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British Royals

The prince of hope who became his dynasty’s despair

His birth secured the succession in a way the British royal family had never known before. When Mary, Duchess of York delivered a healthy boy on June 23rd 1894 she ensured that her royal dynasty had three heirs in direct line to the throne. But the baby who arrived that day would take the crown from ultimate security to compete crisis. The baby grew up to be Edward VIII, the king who abdicated for love.

Nothing of the impact he would have could have been imagined on the June day he arrived. The birth of a prince was the best possible news his family could have hoped for. Heading that dynasty was Queen Victoria who had just celebrated the 57th anniversary of her accession. First in line to her throne was Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and grandfather to the new arrival. Following him in the succession was his own second son, George, Duke of York who was papa to the baby boy whose birth was being celebrated. George’s first child ensured that Victoria now had three generations of heirs to wear, in turn, her crown.

The baby was born at White Lodge in Richmond Park, the home of his maternal grandparents, Francis and Mary Adelaide of Teck. Queen Victoria was among the first visitors to the house following the delivery.

The little prince would become a king and an emperor, head of a realm on which ‘the sun never set’. By the time he was christened, on July 16th 1894 in the Green Drawing Room of White Lodge, he had been given a suitably symbolic name.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and soon took centre stage in an historic image where Queen Victoria held her great grandson while flanked by her son and grandson, one monarch with her three heirs. The baby, always known to his family as David, was soon joined by siblings in the royal nursery of his parents’ favourite home, York Cottage at Sandringham. But the baby grew into a most unconventional heir.

Victoria was long dead by the time her great grandson fell in love with a divorcee and decided to give up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. But misgivings about his temperament and his willingness to take on the role to which he had been born had surfaced in his childhood and followed him as he grew up. In the reign of his father, George V, he became a hugely popular figure but behind palace walls, there were reservations about his attitude to the ancient throne he would inherit.

However, on that June day no one celebrating his birth could have seen how his royal story would unfold. Instead, they revelled in a regal moment that wouldn’t be seen again for over a century. A monarch with three direct heirs and the guarantee of a dynasty for many years to come.

Lydia Starbuck is a pen name of June Woolerton who has written extensively on royal history. Her book, A History of Royal Jubilees, is available now. She is also the author of a popular cosy mystery, All Manner of Murder.

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About author

Lydia Starbuck is Jubilee and Associate Editor at Royal Central and the main producer and presenter of the Royal Central Podcast and Royal Central Extra. Lydia is also a pen name of June Woolerton who is a journalist and writer with over twenty years experience in TV, radio, print and online. Her latest book, A History of British Royal Jubilees, is out now. Her new book, The Mysterious Death of Katherine Parr, will be published in March 2024. June is an award winning reporter, producer and editor. She's appeared on outlets including BBC 5 Live, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Local Radio and has also helped set up a commercial radio station. June is also an accomplished writer with a wide range of material published online and in print. She is the author of two novels, published as e-books. She is also a marriage registrar and ceremony celebrant.