The Tragic Life and Forbidden Love of The Other Prince William

HRH Prince William of Gloucester

While digging through research for additional resources of my book, Tales of Royal Tragedies, I came across this 2015 royal documentary, "The Other Prince William", which revisited the tragic story of Queen Elizabeth II's first cousin, Prince William of Gloucester.

Let's go back in time, far different from the period of the Prince William, of today, and discover the forgotten, but fascinating story of Britain's first modern prince. 

Known for his devotion to royal duty and loyalty to his family, his fading legacy, however, has been marred by two things: His tragic life and a forbidden romance that almost scandalize the British royal family. 

It was 1960's after all.

Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with sons, William and Richard

His Royal Highness, Prince William Henry Andrew Frederick of Gloucester, was born on December 18, 1941, to the third son of King George V, HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott.

The birth was a great celebration to the family because the prince was born six years after the wedding of his parents and after the miscarriages of his mother. At the time of his birth, he was fourth in line of succession to the British throne.

After the birth of his younger brother, Prince Richard, in 1944, they relocated to Australia when his father was posted as Governor-General.

They moved back to Britain in 1947 in time for the wedding of his first cousin, then Princess Elisabeth, the future Queen of England, to Prince Philip of Greece. He served as the wedding's page boy together with cousin, Prince Michael of Kent.
Prince William and the future Queen

Unlike other European royals in his days, Prince William received the best education of his time. After attending the prestigious Eton College, where most children of European aristocrats were schooled, he went to Cambridge University and obtained his BA degree. He took up post studies in Political Science and American History at Stanford University in the United States.

Determined to serve in the civil service rather than in the military, he joined the British Foreign Office as a diplomat and was posted to Nigeria.

Around this time, he was diagnosed having a Porphyria, a disease that affected the mental health of his ancestors, King George III and Queen Mary of Scotland.

Nonetheless, he remained enthusiastic about life and developed a passion for adventurous sports like skiing, fast cars and aviation. He became a license pilot and owned several light aircraft. 

In 1968, the Commonwealth government sent him to Japan to work in the British embassy. And it was his passion towards aircraft that made him flown there by himself on a Piper plane, arriving in Tokyo 16 days later under a grueling weather.

It was a much publicized arrival and he became an instant celebrity to captivated fans. During his days, he was often depicted in papers as a playboy prince and a prized catch - athletic, adventurous, intelligent, sporty, spectacularly handsome, privilege.

Hot, young, irresistible and athletic, he was a depiction of a real prince charming. He drew a crowd of admirers and was most in demand in social parties.

Socialites where thrilled and enthralled, eager to know this dashing young British prince who had a pair of charming blue eyes. One of the smitten women was Szuszi Starkloff, a Hungarian-born model.

Szuszi Starkloff in her younger days

In the 2015 documentary. "The Other Prince William", Starkloff shared a piece of history on her passionate romance with the dashing prince.

She recalled being introduced to him at a dinner party. And days later, she made the first move by inviting the prince to a masquerade ball.

He gladly accepted. As with most fairytale story, the prince charming went to her table, whirled her to the dance floor and swept off her feet.

It was the start of their romance.

Prince William was extremely besotted with this hot model, who was five years him senior. They shared a passion for outdoor adventures and aircraft. Starkloff being a former flight attendant. He taught her his favorite sports and soon, they lived together.

They began a sizzling love affair that would cause panic to Buckingham Palace. Not only Starkloff a non-aristocratic commoner, which was unheard then for a wife of a British prince, but she was also twice divorce, had a daughter and had different religion from the royal family.

An unthinkable match.

This unconventional background made her unsuitable to become a member of the British royal family. News circulating in England branded her dismissively as "the next Wallis Simpson".

Prince William was aware of the consequences should he proceed in marriage with Starkloff. The abdication crisis of his uncle, King Edward VIII, who gave up his throne to marry a twice divorced American commoner, Wallis Simpson, still haunted the royal family.
William and Szuszi during happier days
The love affair alarmed the courtiers, the monarchy could no longer afford to have another scandalous relationship in the family. So, something must be done.

In 1969, the Queen sent her sister, Princess Margaret, to Tokyo for a trade engagement. But Starkloff knew  it was more than business. 

When Princess Margaret returned to England she sent William a letter, advising him to just wait how things would work when he return to England.

Prince William eventually plunged into dilemma, torn between love and sense of duty, unable to decide if he would take a risk like his uncle Edward VIII, or abide with the royal protocol and ditch his girlfriend.
Subjected to The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 (an act requiring all descendants of King George III to ask approval from the reigning British sovereign before marrying), he wrote to the Queen, seeking her permission to marry.

The Queen was soft in her words and told her cousin to follow his heart, but warned him it was not easy. The request would surely meet a disapproval from her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, due to Starkloff's background.

Prince Philip, who had been through a series of heated family discussion over inappropriate relationships, especially the one with Princess Margaret when she fell in love with a divorced commoner in 1953, did not want to undergo another controversy that would tarnish the reign of his wife.

In the end, it was not granted. 

Fate Drew Them Apart

Prince William began to contemplate on their future, ripped through conflicting interest of love and royal duty. As a senior member of the British royal family who sometimes acted as one of the Queen's Counselor of State, he was expected to obey royal tradition.

Until fate intervened. 

In 1970, his father, Prince Henry, suffered a severe stroke that affected his mobility. William as heir to the dukedom of Gloucester, was summoned to come home to take over his father's duties in running Barnwell, their sprawling country estate in north England.

It was the turning point of their love affair. Without a clear decision what to do with their relationship, Prince William went back to England, leaving behind his job in the British Foreign Office.

Starkloff, on the other hand, relocated to New York with her daughter but continued corresponding with the prince. 

In England, Prince William threw himself to royal duties and managing a large estate. He also became involved with patronages and NGO and nurtured his favorite sports, flying aircraft, participating in air race shows. He became the president of British Light Aviation Centre.
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with their sons, Richard and William

But he had not forgotten his Szuszi. In July 1970, he invited her to come to England. Starkloff was introduced to his family and lived with them in Barnwell. But the situation caused a stir in the royal family.

Prince William had to decide. 

On the following month, despite his avowal of love to Szuszi, the prince decided to put their romance on hold to sort things out.

Brokenhearted, Starkloff went back to the United States, carrying with her a baggage of sadness and despair. She settled in Colorado and would never see her prince again.

She maintained, however, that Prince William gave her a word that he would come to the United States to talk about their relationship. In the interview, she admitted with a pinch of gloom that "I had so much faith for our future".  

That future did not come.

The Tragic Twist of Event

On August 28, 1972, Prince William went to Halfpenny Green Airport, England to compete for The Goodyear International Air Trophy Air Race attended by 50,000 spectators.

Sitting beside him in the cockpit of his Piper Cherokee Arrow was his co-pilot, Vyrell Mitchell, who had been his companion in many air race competition.

The ill-fated aircraft of Prince William on the day of the competition

In the documentary footage, the Piper plane was seen crunching on the runway and slowly ascended. But minutes after take off, in a low altitude, the plane was seen veering side ward. It swayed and flipped over, hitting a tree. It plummeted to the ground and exploded.

The plane prepared to take off

Spectators rushed to the scene to pull the prince and his co-pilot from the wreckage but the flame quickly swirled. Ambulance whirled into the scene but took two hours to put off the fire.

Consumed by flames, Prince William and his co-pilot were identified through dental records. There was no official statements given related to the incident.
Shortly after takeoff, it veered side ward and swayed

Whether it was a human error, mechanical failure, the world will never know. Due to secrecy over royal documents, the detailed accounts on the prince's date were kept in the royal vault and would not be available to the public until 2073.

According to accounts, William's mother, convulsed with grief, did not tell her husband on the tragic accident that killed their son.

Prince Henry's health was already unstable when the accident happened. According to Lady Alice's biography, her husband might have learned the tragedy on television footage but something that was not discussed in the family.

Prince William was the first among the grandchildren of King George V and Queen Mary to die. He was also 9th in the line of succession to the throne at the time of his death, making the accident a high profile royal tragedy. He was buried at Frogmore burial ground in Windsor.

In 1974, Prince Henry died, leaving the estate and the title to his younger son, Prince Richard, the current Duke of  Gloucester.

Prince William's brief but vibrant life and flamboyant personality were very much admired by the young Prince Charles that 10 years later, he would name his firstborn son in honor of the ill-fated prince.

Memory of a Lost Love

Szuszi Starkloff's frail voice in the documentary began to shake. The footage on the screen where the plane crash was shown was staggeringly shocking and painful to the woman who had so much faith for their future together.

Szuszi Starkloff in 2015, she had not remarried after losing her true love

Her voice faltered, filled with regrets. She was 79 at the time of the interview, already tired and fragile, and still visibly engulfed with the torment of grief she kept for 43 years. Denied by destiny, she had not gotten over the pain of losing her great love.
She slowly walked to the large window, facing the snow-capped mountain of Colorado and pulled her necklace. 

"Then one day, very unexpectedly, William looked at me and took off his ring, a gold signet ring that bears his initial W", she breathed. "Hold it, keep it forever", she recalled William saying.

She sighed and continued, "It means a commitment to me, like a last word of a beautiful relationship", She said, parting a thin smile.
The signet ring of Prince William 

She did not attend the prince's funeral in England and chose to just grieve privately in Colorado. But whether the relationship wound end in marriage had the prince lived, it was not clear.

In 1972 shortly before his death, Prince William was quoted in an interview that if ever he would marry, he would do it with the woman right for him and right to the eyes of the royal family, which explained the remote possibility of them marrying one day.

Szuszi showed no sign of remorse hearing the statement. She resigned to the fact that she could never be accepted by the royal family just like Wallis Simpson.

A sad story of love viewed through differences in religion, background, social class and status.

Prince William was involved in another forbidden romance with a divorced mother of two, Nicole Shieff (above photo with Prince William). The relationship ended quickly.
Now, slowly fading in the memory of those who knew him, Prince William's brief legacy, though marred by forbidden love and tragedy, is one mesmerizing story of passion, warmth, glamor and pulsating charm.

He lived in an era where protocol in royal marriages was very tight. Trapped in the conflicting pull of duty and love, in the end, it was fate that ultimately decided the course of his life in a tragic twist. 

The full story of The Other Prince William will appear in the revision of “Tales of Royal Tragedies” under Tragic Royal Death. 

Watch the documentary from Real Royalty

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