To Top

Edward VIII letter describes ‘great relief’ over death of his brother, Prince John

In what is being described as a cold hearted response to the death of his brother Prince John, the future Edward VIII wrote to his mistress at the time, Freda Dudley Ward, that his younger brother’s death was “the greatest relief imaginable or what we’ve always silently prayed for.” At the time of writing, Edward was in Germany visiting British troops and the letter has recently gone up for sale.

Prince John, youngest child of King George V and Queen Mary, died in 1919.

Prince John, youngest child of King George V and Queen Mary, died in 1919.

Prince John was the last child of King George V and Queen Mary born in 1905. John was diagnosed with epilepsy and autism at the age of four and was sent to live on a house on the Sandringham Estate. As John grew older, his condition gradually became more serious although his condition was kept secret from the public until after he died from a severe seizure at the age of 13.

In the deeply cold letter from Edward to his mistress, the future King states, “I arrived yesterday to find a wire from His Majesty to say that my youngest brother had died. I wired back to say that I was returning to England at once for a few days which I thought was a good move. I had great and wonderful hopes of seeing toi tomorrow if the goddess of fortune had been kind to us. I’m so miserable darling as I’ve just got another wire from HM telling me not to return to England and just to carry on. Isn’t it all too heart-breaking.”

It appears that Edward tried to use his brother’s death as a way of returning to England in order to see Freda Dudley Ward though his father, King George V, thwarted his plans and ordered him to remain in Germany. As a result of his father’s orders, Edward missed his brother’s funeral and according to the letter, didn’t even know when the service was being held.

The cold hearted letter continues, “Of course my little brother’s death plunges me in to mourning, don’t think me very cold hearted sweetheart but I’ve told you all about that little brother darling and how he was an epileptic and might have gone West any day. He’s been practically shut up for the last 2 years anyhow, no one has ever seen him except the family and then only once or twice a year and his death is the greatest relief imaginable or what we’ve always silently prayed for.”

The letter is being sold at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles on Friday and is expected to fetch up to £20,000. Auctioneer Darren Julien commented, “I think the contents of the letter will cause a bit of a stir especially in Britain. It does show Edward’s upset over the death of his brother but it also shows how John was the forgotten prince.”

The letter concludes, “Somehow I don’t think all this mourning will last very long as I think the funeral was today; it looks to me as if as little was being made of it all as possible, this poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else and was only a brother in the flesh and nothing else.”

Edward became King Edward VIII in January 1936 only to abdicate eleven months later in order to marry American twice divorcee, Wallis Simpson. He was succeeded by his brother ‘Bertie’ who became King George VI.

Photo Credit: By G.G. Bain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Featured Photo Credit: Library and Archives Canada


More in Other Royals