI Ambassadir Joaquim von Ribontrop. The Duke never wrote extensively and as a result, there is considerable specilation as to his beliefs. He was also reportedly on friendly relations with President Roosevelt who was a godfather to one of his children.

World War II

The Royal family was involved in both World Wars. George V as a young cadet served in the Navy during World War I at a time when no one expected him to be King. His brother Edward VIII served in the army in France. Lord Mountbatten compiled an illustrious record in World War II. The only member of the family to be killed was Prince George, who was at the time the Duke of Kent. He was killed in a plane accident, when a Sunderland flying boat crashed in Scotland during 1942. Various rumors abound about his death. One was that the flight was in some way associated with the Hess affair. Two authors jointly published a book that the Duke was trying to take Hitler to neutral Sweden where a deal could be negotiated with Hitler. The book is highly speculative. They point out a number of inconsistencies in the account concerning the plane crash, but no solid evidence to sustantiate their charges. The book is a standard conspiracy theory book which reaches conclusions not supported by the evidence they offer. [Picknet, Prince, and Prior] The book plays on the fact that some British aristocrats were favorably disposed toward Hitler, especially his anti-Communist policies and use of force to maintain order.

Sources

Picknet, Lynn, Clive Prince, and Stephen Prior. Double Standards.





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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 9:42 AM 8/15/2004