Prince Edward, Duke of Kent is 85 today. Could that be even possible for him to become the King of Poland? He is a grandson of King George V, who ruled the British Empire that expanded to over 36 million square kilometres at the time of Prince Edward birth. Being a grandson of the British monarch in the male line, he is the “Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” and “His Royal Highness”. His father and father of Queen Elizabeth II were brothers.
Duke’s wife, Katherine Worsley, Duchess of Kent, converted to Catholicism in 1994, but her conversion did not interfere with Prince Edward’s right to inherit the British throne (the wife changed her religion after marriage, which, according to the Act of Settlement of 1701 does not affect the order of succession – editor’s note).
After the war, the Duke’s parents offered their Coppins estate in Iver, Buckinghamshire, as a home to the Polish noble family of Koziell-Poklewski. It was the beginning of a great friendship between both families. Vincent, one of two sons, became a close friend of the young Prince, as they grew up together. Since then, the Prince and his siblings, Prince Michael, and Princess Aleksandra have acquired a great fondness of Poland and Poles.
The Duke of Kent visited Poland several times taking part in various ceremonies. He was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his work on the Polish-British relations. He is a chairman of the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, a leading charity for RAF ex-servicemen.
He likes to pay visits to one of the oldest Polish restaurants in London – Daquise, to satisfy his taste for Polish dishes he has been familiar with since childhood. He is also a regular guest to the ‘Ognisko’ – the Polish Hearth Club in London’s South Kensington. The ‘Ognisko’ was opened by his parents on July 16, 1940, and the Duke is the Club’s patron.
It’s right moment now to bring back here certain historical circumstances which provided quite plausible powers for George, Duke of Kent and father of Prince Edward, of becoming the King of Poland, and first descendant of the Windsor Dynasty on the Polish throne (Prince Edward would possibly inherit the throne after his father died). The offer of this kind was officially made by general Wladyslaw Sikorski after Polish-Czechoslovak confederation was established in November 1939.
Entrusting the Polish throne to the 37-year-old brother of the British monarch George VI was made to ensure greater security of Poland. Unfortunately, these plans were brought to an end by a mysterious and tragic plane accident in Scotland on August 25, 1942, in which the Duke of Kent was killed. Afterwards the accident, in his appeal, General Sikorski pronounced with sadness that “Poland has lost a trusted and proven friend.” Less than a year after the Duke of Kent tragic death, General Sikorski, the originator of the exciting concept of the Polish Kingdom restoration, lost his own life in another mysterious plane accident in Gibraltar on July 4th 1943.
Recently, Duke of Kent opened the exhibition at the Polish Embassy in London, entitled “Polish airmen in the Battle of Britain – 80th Anniversary” and gave a moving tribute to the memory and merits of Polish pilots. He said: “It is a great honour for me to open this exhibition. The story of our forefathers who fell in this battle is amazing and very inspiring. We will repeat it over and over to the next generations, because the courage, resistance and determination of those who gave their lives for our freedom are legendary. Thanks to this exhibition, even more people will learn about it.”
British Poles wrote more about this event in our report entitled “The courage of the Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain was legendary.”
Prince Edward spent his previous birthday in a Polish home – in the London Ealing ducal palace of Jan Żyliński, one of the leading Polish businessmen on the Isles. The Duke of Kent was extremely moved by his host hospitality, Polish cordiality he experienced as well as all the Birthday wishes from participating guests.
Last week the Duke met Roger Moorhouse, a famous British historian, who presented him with the copy of his latest book, “First to Fight: Poland’s Defensive War of 1939” (Polish edition title: Poland 1939. First Against Hitler). The book was translated and published by the publishing house Znak, just a few days before the official celebration at the Polish Embassy in London of the British edition publication day on September 5, 2019. The prince is known of his keen interest in the history of Poland, and he read the book presenting almost unknown and forgotten significance of the 1939 September campaign with great interest.
“The Polish Bakery” from Wembley, brought to the Wren House in Kensington Palace, where the Duke lives, a beautiful birthday cake baked for the occasion. Therefore, we can say, it is indeed, tasty expression of the friendship between Polish and British nations.
Another birthday surprise for the Duke of Kent was the recording prepared by the great Polish pianist, Artur Haftman, who on behalf of the whole Polish diaspora dedicated to the Duke his performance and interpretation of the Frederick Chopin’s Waltz A-flat major, Op. 34. It is worth listening to!
The Duke of Kent was deeply moved by the sincerity of all the wishes he received and surprises dedicated to him. He told British Poles: “I am very pleased that I have received so many wishes from Poles living in the UK. Our nation appreciates and remembers your support during World War II. Polish soldiers’ courage was legendary. In the same way, we value your contribution to the development of our economy and culture. Warm greetings to all subscribers and visitors to the British Poles website”
On behalf of British Poles and our readers, we would like to wish you: “200 years!”
Photos: Museum of Independence, Barbara Hamilton, British Poles, Iwona Golińska
Translation: Jolanta Pitera