Thursday, 20 January 2011

The Colonels-in-Chief of the Seaforth Highlanders

A curse. Does it play a part in our lives? Did being made Colonel-in-Chief of a particular regiment ruin the lives of four Royals? It's probably a complete load of tosh I've just made up but the fact is all royal Colonels-in-Chief of the Seaforth Highlanders seemed to be cursed after their appointment.

The first Colonel-in-Chief of the Seaforth Highlanders was appointed in 1882. He was Prince Leopold, the fourth son of Queen Victoria. He had been given the title of Duke of Albany, an old Scottish title, by his mother. He was given the Colonelcy of the Seaforths Militia in 1881 because the regiment had just been formed from the 78th Highlanders and the 72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders to become the Seaforth Highlanders (Duke of Albany's, Ross-shire Buffs).

The 72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders had been named after a previous Duke of Albany who was in fact the Duke of York and Albany but used his Scottish title for his Scottish regiment.

The Duke of York and Albany had been commander-in-chief of the British Army in 1823 when the 72nd Regiment regained its highland status after a gap of fourteen years. His colonelcy was short lived though, a mere four years later he was dead and the regiment was royal colonel-less for another fifty four years.

Back to the 1st Duke of Albany in 1882 again. He was not a strapping fellow and suffered from that curse of Victorian royals, haemophilia. In 1884 just three years into his colonelcy he fell down some stairs and died from internal bleeding.

His son, born just after his death became the 2nd Duke of Albany. He was to be appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the Seaforths in 1905 when he was twenty one. Unfortunately for the 2nd Duke in 1900 he had to take on his grandfather's title of Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha after his uncle died. Although brought up a minor British royal his new role was German Royalty. In 1914 he had to chose sides when war broke out. The loyalty and honour drummed into him since childhood forced him to chose Germany and in 1914 he renounced his Colonelcy.

The next Colonel was the 2nd Duke's cousin, the then Prince of Wales. When he was appointed in 1920 he was the darling of British society. The heir to the throne was a dashing young royal and it was quite a coup for the regiment to have him as their new Colonel. At his accession they would have the King as their colonel. As it turned out the Seaforth curse struck again and with Edward VIII's abdication in 1936 they were without a colonel again.

In 1937 the former Duke of Albany and the Duke of Windsor met up - in Germany. The former was the latter's host whilst visiting Hitler. I wonder if they discussed the Seaforths at all?

In 1961 the Seaforths merged to form half of the Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). Their new Colonel-in-Chief was the Duke of Edinburgh. Luckily for him he had already been Colonel of the Camerons for eight years and he's even seen out the Queen's Own and the Highlanders and he's still Royal Colonel of 4th Bn Royal Regiment of Scotland.

(Text by Adam Brown)

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