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Major-General Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone (born Prince Alexander of Teck; 14 April 1874 16 January 1957), was a close relative of the British Royal Family, as well as a Britishmarker military commander and major-general who, between 1924 and 1930, served as the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, and between 1940 and 1946, as the Governor General of Canada. Prince Alexander was born in Londonmarker, to the Duke and Duchess of Teck, and was educated at Eton Collegemarker before moving on to Sandhurstmarker for training as an officer. He rose in rank through his service in African campaigns and the First World War, receiving numerous honours and decorations, including elevation to the peerage as the Earl of Athlone, after he relinquished his German title of Prince of Teckmarker in the Kingdom of W√ľrttemberg. Between his two viceregal tenures, Athlone served as Chancellor of the University of London, and after his period as Governor General of Canada, he sat on the organising committee for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He died at Kensington Palacemarker in 1957, and was interred in the Royal Burial Groundmarker at Frogmoremarker.

Early life, education, and military career

Prince Alexander of Teck was born at Kensington Palacemarker on 14 April 1874, the fourth child and third son of HSH Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, and HRH Princess Mary, Duchess of Teck. Although his mother was a British Royal Highness, granddaughter of King George III, and cousin to Queen Victoria, as the son of a prince of Teckmarker, in W√ľrttemberg, he was styled from birth as His Serene Highness and held the title Prince Alexander of Teck, though he was known to his family and friends as Alge. He came to be known as a meticulous individual, with a quick, but short-lived, temper, and an ability to be cautious and tactful.

When Prince Alexander was nine years old, his parents for two years fled the United Kingdommarker for Continental Europe to escape their high debts, but the prince remained at Eton Collegemarker, and, after graduation from there, moved on to the Royal Military College, Sandhurstmarker. In 1894, having completed his officer's training, Prince Alexander was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 7th Queen's Own Hussars, and shortly after served in the Second Matabele War. The prince was mentioned in despatches during the conflict, and after its cessation was appointed on 8 December 1898 by Queen Victoria to the Royal Victorian Order, with the rank of Knight Commander. Later, for his actions in the Second Boer War, Prince Alexander was awarded in April 1901 from King Edward VII the Distinguished Service Order.

The announcement came on 16 November 1903 that Prince Alexander had become engaged to his second cousin once removed, Princess Alice of Albany, the daughter of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and thus a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and niece of the then soon to be Governor General of Canada, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn. The two were wed at St. George's Chapelmarker, in Windsor Castlemarker, on 10 February 1904, and six days following, in celebration of the wedding, the prince was elevated to the grade of a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. The couple thereafter had three children: Princess May of Teck, born 1906; Prince Rupert of Teck, born 1907; and Prince Maurice of Teck. Maurice, however, lived only for less than six months, between 29 March and 14 September 1910, the same year Prince Alexander was selected as the chairman of Middlesex Hospitalmarker.

World War I

At the outbreak of World War I, Prince Alexander, who had been promoted to major and was commanding the 2nd Life Guards, was nominated by British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith to serve as the Governor General of Canada. However, the prince was called up for active service with his regiment, taking him to battle in Francemarker and Flanders. By 1915, he was elevated to the rank of lieutenant colonel, to brigadier in 1917, and to honorary major-general in the final year of the war, at the same time he was serving as the head of the British Mission to the Belgianmarker Army. For his service on the battlefields, in June 1917 Prince Alexander was appointed by his brother in law, King George V, as a companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

During the war, anti-German sentiment throughout the British Empire led the King to change the name of the royal house from the Germanic House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the more English House of Windsor, while simultaneously renouncing all Germanic titles for himself and all members of the Royal Family. Alexander, along with his brother, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Teck, similarly relinquished through a royal warrant issued on 14 July 1917 all of his titles, styles, and German honours, choosing instead the name of Cambridge, after his grandfather, HRH Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge. Alexander was then known simply as Sir Alexander Cambridge (being entitled to the honorific sir due to his position as a knight commander of the Royal Victorian Order), until, on 7 November 1917, the King created him as Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. Athlone's wife retained her royal style and title, while their surviving children became The Lady May Cambridge and Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon. Rupert was to inherit the title of Earl of Athlone, but he died on 15 April 1928, ten days shy of his 21st birthday, meaning the third creation of the title became extinct with the death of the first earl.

Following the cessation of hostilities in Europe in 1918, Athlone retired from the army and took up posts in the civilian world, continuing at Middlesex Hospital, and because of his experience there, he was appointed in 1921 to chair an investigative committee on the needs of doctors. Known as the Athlone Committee, its work resulted in the creation of post-graduate schools for medical education and research, such as the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, at Hammersmith Hospitalmarker, and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

Governor-generalship of the Union of South Africa

In 1923, Athlone was appointed by the King as both a major-general (despite his retirement from the army) and the Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, replacing Athlone's cousin, Prince Arthur of Connaught. He arrived in Pretoriamarker in January 1924, and was immediately at work with his viceroyal duties, opening the newly finished parliament buildingmarker, just weeks before his prime minister, Jan Smuts, suddenly advised him to prorogue the legislature.

In the the ensuing election the running of which forced Athlone to cancel the planned tour of Prince Edward, Prince of Wales the National Party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, meaning Athlone appointed the party's leader, James Hertzog, as his new prime minister. At the time, Afrikaner nationalism was increasing in the Dominion, and Hertzog was a republican who promoted the secession of South Africa from the British Empire. As such, he proposed the country adopt its own flag over the Union Flag. Athlone, however, proved sympathetic and tactful, and resolved the issue by advancing a flag that was unique to South Africa, but which still contained the Union Flag within it, despite opposition from numerous Afrikaners. He also gained popularity with South Africans of all races through his frequent tours of the country, performing a number of ceremonial duties, including opening Pioneer Park, in Johannesburgmarker.

For his service to the Crown in South Africa, the Earl of Athlone was appointed by George V as a knight companion of the Order of the Garter, on 17 April 1928. Athlone was also, upon his return to the UK, appointed on 4 August 1931 as the Governor and Constable of Windsor Castle. The following year, he was also selected as the Chancellor of the University of London, which post he held until 1955.

Governor generalship of Canada



In Canadamarker, in the late 1930s, there had been calls from government circles and the media alike for the King to appoint a Canadian-born individual as the his governor general. However, with the rush to fill the post after the unexpected death of the incumbent viceroy, John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir, and the country embroiled in the Second World War, Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King advised King George VI that the time was not right for such a change in viceregal tradition. Instead, it was George's uncle, the Earl of Athlone, whose name Mackenzie King put forward, and, after the Earl accepted, it was announced from the Prime Minister's office on 2 June 1940 that the King had, by commission under the royal sign-manual and signet, approved the recommendation of his prime minister, Mackenzie King, to appoint Athlone as his representative. Athlone with a party that included his wife, Princess Alice, and his aide-de-camp, Canadian militiaman Alastair Windsor, Earl of Macduff thus voyaged to Canada to take up his position, sailing on the in a submarine evading zig-zag pattern across the Atlantic Oceanmarker to Halifaxmarker, Nova Scotiamarker. After travelling on to Ottawamarker by train, Athlone was subsequently sworn-in during a ceremony in the Senate chamber on 21 June 1940.

Earl immediately made himself active in the support of the war effort, travelling across the country, and focusing much of his attention on the troops, either those training at military facilities or those injured and in hospital. Viewing his position as governor general as a link between Canadians and their monarch, Athlone also communicated in speeches that the King stood with them in their fight against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. The war was brought close to home for the Athlones also because many of those belonging to displaced European royal families sought refuge in Canada, and resided at or near the royal and viceroyal residence, Rideau Hallmarker. Among the royal guests were Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha of Norwaymarker, Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Luxembourgmarker, King Peter of Yugoslavia, King George of Greecemarker, Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma (Austriamarker) and her daughters, as well as Queen Wilhelmina and her daughters, Princesses Juliana, Beatrix, and Margriet. Further, in December 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrived at the hall, where he presided over British Cabinet meetings via telephone from his bed.

It was Athlone's duty to play host at Quebec Citymarker to his prime minister, still Mackenzie King, as well as Churchill and United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who all gathered to take part in what would become known as the Quebec Conferences, with the first taking place between 17 and 24 August 1943 at the viceregal residence in La Citadellemarker, and the second occurring from 12 to 16 September 1944 at the Ch√Ęteau Frontenacmarker. It was at these meetings that the four men discussed the Allied strategies that would eventually lead to victory over Nazi Germany and Japanmarker. When Germany fell on 8 May 1945 and Japan on 15 August of the same year, Athlone led the national celebrations held on Parliament Hillmarker and elsewhere. He thereafter spoke in speeches about Canada's future being marked not by war but by a strong role in reconstruction and reconciliation.

During his time as the Canadian viceroy, Athlone also lent his status to various charitable and other social events, and mounted a number of activities of his own, such as tobogganing parties and skating lessons on the grounds of Rideau Hall, as well as skiing in Gatineau Parkmarker. When he departed Canada at the end of his time as the King's representative, Athlone left as a legacy the Athlone-Vanier Engineering Fellowship, awarded by the Engineering Institute of Canada.

Post-viceregal life

After Athlone's replacement as governor general was appointed on 21 March 1946, the Earl returned to the United Kingdom to retirement, taking up residence at Kensington Palacemarker, and resigning as colonel of the 7th Queen's Own Hussars on 1 September of that year. He did not completely remove himself from public activity, however, and was, along with his Canadian viceregal successor, Lord Alexander of Tunis, appointed to the committee charged with organising the coronation in 1953 of Alexander's great-niece, Queen Elizabeth II, and continued to sit as Chancellor of the University of London until 1955.

The Earl of Athlone died at Kensington on 16 January 1957, and he was interred in the Royal Burial Groundmarker at Frogmoremarker.

Titles, styles, honours, and arms

Titles

Kingdom of W√ľrttemberg
  • 14 April 1874 14 July 1917: His Serene Highness Prince Alexander of Teck


United Kingdommarker
  • 14 July 1917 17 July 1917: Brigadier Sir Alexander Cambridge
  • 17 July 1917 1918: Brigadier The Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone
  • 1918 21 January 1924: Major-General The Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone
  • 21 January 1924 21 December 1930: His Excellency Major-General The Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone, Governor-General of the Union of South Africa
  • 21 December 1930 16 January 1957: Major-General The Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone


Canadamarker
  • 21 June 1940 12 April 1946: His Excellency Major-General The Right Honourable The Earl of Athlone, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces of Canada


Athlone's style and title prior to the renunciation of his Germanic titles in 1917 was: His Serene Highness Prince Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George of Teck, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Grand Cross of the Order of the Rautenkrone, Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, Member First Class with Swords of the Order of St. Anna. Upon his elevation to the peerage, he was styled and titled as: The Right Honourable Sir Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, Earl of Athlone, Viscount Trematon, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, Member First Class with Swords of the Order of St. Anna, Major-General of the Militia of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

As Governor General of South Africa, Athlone was formally addressed as: His Excellency Major-General The Right Honourable Sir Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, Earl of Athlone, Viscount Trematon, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, Member First Class with Swords of the Order of St. Anna, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Union of South Africa, Major-General of the Militia of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Athlone's style and title as Governor General of Canada was, in full, and in English: His Excellency Major-General The Right Honourable Sir Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, Earl of Athlone, Viscount Trematon, Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Grand Master of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Companion of the Distinguished Service Order, Grand Cordon of the Order of Leopold, Member First Class with Swords of the Order of St. Anna, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of the Militia and Naval and Air Forces of Canada, Major-General of the Militia of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and in French: Son Excellence major-g√©n√©ral le tr√®s honorable Sir Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge, comte d'Athlone, viscompte Trematon, chevalier du nobilissime ordre de la Jarreti√®re, chevalier grand-croix du tr√®s honorable ordre du Bain, grand-ma√ģtre du tr√®s distingu√© ordre de Saint-Michel et Saint-George, chevalier grand-croix de l'ordre royal de Victoria, compagnon de l'ordre du service distingu√©, grand cordon de l'ordre de L√©opold, membre premi√®re classe avec √©p√©es de l'ordre de Sainte-Anne, gouverneur g√©n√©ral et commandant en chef de la milice et des forces navales et a√©rienne du Canada, major-g√©n√©ral de la milice du Royaume-Uni de Grande-Bretagne et d'Irlande du Nord. It should be noted that, for Athlone, Commander-in-Chief was strictly a title, and not a position that he held; the actual commander-in-chief (who can also be, and is, called such) is perpetually the monarch of Canada.

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Foreign honours and decorations


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