SUPPORT OUR JOURNALISM: Please consider donating to keep our website running and free for all - thank you!

The Gloucesters

Prince Richard – the spare who was unexpectedly called up for royal duties following the death of the heir

While The Duke of Gloucester is not one of the more recognisable members of The Royal Family, he has dedicated himself to a role that he was never meant to have and provided indelible support to his cousin, Queen Elizabeth II.

Prince Richard Alexander Walter George was born to Prince Henry and Princess Alice, the Duke & Duchess of Gloucester on 26 August 1944, nearly three years after his brother, Prince William of Gloucester. He spent his early life in Australia with his parents and brother while his father served as Governor-General of Australia from 1945 to 1947.

As the second son of a duke, Richard did not expect to inherit his father’s title. Like his father Richard attended Eton College and then Magdalene College at Cambridge where he read architecture. 

After finishing his degree at Cambridge, as well as a Diploma of Architecture, Prince Richard began practicing as an architect for London firm Hunt Thompson Associates in 1969. 

Everything changed for Richard in 1972. On the 8th of July, RIchard married Birgitte van Deurs Henriksen, the daughter of a Danish lawyer and his wife. Shortly after that, his elder brother, Prince William, died in plane crash. Not only did Richard lose his brother, the trajectory of his life changed immediately. 

Upon Prince William’s tragic death, Richard became the heir to his father’s royal dukedom. By the early 1970s, Prince Henry was already seriously ill, and it is not clear if the Duke ever learned of his elder son’s passing. Richard gave up his career in architecture after William’s death and began taking upon more duties for his parents and his cousin, Queen Elizabeth II. 

Prince Henry died in 1974, and Prince Richard succeeded his father as the Duke of Gloucester. 

The Duke represented Queen Elizabeth at several significant events, including acting as her representative in 1978 when the Solomon Islands celebrated their independence. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester are both full-time working members of the royal family, and continue to support King Charles III.

Richard acts as patron or president of over 150 different organisations, and regularly carries out engagements for the monarch, as does his wife. In line with his own interests, he remains very interested in architectural organisations, as well as motor sports and military veterans. 

In March 2015, Prince Richard represented The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh for King Richard III’s reburial in Leicester Cathedral. 

In 2022, he carried out 100 engagements on behalf of both Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III. At The Queen’s funeral, the Duke took part in the funeral procession where he walked behind the coffin with other senior members of the royal family.  

The Duke and Duchess both continue to regularly carry out engagements and represent the new King. Although the couple do not receive the fanfare that the King and Queen and the Prince and Princess of Wales do, they continue to work hard at an age where most people are retired. 

"; n.innerHTML = "window._taboola = window._taboola || [];_taboola.push({mode:'thumbnails-a', container:'taboola-below-article-thumbnails', placement:'Below Article Thumbnails', target_type: 'mix'});"; insertAfter(t, e); insertAfter(n, t) }injectWidgetByMarker('tbmarker');

About author

Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com