Royal albums: Revealed: the lost prince of the House of Windsor

Never seen before: starting today, intimate and historic photographs from the private family albums of the Duke of Windsor

THIS IS the lost prince of the House of Windsor who, throughout his life, was hidden from the British public for fear he might embarrass the Royal Family. His photograph (right) has never been seen before in a newspaper. His name was Prince John, and he would have been uncle to the present Queen.

It is one of hundreds of previously unseen, priceless, old photographs of the Royal Family and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's romance which have been discovered by The Independent. The photographs, many taken by the former Edward VIII himself, have lain in two albums in an attic in France for decades. One album chronicles, with an intimacy never previously seen, the private life of the Royal Family just before the First World War. The second shows scenes from Edward's courtship of the then Mrs Wallis Simpson before his abdication in 1936.

The albums belong to a French family which was close to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor when they lived in France after 1945. They were given to the family by the Duchess as a memento of the Dukewhen he died in 1972.

The find was yesterday described as "remarkable and very exciting" by Michael Bloch, who edited the Duke and Duchess's letters and is the author of five books about them. "I have seen other volumes, but these are by far the most intimate," he said.

Publicity surrounding the New York sale of the Windsors' personal possessions from their home in Paris by Sotheby's next week led the French family to look at the albums again. They were advised by a British friend, and a reader of The Independent, to contact this newspaper. We intend to publish many of the most remarkable photographs over the coming days.

The pictures reveal private moments from the life of the Royals in the golden age before the Great War. But most singular are the pictures of the then Prince of Wales and Mrs Simpson lounging by the pool at Fort Belvedere, his country home in Berkshire. One album contains handwritten notes by the Duke with wry and affectionate references to "Papa", "Mama", "Self" and his brothers and sister.

A member of the French family which owns the albums, who was a little girl at the time, said: "I have wonderful memories of the Duke and Duchess. They had no children of their own and, for a few years, I became a little like their child, a surrogate daughter. They loved to play with me in the garden. Sometimes, if they arrived unexpectedly and I was at school, they would send the Rolls to collect me."

The family which owns the albums has asked not to be identified. But The Independent has checked out their story and believes it to be genuine.

"We thought that the albums were an important and beautiful historical document and something that we should share with other people. We want them to be revealed in a way which is worthy, not sensationalised. What we would like, from revealing some of them in The Independent, is for a British publisher to take an interest in publishing them."

The family member said last night: "I remember them as warm people, very down-to-earth people, very simple, very open. My parents and I would sometimes have tea with them in the big house and we would be treated just as if we were the grand people who used to come to receptions.

"I knew a little of their story. I knew that he had once been the King. But, for me, as a child, none of that really sank in I suppose. I thought of them only as kind, warm people, people who were very good to me."

Windsor sale, page 19

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