Ten years, two months and 7 days before Prince William, Duke of Cambridge was born, another Prince William’s life ended in a fiery plane crash. The date was August 28, 1972. The place was Halfpenny Green near Wolverhampton. The man was His Royal Highness Prince William of Gloucester. He was the eldest son of HRH Duke of Gloucester, brother of the late King George VI and uncle to HM Queen Elizabeth II. William was a modern prince. He was the first member of the Royal Family to attend university in the United States. William attended Stanford University to study American History, political science and business. He had graduated from Cambridge University in 1963. William longed to make his own way in the world. While attending Stanford, he was known simply as William Gloucester.
HRH Prince William of Gloucester was born on December 18, 1941. The second World War was in its second year with no end in sight. London was suffering through the Blitz so the birth of baby was welcome news to the Royal family and the British people. His parents, HRH Duke of Gloucester and the former Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, daughter of the late 7th Duke of Buccleuch. The Duke and Duchess had married in 1935 so the birth of the prince was a joyous occasion. In 1944, the family was complete with the birth of HRH Prince Richard of Gloucester.
Prince William began a career in the diplomatic service, joining the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1965. His first assignment was in Lagos then transferred to Tokyo in 1968. His diplomatic career was to be cut short when his father’s health began to deteriorate due to a series of strokes. After returning to Britain, he took over management of the family estate, Barnwell Manor. It was during this time, around 1970, that William was diagnosed with porphyria. It is not known for sure but his father, the Duke, may have also suffered from this same disease. It is commonly linked to George III, William’s gggg grandfather. During this time, William also began to carry out official duties as a member of the Royal Family. His cousin, the Queen, appointed him Counsellor of State.
Prince William had a love of airplanes since his Cambridge days and became a licensed pilot. Flying gave him a sense of freedom. He owned several small aircraft and enjoyed competing in air shows. During the early 70’s, the Prince was in love with Nicole Sieff. At the time, a member of the Royal Family was expected to choose an appropriate mate and being a married woman was not appropriate. The dark clouds of the abdication crisis still loomed over the country…Princess Margaret was still married to Lord Snowdon so divorce was a big taboo that did not infiltrate the realm of the Royal Family. Coincidentally, the Duke of Windsor has died a few months before William. One wonders how Prince William would have dealt with his desire to marry the woman that he loved despite her being a divorcee.
Prince William was destined to become the Duke of Gloucester. At the time of his death, he was already beginning to take over his father’s duties. The Duke had a series of strokes that had left him wheelchair bound. William took his role very seriously and would have been a very successful Duke of Gloucester. After his father’s death in 1974, William’s younger brother, Richard, succeeded as Duke. Along with his wife, Birgitte, they have worked hard and deserve much admiration. He would have been proud.