Museum Monthly Highlights - January 2022
The Funeral of HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
130 years ago, on 20 January 1892, these soldiers of the 10th Royal Hussars (Prince of Wales’s Own) carried the body of Prince Albert Victor to his final resting place in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The Prince was second in line to the throne and a Major in the Regiment. His father, the Prince of Wales, was Colonel of the 10th Hussars from 1863 – 1901.
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, was the eldest son of Edward, Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII). As a child he had been a naval cadet alongside his brother Prince George (the future King George V). But, as his father was the Colonel, it is no surprise that he was commissioned as a Lieutenant into the 10th Royal Hussars on 7 June 1885, after leaving Cambridge University.
His joining the Regiment was a great honour for the 10th, as the regimental history notes: ‘Now, for the first time, the regiment was able to point with pride to the Army List,” showing a Prince of Wales and his son as its senior and junior officer.’
As an officer he is said to have strongly disliked drill but enjoyed playing polo and sports. A correspondent in the Glasgow Evening Post gave a small insight into his character:
‘He appeared to know his work well, he was firm with men in any matter of neglect to which he had to call their attention but his manner of speaking was most kindly, and the men seemed to like him; but this is not a novelty in the 10th Hussars….He also took me round the troop stables and pointed out the peculiarities of the horses as well as though he had been a veteran.’ (Glasgow Evening Post, 16 January 1892)
In May 1889 he was promoted to Major and in October the same year embarked on a seven-month tour of India. On Queen Victoria’s 71st birthday in May 1890 he was created Duke of Clarence and Avondale and Earl of Athlone.
In December 1891 he was engaged to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck and went on leave from the Regiment over Christmas. Sadly, in January 1892 he fell ill with influenza. The influenza pandemic of 1889-90 was the last great pandemic pandemic of the 19th Century and one of the deadliest in history. Often called the ‘Russian Flu’ or ‘Asiatic Flu’ it resulted in the death of around 1 million out of a world population of 1.5 billion and outbreaks recurred until early 1895.
The Prince developed pneumonia and succumbed to his illness at Sandringham House, Norfolk, on 14 January 1892, less than a week after his 28th birthday.
After his death, the distraught Prince of Wales wrote to Queen Victoria:
“Little did I think I should ever have to write to you on so melancholy a subject, or that our beloved Eddy would have gone before me; but it has been willed otherwise. What we went through for 8 hours watching poor dear Eddy from 2 to 10 this morning, I shall never forget. Poor Boy, he battled so strongly against death… The 3 Doctors & 3 Nurses showed the utmost skill & endurance. The poison of that horrid Influenza had got into the dear Boy’s brain & lungs, & baffled all science… We always say God’s will be done, & it is right to say & think so, but it does seem hard to rob us of our eldest son, on the eve of his marriage. Gladly would I have given my life for his, as I put no value on mine.” Queen Victoria’s Journals, 15 January 1892 (Source: http://www.queenvictoriasjournals.org/))
For the funeral procession ten officers from the 10th were selected as pallbearers and twenty non-commisioned officers (NCOs) and men to provide bearers and a guard of honour. The party were commanded by Captain the Hon Julian Byng, later Field Marshal the Viscount Byng of Vimy.
On 17 January the party under Captain Byng proceeded to London and then on to Windsor, staying in Spital Barracks. On the morning of 20th January the coffin was taken from Sandringham to Wolferton station and then by special train to Windsor. The 10th Hussars met the train at Windsor Railway Station and conveyed the coffin on to a gun carriage drawn by the Royal Horse Artillery. An escort of the 2nd Life Guards followed by the massed bands of the Guards then led the procession with the 10th Hussars setting off behind them.
Following behind the gun carriage was the Prince’s favourite charger ‘Bess’ led by two officers of the 10th. She was well known to the regiment and wore a funeral harness with the Prince’s boots and spurs reversed in the stirrups. Behind her were the royal mourners including his father in uniform as Colonel of the 10th Royal Hussars.
On arrival at St George’s chapel the 10th Hussar bearers carried the coffin from the gun carriage into the chancel. During the service they remained in the nave and afterwards carried his remains to the Albert Memorial Chapel.
In a telegram to Queen Victoria, who was unable to attend the funeral, Lord Lathom, Lord Chamberlain of the Household, highlighted that ‘the men of the 10th Hussars carried out their nervous duty most satisfactorily’.
On 29 January the following message was sent to the 10th Hussars from the Prince of Wales:
‘The Prince directs me to convey to you by letter and through you to the Officers, N.C. Officers and men of the 10th Hussars his own and the Princess of Wales thanks for the great kindness all ranks invariably showed their dear son from the day he first joined the Regiment till you carried him to his grave.’
On display at HorsePower as part of our ‘Royal Connections’ showcase is the uniform of the Prince of Wales as Colonel alongside the sword he gave to Albert Victor on his commission. This sword was later given to his nephew, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester who also joined the 10th Hussars in 1920 and was Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment between 1937 and the amalgamation in 1969.
To find out more about Prince Albert Victor’s life in the Regiment, Richard Pillinger, whose grandfather was serving in the 10th Hussars at the time, has written an article detailing the Prince’s life as an officer of the 10th here: http://www.majorpillinger.co.uk/hrh-the-duke-of-clarence/
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