Our Modern Presidents
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, third son of King George V, became a Wellington College Governor in 1936. The Wellingtonian noted that, as a former serving Army officer, his ‘keen interest in the Army made him additionally welcome,’ fitting as it did with the College’s heritage. He made his first visit to College on Speech Day that year.
When the Duke of Connaught died in 1942, Prince Henry was an obvious choice to take his place as President. He visited later that year to inspect the Wellington Air Training Corps, and the following two years for the slimmed-down wartime Prize-Giving. After a period as Governor-General of Australia, he returned in 1947 and thereafter attended Speech Day every two years up to 1959, often accompanied by the Duchess. Several times they arrived by helicopter, unusual at that date. The Duke also lent his support to the post-War appeal to raise new funds for the Foundation, and hosted a reception at Apsley House for the College’s centenary.
The Duke visited twice more in the 1960s, but by 1967 he was in poor health and the Duchess of Gloucester attended Speech Day on her own. Two years later he resigned the Presidency, which was taken over by his nephew, the Duke of Kent.
At Speech Day 1971, the new President recalled his first visit to Wellington, as a ‘very nervous officer cadet’ sitting his Army entrance exam twenty years before, and spoke of his honour in following ‘all those illustrious predecessors and forbears of mine who have held this office in the past.’ He has gone on to become our longest-serving President, having held the post for over fifty years. As well as fourteen Speech Days, he has made numerous other visits, many of which reflect his particular interest in music. He was also Patron of Wellington’s School/Industry Liaison Scheme in the 1970s and 80s.
In 1987 the Duke opened the Kent Building, named in his honour. He played an important role in the events to celebrate the College’s 150th anniversary, and continues to visit the College regularly. We very much appreciate his interest and support over such a long span of Wellington’s history.