Known as Prince Alexander of Teck until 1917, he was the son of the Duke of Teck of the Kingdom of Wurttemburg. His sister was May, Princess Mary who was at first engaged to the Duke of Clarence, Prince Albert Victor, but he died in 1892 and she became engaged and married to the next in line to the throne, the Duke of York, the future King George V. Alexander was the 4th and youngest child of the Duke and Duchess (Fat May, grand-daughter of George III). He was styled His Serene Highness but was called Alge, his mother's favourite. His time as a soldier was most active whilst he was a junior officer in the 7th Hussars, patrolling in Rhodesia and South Africa. But in 1904 he transferred to the Blues as a captain.
In 1911 King George V became seriously concerned because the elite always went into the Blues, so that the impression was given that the 2nd Life Guards was an inferior regiment. To remedy this state of affairs the King decided that there should be an interchange of senior officers between the two regiments. Colonel Dawnay and Prince Alexander were amongst the first victims of this royal experiment, which was a great blow to Alexander, who had become deeply attached to the Royal Horse Guards. But after a while he changed his mind and settled down with his new companions. In the First World War he commanded the 2nd Life Guards in Flanders.
On 14th April 1917 the royal family cut their German connections, and the Tecks changed their name to Cambridge. For a short while Alexander was known as Sir Alexander Cambridge, but later that year he became Lord Athlone and as such carried out his duties as Governor-General, first of South Africa, and later Canada. He was also Colonel of the 7th Hussars for 22 years and the Life Guards for 21 years. His marriage to Princess Alice of Albany produced three children but one of them died in infancy in 1910. This encouraged a strong connection between him and the Middlesex Hospital and brought about the establishment of the Athlone Committee in 1921.
Governor-General of the Union of South Africa 1924-1930
In 1923 Lord Athlone was promoted to Major-General and appointed by the King to be Governor-General of South Africa. He arrived in Pretoria in January 1924 and one of his first duties was to open the newly finished Parliament building. Jan Smuts was the prime minister but an election soon removed him and replaced him with JBM Hertzog, a republican. Hertzog wanted South Africa to separate from the British Empire and called for a new flag. Athlone was sympathetic and sponsored a design for the flag, but it still contained the Union flag in the canton so was not met with universal approval. He made many tours of the country and opened Pioneer Park in Johannesburg. His time in office was rewarded by his appointment as Knight of the Garter on 17th April 1928.
Governor-General of Canada 1940-1946
In the 1930s there were calls for a Canadian-born Governor-General but with the outbreak of war it was felt best to retain the traditional link with Britain. In early 1940 the announcement was made of Lord Athlone's appointment. His ship made the voyage to Halifax on a zig-zag course to avoid German U-boats. From Halifax he took the train to Ottawa where he took up residence in La Citadelle. He was sworn in on 21st June 1940. The prime minister of Canada throughout Athlone's tenure was WL MacKenzie King with whom he had a good working relationship. Athlone visited troops all over Canada and viewed his function as a link between the soldiers and their monarch. Another aspect of his position was to play host to gatherings of the crown heads of Europe who had been displaced by the war or who chose to live in Canada for safety. Two important events occurred under his authority, the Quebec Conferences of August 1943 and September 1944 at which he convened the congress of Winston Churchill and President Franklin D Roosevelt with himself and Mackenzie King. These were held at La Citadelle and Chateau Frontenac. Athlone's term of office ended on 21st March 1946. His legacy was the Athlone-Vanier Engineering Fellowship.
1874 Born 14th April at Kensington Palace
Canada | Administrators