The engagement of Prince Richard of Gloucester and the Danish-born Birgitte van Deurs was announced in February 1972 with the New York Times writing:
“Queen’s Cousin will wed a secretary
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester announced the engagement at Kensington Palace today and declared themselves “simply delighted” with the young woman their son had chosen to be his bride. She is a commoner – the daughter of a lawyer – who has studied languages in this country and has been working as a secretary in the Danish Embassy in London since 1970. Queen Elizabeth met Miss van Deurs a few days before she left on her Southeast Asia tour and gave her consent. The engagement was formally approved by the Privy Council on Feb. 41. […] After the wedding, the bride will be known as Princess Richard of Gloucester.”2
The wedding was set for 8 July 1972 at St Andrew’s Church, Barnwell. The New York Times reported the day after, “Informality was the keynote despite the presence of members of the royal family. They were outnumbered by friends and family of the couple.[…] The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne are in Scotland and did not attend. But Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as well as the Prince of Wales, Princess Margaret and other members of the royal family, were among the 75 relatives and guests.”3
Unfortunately, Prince Richard’s father Henry was not well enough to attend the ceremony but he met up with the rest of the guests at the reception. Birgitte was given away by her father, while Prince Richard’s elder brother Prince William acted as best man. There were no bridesmaids or pages. Birgitte wore a white swiss organdie dress with bands of lace trimming and a white veil. She also carried a bouquet of white flowers. The rain made it impossible for them to do a planned walk to greet well-wishers, and instead, they travelled by car.
Just six weeks after their wedding, Prince Richard’s elder brother Prince William was killed in an aeroplane crash. This meant that Prince Richard was now the heir to his father’s dukedom. Birgitte reportedly commented upon hearing the news, “But what is going to happen to my Richard? I don’t want him to change.”4 Prince Richard had planned for a life outside of the royal family, and his brother’s death meant that he would have to take up royal duties.
Prince Henry died on 10 June 1974, and Richard and Birgitte became the new Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
- London Gazette 17 February 1972
- The New York Times – 16 February 1972
- The New York Times – 9 July 1972
- Family royal by Audrey Whiting p.131
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