Thursday, July 04, 2013

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Letter from Buckingham Palace

Letter from Buckingham Palace to Yvonne Belair
Letter from Buckingham Palace to Yvonne Belair, 1983

The imminent birth of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s first child makes me think back to the time of Prince William’s own birth in 1982, and of the gift I sent to him for his birthday the following year.

That gift was a family tree, which showed how he was related to five of his six godparents.

Not long after Prince William’s list of godparents was made public in late June 1982, I got to thinking how this illustrious group of people might be inter-related. I had been researching royal and noble family trees for my own pleasure for a few years, so I figured this project wouldn't be too difficult. For the most part, it wasn't, although I couldn’t establish a relationship between Prince William and the South African author Sir Laurens van der Post.1

With a bit of research, I had found that Prince William and most of his godparents shared a common ancestor: James I, King of England (r. 1603-1625).

Four godparents, Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, Lord Romsey (now the 8th Baron Brabourne), HRH Princess Alexandra (daughter of the late Prince George, Duke of Kent), and the Duchess of Westminster (wife of the 6th Duke), descend from King James I’s daughter Elizabeth (wife of Frederick V, Elector Palatine), while one godparent, Lady Susan Hussey (a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth II) descends from King James I’s son Charles I, King of England. As it happens, Prince William descends from both Elizabeth (through his father the Prince of Wales) and her brother King Charles I (through his mother Lady Diana Spencer).

I created a chart – it measured about 43 cm x 55 cm (about 17” x 22”) – showing these relationships, composed a cover letter, and then mailed my gift to Kensington Palace in June 1983.

A few weeks later, I received a letter from Lavinia Baring, the Princess of Wales’ lady-in-waiting. Mrs. Baring thanked me on behalf of the Princess, saying that “Her Royal Highness greatly appreciates […] the family tree”.

I remember thinking that my gesture might be considered a bit bold, but I also thought that my humble little gift might just be a one-of-kind present. I’m glad I went ahead and sent Prince William this family tree, because now I have a great souvenir of that time and I have a letter from Buckingham Palace for my efforts.


1. Prince William’s names and the names of his six godparents were announced by Buckingham Palace on 28 June 1982. (“His name is Prince William of Wales”, The Times (of London), 29 June 1982, p. 1.)

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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