A remarkable letter shedding light on King George VI’s boyhood entry to the Royal Navy as a cadet has come to light among correspondence to be sold at our Books and Maps auction on September 26.
Written by Prince George (later George V) and dated November 6, 1908, the letter is addressed to Admiral Sir Wilmot Hawksworth Fawkes the day after Prince Albert (later George VI) attended the interview committee at Devonport as a 12-year-old.
Fawkes was well known to Prince George, having commanded the Royal Yacht Osborne, been aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria and helped organise the fleet review at Spithead in honour of the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902.
The letter thanks Fawkes for writing to Prince George to tell him about the interview and starts:
‘My dear Fawkes
It was very kind of you writing to tell me about my second son having been up before the interview committee yesterday of which you were the President. The Princess and I are both delighted to hear that you were pleased with the way in which he answered the questions put to him. I am sorry that in spite of all you did, you were unable to put him at his ease, he has always been rather shy, but I think it is better than being too forward, which many boys are in our days.’
The remainder of the letter refers to their own acquaintance dating back to when Prince George had been a young midshipman and mentions the launch of the dreadnought battleship HMS Collingwood, due to take place the next day, the ship on which Prince Albert would later serve before and during the First World War, including during the Battle of Jutland.
The letter is one of 11 addressed to Fawkes by royalty and others, including two others from George V as Prince George, one from the Empress Friedrich, Queen of Prussia, one from Prince Albert (later George VI) and another from Louis Botha, first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.
Fawkes (1846-1926) had begun his own naval career in 1860, eventually being promoted captain and securing the command of HMS Raleigh in 1886. Later posts included Private Naval Secretary to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Commander-in-Chief of Australia Station and, ultimately, Commander-in-Chief Plymouth, before retiring in 1911. He was also invested as both a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
Specialist consultant Michael Kousah said: “This letter is remarkable, because the long personal acquaintance of its sender and recipient casts a relatively intimate picture of the thoughts and feelings of the then heir to the throne about his second son, showing how aware both he and his wife, Princess Mary of Teck, were of his shyness and sensitivity, aspects of his character that would make it so much more difficult for him to take on the unexpected mantle of kingship after his brother, Edward VIII, abdicated.”
The estimate for the collection of letters is £800-1,200.