Prince Richard: Queen's cousin made huge sacrifice to support monarchy

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The Duke of Gloucester, 78, was just nine years old when his cousin became Queen and, just like her, he was not born with the expectation of becoming a senior working royal. The second-born son of Prince Henry and Princess Alice has since undertaken an immense list of royal duties in his 48 years as Duke, and has even represented the Queen at many international events when she was unable to attend. But before royal life, the Duke had a thriving career as an architect when the unexpected death of his brother meant the lesser royal had to step into official duties full-time.

Born in 1944, Prince Richard was the second son of the then-Duke of Gloucester Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester and Queen Elizabeth’s uncle.

His brother, Prince William, was three years his elder and as such the young royal never expected to receive their father’s dukedom or become a working royal.

He attended Cambridge to follow his passion for architecture which was also where he met his now-wife Birgitte, in the late sixties, who was studying a language program at the university. 

Birgitte officially moved to the UK in 1971 to work as a secretary for the Royal Danish Embassy in London while the Prince was a partner at a London architecture firm. 

In July 1972 the couple got married after receiving permission to wed from the Queen herself and it seemed like the 28-year-old Prince had it all.  

However, six weeks after his wedding in August 1972, Richard’s 30-year-old brother tragically died in a flying accident. 

The BBC reported at the time that the Prince was taking part in an air race near Wolverhampton when, shortly after take-off, his aircraft banked sharply, hit a tree and crashed to the ground.

It was reported that the Prince and his co-pilot Vyrell Mitchell became trapped in the wreckage of the Piper Cherokee Arrow as it burst into flames in front of a crowd 30,000 strong. 


After the death of Prince Henry, Richard received the dukedom of Gloucester and became a full-time working royal, along with his wife, now the Duchess of Gloucester. 

The Duke has diligently served as an official working royal family member for almost half a century now, and though he is notoriously low-key he has occasionally represented the royals or the Queen herself when she could not attend engagements. 

In recent years, the Duke has represented Queen Elizabeth at the funeral of King Tupou V of Tong in 2012, the inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013 and at the 60th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice in 2013. 

Prince Richard was still able to showcase his passion for architecture, as the royal family’s website states: “Many of The Duke’s Patronages are related to architecture and conservation, both areas in which The Duke remains deeply interested. 

“He was elected a corporate member of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1972 and he is President of the Scottish Society of the Architect-Artists. His fellowships include those of the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.”

He is currently associated with over 150 charities and organisations and is the royal family’s Trustee of the British Museum. 

Prince Richard and the Duchess have had three children together: Alexander Windsor, the Earl of Ulster, 47, Lady Davina Windsor, 44, and Lady Rose Gilman, 42. Unlike their parents, none of the children are working royals. 

Following the death of his cousin Queen Elizabeth, the Duke was spotted at many of the mourning events.

During the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Hall, Prince Richard walked behind the coffin among the Queen’s immediate family. He was reportedly the only cousin of Her Majesty’s to do so. 

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