Queen told aide of 'unbearable' sorrow after George VI's death

Queen told aide of ‘unbearable’ sorrow and ’emptiness and loneliness’ after George VI’s death and expressed her concern that The Troubles would never be resolved, letters set to be auctioned reveal

  • The Queen wrote to an aide expressing her ’emptiness and loneliness’ and ‘unbearable sorrow’ following her father’s death, newly released letters reveal 
  • Letters sent from the Queen and Prince Charles to royal aide Michael Farebrother  include sorrow after George VI’s and Lord Mountbatten’s deaths
  •  In other letters Prince Charles also discussed his ‘unforgettable’ memories of school including a gym mistress with ‘large thighs’

The Queen wrote to an aide expressing her ’emptiness and loneliness’ and ‘unbearable sorrow’ following her father’s death, newly released letters reveal.

Private letters sent by Her Majesty to a royal aide – which also detail the monarch’s  concerns about Northern Ireland during the Troubles – are set to be  be auctioned next month as part of a collection alongside never-before-seen photographs of the Firm.

Correspondence sent from the Queen and Prince Charles to royal aide Michael Farebrother, a former Grenadier Guard and the Prince of Wales’ private tutor, span more than 40 years and include discussions of King George VI’s and Lord Mountbatten’s deaths.

In other letters Prince Charles also discussed his ‘unforgettable’ memories of school including a gym mistress with ‘large thighs’. 

Mr Farebrother, who died in 1987 aged 67, had been posted to Windsor Castle during the Second World War and corresponded with the royals for the next 40 years, including several lengthy handwritten letters from the Queen. 

Private letters sent by the Queen to a royal aide detailing the monarch’s ’emptiness and loneliness’ following her father’s death and concerns about Northern Ireland are set to be be auctioned next month as part of a collection alongside never-before-seen photographs of the Royal Family  

The Queen wrote to an aide expressing her ’emptiness and loneliness’ and ‘unbearable sorrow’ following her father’s death, newly released letters reveal. King Georgie VI and Elizabeth are pictured together

In one of the earliest letters from the Queen, she expressed her ’emptiness and loneliness’ and ‘unbearable’ sorrow following the death of her father in February 1952.

But she stoically declared ‘I have a job to do’ just days after ascending the throne.

She went on to state that her father’s death was ‘so much worse’ for her mother and younger sister Margaret to be able to look to the future.

King George VI was just 56 when he passed away from coronary thrombosis and lung cancer in 1952.

The Queen, who was just 25,  was on tour in Kenya with Prince Philip at the time.

Grief again gripped the Royal Family 27 years later when Lord Louie Mountbatten was killed by an IRA bomb at Mullaghmore, County Sligo, Ireland, in August 1979.

In a very rare occurrence of Her Majesty breaking royal protocol around discussing politics, she expressed her doubts that the troubles in Northern Ireland would ever be resolved.

Correspondence sent from the Queen and Prince Charles to royal aide Michael Farebrother, a former Grenadier Guard and the Prince of Wales’ private tutor, span more than 40 years and include discussions of King George VI’s and Lord Mountbatten’s deaths

Honest feelings: Following the death of Louis Mountbatten, the Queen wrote to Mr Farebrother and expressed her doubts that the Troubles would ever be resolved. She wrote: ‘One can only pray that he will not have died in vain and that some good may come of this terrible act of blowing up a family on holiday and will shock people into doing something about Ireland’

She wrote: ‘One can only pray that he will not have died in vain and that some good may come of this terrible act of blowing up a family on holiday and will shock people into doing something about Ireland – if only their opinions were not so entrenched.’ 

One letter from the Queen following the death of Louis Mountbatten candidly discusses her feelings on The Troubles, writing: ‘One can only pray that he will not have died in vain and that some good may come of this terrible act of blowing up a family on holiday and will shock people into doing something about Ireland – if only their opinions were not so entrenched.’ 

The collection of personal photographs, memos and letters were kept in a cloth-bound album which is expected to fetch up to £80,000 when it goes under the hammer at Gorringes auction house in Lewes, East Sussex, on 7th December.

Her Majesty’s hors: The Queen with her beloved horse ‘Betsy’ (right). In a letter dated February 10, 1957 (left), the Queen expressed her thanks for Mr Farebrother sending her a photo of Betsy, which she jokingly accepted looked more like a camel


Generations of memories: The then Princess Elizabeth wrote to Mr Farebrother, or ‘Michael’, in 1947 to thank him for his congratulations on her engagement. In 1982, Prince Charles wrote following the birth of Prince William, signing off ‘Charlie’

In notes she delighted in Charles’s ‘friendship’ with Mr Farebrother. For his part, Charles signs his letters to Mr Farebrother ‘your erstwhile pupil’ and uses his nickname, ‘Charlie’. 

The late Mr Farebrother kept the letters and photographs for the rest of his life and had them made into a red cloth-bound album.

It is now being sold by a relative with Gorringe’s Auctioneers of Lewes, East Sussex, for a pre-sale estimate of between £50,000 to £80,000.

The black and white photos include several of an eight-year-old Prince Charles playing around in the grounds and parapets of Windsor Castle.

There is one charming image of him dressed in an oversized coat and wearing a black bowler hat and carrying an umbrella.

Invitation to dinner: Michael Farebrother kept this invitation to dinner with the Queen and Princess Margaret at Windsor


Personal thanks: The Queen also wrote to thank Mr Farebrother for tutoring Charles at Sandringham over the Christmas holidays of 1956/57. She wrote (left and right): ‘It made all the difference to him and he so obviously enjoyed you being there and it was so clever of you not to be in best ‘schoolmaster-ish’ with him and win his friendship so quickly’

In a letter dated February 10, 1957, the Queen expressed her thanks for Mr Farebrother sending her a photo of Betsy, which she reluctantly and jokingly accepted looked more like a camel.

She wrote: ‘It was indeed kind of you to send me the photographs which you took at Sandringham and which I am delighted to have. I am only sorry that the camera proves that my dear Betsy is much more like a camel than a horse, which is what I am always being told and never believe!’

She went on to thank him for tutoring Charles at Sandringham over the Christmas holidays of 1956/57.

She wrote: ‘It made all the difference to him and he so obviously enjoyed you being there and it was so clever of you not to be in best ‘schoolmaster-ish’ with him and win his friendship so quickly.’


Practice makes perfect! Prince Charles filled out a military-themed sheet for his handwriting lesson with Mr Farebrother (left). Right, Princess Anne produced this sweet painting of a teddy bear for one of her lessons with the tutor

Mr Farebrother had spent the previous New Year with the Royal Family and recounted the festivities in a letter home to his father, including dancing with the Queen Mother.

He wrote ‘…dinner with the Duchess of Glos. on my left – a film, and then hot punch and ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at midnight. The Queen Mum then made me dance with her to the wireless and everyone joined in. Princess Margaret puts on a rock ‘n roll record and the children caper all over the place.’

The Queen also sent Mr Farebrother letters of thanks for his congratulations following her engagement to Prince Philip and births of Charles and Prince Andrew.

In a letter dated November 28, 1948 – 14 days after the birth of a ‘very sweet’ Prince Charles – the then Princess Elizabeth wrote: ‘We are enormously proud of him.

Growing up fast! Prince Charles in an oversized coat and wearing a black bowler hat and carrying an umbrella, with some dogs, during a light-hearted moment with Mr Farebrother. The tutor worked as a schoolmaster and for the royal family

Royal collector’s dream: The album of letters, memos and photographed is steeped in Mr Farebrother’s private history


Warm thanks: Princess Anne sent a letter thanking Mr Farebrother for a gift he sent in 1980, signing simply: ‘Anne’

‘We are also glad that he has given a bit of happiness to so many people besides ourselves. Such a lot has happened since the Windsor days and I find it very hard to believe sometimes that I am married and have a baby of my own.’

On March 6, 1960, 15 days after the arrival of Prince Andrew, she wrote: ‘Charles had the luck to be allowed off for the weekend – he and Anne are completely fascinated by the baby.’

There are four documents relating to the time Mr Farebrother tutored Prince Charles.

There include a drawing by him of a rural English landscape with a house and a finger signpost and handwriting practice that involved Charles having to fill in gaps of historical names and events like William I 1066.

Carefully preserved: An example of the pages kept by Mr Farebrother, including letters from Princess Margaret (left)


Bundle of joy: Mr Farebrother received this thoughtful response from the then Princess Elizabeth following the birth of Prince Charles in 1948. She wrote: ‘We are also glad that he has given a bit of happiness to so many people besides ourselves’

The Prince of Wales’ letters to Mr Farebrother includes one following the death Lieutenant Colonel Herbert ‘H’ Jones, who was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross in the Falklands War.

Mr Farebrother had taught the British army officer at St Peter’s preparatory school in Seaford, East Sussex, and had seemingly told Charles about the officer’s gallant death in an earlier letter.

Writing on July 30, 1982, Charles said he had written a letter of sympathy to Col Jones’ widow Sara.

He said: ‘I had no idea that he had been at your school and that you had his sons there as well. The very least I could do was write to Sara – I only wish I could do more to help. What a brave lady she is and what a real hero ‘H’ is. Your account moved me very deeply.’

Charles signed off ‘with warmest wishes and happy memories of those far-off tutoring days!’

Two years later Charles wrote about a memorial service for Mrs Townend, the former headmistress of Hill House School, in London’s Knightsbridge, where he was a pupil from 1956 to 1958.

Married life: Prince Charles signed his name ‘Charlie’ in this letter written following his wedding to Diana in 1981

He wrote: ‘I shall never forget those acid drops-nor, for that matter, the gym mistress who had large thighs and shouted ‘commence!’ very loudly at the start of each exercise.’

He signed off ‘from your erstwhile pupil. Charles.’

Charles also described the ‘jolly’ Christmas of 1984 at Windsor Castle and how ‘William had a wonderful time pursuing all the other children until he was purple in the face!’.

Mr Farebrother attended Eton College and Oxford University who he played first class cricket for unit, his sporting career was cut short by the Second World War.

He served in the Grenadier Guards and fought in the Italian campaign and was erroneously reported as killed in action in the 1945 edition of the Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack.

After leaving the army he worked as a schoolmaster and in 1956 he was appointed to the post of headmaster at St Peter’s School. He died at Seaford in September 1987 aged 67.

Philip Taylor, of Gorringes, said: ‘We are privileged to have been instructed to offer for sale ‘The Michael Farebrother Collection of Papers Concerning The Queen and her Family’ which are being offered for sale for the first time. It is a unique and historically significant album of candid correspondence, hitherto unpublished photographs, and ephemera.

‘It includes a large selection of manuscript letters from the Queen and Prince Charles on many matters of private and public life. Chronologically collated, the collection reflects the life and career of Michael Farebrother together with an intimate glimpse into day to day life in the Royal household in the early 1950s.’

The album is being sold on December 7.

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