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They Could Have Been Kings But Fate Had Other Plans

In the history of European monarchy, there are numerous instances that eldest sons were not able to ascend the throne because fate had other plans. Sometimes tragic.

Here are some of these stories:

1. Prince Gustaf Adolf, Duke of Vasterbotten



He was the eldest child of then Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden and Princess Margarita of Connaught, granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. 

At his birth in 1906, the Swedish dynastic succession of the House of Bernadotte was assured. He was male. He was healthy. But destiny would cut it off later in life.

Known by his last name of Edmund, the prince married his second cousin, Princess Sybilla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, daughter of Princess Margarita's first cousin, Prince Charles Edward of Albany who inherited the dukedom of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from his uncle, Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria.

The Duke and Duchess of Vasterbotten had five children, four daughters, and one son, the youngest, Prince Carl, who was born in 1946. 

The prince was an accomplished horse rider and even represented Sweden in the show jumping event in the 1936 Summer Olympics.

He was also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Swedish Cavalry. 

On January 26, 1947, Prince Gustaf Adolf and his two companions were returning home from a hunting trip in the Netherlands on board a commercial plane, KLM Airline. 

It had a routine stopover at Copenhagen airport in Denmark. But as soon as the aircraft, a Douglas DC-3, took off on its way to Stockholm, the plane started feeding the computer system with a stall warning, which prompted the plane to nose dive.

The pilot was not able to recover the the malfunction until it plummeted to the ground minutes later.

It exploded on impact, killing all 22 people on board. Resulting investigation pointed to a pilot error for failing to perform the final pre-flight check.

At the time of his death, Prince Gustaf Adolf was second in line to the Swedish throne, his only son was only nine months old.

The son would later inherit the Swedish throne in 1973, reigning today as King Carl XVI Gustav.

2. Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale


He was born in 1864 during the reign of his grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was still mourning the death of her husband, Prince Albert, who died in 1862. 

He was the eldest child of then Prince and Princess of Wales, Prince Bertie and Princess Alexandra.

To console his grieving grandmother, his parents named him Albert Victor in honor of his grandparents. He was nicknamed Eddy.

At the time of his birth, he was second-in-line of succession to the British throne. And expected to reign one day. But that would never happen.

People wondered how his reign would feel like. He was a bit unusual  for an heir to the throne according to some accounts.

With many controversies attached to his name during his lifetime, it was doubted if the British throne wouldn't be embroiled in a series of scandal had he survived to wear the crown.

Much of his adult life, especially his sexuality and mental health, had been the subject of intense public speculation. 

Rumors were linking him to several scandals, the most famous being the Cleveland Street Scandal, a homosexual male brothel in London.

The prince was speculated to have been one of its patrons. An accusation that was never substantiated, many believed there was a massive cover up to protect the prince and other famous aristocratic names.

Other authors argued he could be "Jack the Ripper", a serial killer in London whose style of murder was mutilating his victims, mostly prostitutes.

Three centuries later, the serial killer's true identity was rolled into a legend. It was never proven who was the real Jack the Ripper.

However, linking Prince Albert Victor to Jack the Ripper was dismissed by most historians as purely fantasy and malicious. 

After several princesses presented to him as a future wife, the prince proposed to his second cousin once removed, Princess Mary of Teck, daughter of Queen Victoria's first cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide.

They became engaged in 1891 and scheduled to marry on February 27, 1892. But one month before the event, the prince fell to Russian flu, a type of influenza that gripped the world between 1889-1890, the last pandemic to happen in the 19th century.

He died in Sandringham, Norfolk, three weeks after he turned 28 in January 1892, surrounded by his family and fiancee.

His younger brother, Prince George, would later inherit the British throne as King George V.

And his fiancee. 

Prince George and Princess Mary would marry more than a year later in July 1893. They were styled Duke and Duchess of York until Queen Victoria's death in 1901.

3. Frederick, Prince of Wales


He was born in 1707 during the reign of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne. At the time of his birth, he leaped to fourth in line of succession to the British throne.

By then, the descendants of King Charles I were barred from succeeding the British throne because of their Catholic faith.

The succession was settled on his great-grandmother, Sophia Electress of Hanover's protestant descendants through an Act of Parliament.

Prince Frederick had a difficult relationship with his father, King George II. They became estranged when his father became Prince of Wales in 1714 and moved to England.

The fact that his grandfather, King George I, appointed him to preside over the affairs of the state of the House of Hanover in Germany, instead of his father, further strained their relationship. 

For several years, he was not permitted to come to England, until his father ascended the British throne as George II. Prince Frederick finally visited the kingdom in 1728 and was created Prince of Wales in 1729. 

He almost married Lady Diana Spencer, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Sunderland, Charles Spencer, the favorite granddaughter of Sarah, the Duchess of Marlborough.

He was offered a large amount of dowry by the rich Duchess of Marlborough, and he gladly accepted.

But the plan was vetoed by his father and Robert Walpole, the prime minister at that time, because Lady Diana was not royalty. So he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Coburg in 1736 instead.

It's crazy how fate would make up on failed things later when another Lady Diana Spencer would finally marry a Prince of Wales in 1981.

Prince Frederick, unfortunately, did not live long to wear the British crown. He died in 1751 at the age of 44 due to a lung injury.

His eldest son would later inherit the British throne and reigned for more than 59 years as King George III.

4. Prince Leopold, Duke of Brabant


He was born in 1859 as the second child and only son of King Leopold II of Belgium and Queen Marie Henrietta. At birth, he was the heir apparent to the Belgian throne.

Prince Leopold was the grandson of King Leopold I, the maternal uncle of Queen Victoria and widower of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the British heiress who died from child birth in 1817.

Only few accounts emerged about the life of this Belgian prince because he died at a very young age of nine. 

Short of his 10th birthday, he fell ill of pneumonia caused by soaking in a pond after he fell. He wasn't able to recover from the illness and died in January 1869.

Upon his death, his father, King Leopold II, became inconsolable and succumbed to a state of hysteria. He cried nonstop and collapsed before the coffin in desperation for losing his heir.

The King and Queen tried to have another child after Prince Leopold's death, in the hope that they could have another son to inherit the Belgian throne. But another daughter was born instead.

They gave up hope to have a direct heir. The king had three daughters but the Belgian throne could not be passed to daughters and their descendants at that time.

After Leopold II's death, the Belgian throne passed to his nephew, Albert I, the direct ancestor of the current Belgian royals.

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