ALWAYS STRENGTHENING THE LOVE AND PATRONAGE OF THE BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY FOR MALTA
By ALBERT FENECH
One very special and enduring love-relationship that has always captivated my imagination and knowledge is the enduring and loving relationship of the British Royal family for Malta and Gozo.
When the Islands became a part of the British Empire over 160 years ago, our small islands and the British Isles, and particularly the British Royal Family, have always held a special place in royal hearts.
The Royal Prince, the DUKE OF KENT in Malta many, many times
This of course reached its peak highlight when King George VI awarded the George Cross to the islands and people of Malta for Gallantry during World War II in April 1942 when Malta underwent a continual aerial bombardment from the Axis aircraft of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.
At war’s end the Royal Couple Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh took up two year’s residence in Malta as Prince Philip at the time served in the RN Mediterranean Fleet.
Later, the late Queen Elizabeth II declared publicly in the “Daily Express” these were the two best years in her life because she was totally free in her movements and made welcome everywhere and further declared that outside the UK, Malta was her most favoured country in the world.
Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, is the first cousin of the late Queen Elizabeth II and is also related to the late Prince Philip. He is the first son of Prince George who was the fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary who was Princess of Marina of Denmark and Greece.
NOW IN POOR HEALTH
Now aged 88 and in poor health, his young days were marred by great loss and tragedy when he was aged just six his father was killed in a 1942 aircraft accident, the same year in which Malta received the George Cross, and he became the young Duke of Kent. He went on to be educated at Eton and gained professional efficiency in French.
The Duke of Kent with his first cousin, the late Queen Elizabeth II, who he represented in Malta and worldwide many, many times
The Duke of Kent has always been a shoulder of support for his cousin the late Queen Elizabeth, supporting her and substituting her on many occasions – particularly overseas – and PARTICULARLY IN MALTA.
In her final participation in the Trooping of the Colour at Whitehall, London, he stood in for the departed Prince Philip in 2021, shoulder to shoulder.
In 1961 he married Katharine Worsley who bore him three children. The Duke and Duchess of Kent have used their platform to advocate for a number of causes including the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The Duke has always been connected with some of the younger royals over shared sporting passions.
Visiting war graves in Malta cemeteries
One of his most recent visits to Malta was on 7th November 2018 as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), during which he paid a visit and laid a wreath at the Pieta’ Military Cemetery, part of his two-day tour.
The Duke of Kent was also in Malta on that date to mark the 200th Anniversary of the Order of St Michael and St George. The order was founded in 1818 in Malta and Corfu, Greece, to reward distinguished Maltese and Ionians for their services.
Laying a wreath at the Pieta’ Cemetery for war victims
As part of his visit to the cemetery, the Duke of Kent laid a wreath to honour the 1300 servicemen who lost their lives during the First World War and are buried in the cemetery.
His Royal Highness presented eight CWGC staff members long-service awards, before embarking on a tour of the cemetery accompanied by CWGC Director of Mediterranean Area, Ian Hussein, and the Technical Supervisor for Malta, Mark Fitzgerald.
The eight staff members combine a total of 149 years’ service between them. The Pieta Military Cemetery has a poignant mix of both war and civilian casualties. The Commission cares for over 2,000 graves in the cemetery, of which 1,300 were servicemen. Many of the Commonwealth burials are marked by flat headstones bearing multiple names due to the shallow earth and hard rock found in the area.
One of many tours around capital city Valletta
CWGC has a strong commitment in Malta and is responsible for maintaining commemorations for 5725 Commonwealth war dead at 15 locations across the country. The Commission commemorates 769 Maltese casualties in over 24 countries worldwide, including Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Greece, Iraq, Japan, Macedonia, and Serbia. The Commission is also responsible for commemorating 1472 Maltese civilians who died during the Second World War, the majority of whom were killed during the Siege of Malta, which lasted from June 1940 to November 1942.
On another occasion the Duke of Kent was also in Malta on a working visit as President of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on 1st March 2011 and was at Pinto Wharf to greet 15 Britons and other evacuees coming into Malta on the German ferry ‘Express Santorini’ as they had fled from various war zones around the world.
Greeting an enthusiastic young fan on one of the tours
As far back as 21st September 1964 he accompanied his close relative Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh and also to represent his first cousin Queen Elizabeth II in Malta at the ceremony declaring Malta’s Independence from the British Empire – the first time in its lengthy history that Malta and Gozo could declare themselves as being in charge of their own Government.
Indeed, the ties between Malta and British Royalty have always been strong and have always been uppermost and rewarding – and may that continue under King Charles III – who has his own great connections to Malta!
ALBERT FENECH – MALTA