Australian Historical Art Fund & Heritage Government Residences

The Duke of Gloucester's Desk, 1935

H. Goldman Limited, Melbourne
Blackwood and Specimen Wood
carvings attrib. to Robert Prenzel
Height 76cm Width 152cm Depth 89 cm

Silver plaque in central drawer inscribed:
“Their Royal Highnesses/The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester/from the/Commonwealth of Australia/with every good wish./6th Nov. 1935”
This desk was presented to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester by the Right Honourable Earle Page, M.P. as a wedding gift on behalf of the Commonwealth Government of Australia following his marriage to Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott on November 6th 1935. It is documented in a contemporary newspaper article to have cost 'about £100'.  The intricately carved gum leaf feet and gum nut drawer handles are typical of Prussian born master carver Robert Prenzel (1866-1941). Prenzel's ledger lists work done for Goldman Ltd., between 1917-1925 with only a few mentions of work in the 1930s, as the records are incomplete the details on this desk can only be attributed to him.

Gum nut handle  Inlaid map   Carved foot      2006.6   2005.7
The central drawer contains an inlaid map of Australia with specimen woods specific to the Australian states as indicated by the map.

Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900–1974) was a member of the British Royal Family, the third son of George V and Queen Mary. In late 1944, the Duke was unexpectedly appointed 11th Governor-General of Australia, serving from 1945-1947, by Prime Minister John Curtin. Curtin had had a policy of appointing Australians to the vice-regal post; however in the circumstances of wartime, the appointment of the Duke to Governor-General was seen advantageous in two ways. It would encourage Britain to maintain its commitment to Australia’s defence and would make the point that Australia was not dependent on the United States.

The cartoon (illustrated above), drawn in 1947 by prominent Australian political cartoonist, John Frith (1906-2000) records the actual date that Prince Henry left Australia as Governor-General.
Donated to The Fund by HRH The Duke of Gloucester in 2006 it is signed, dated and inscribed:
“The Duke of Gloucester leaves Sydney to-night by air for London./He will cease to be Governor-General when he leaves Australian territory to-morrow./ “There goes a good bloke!” 

The plaster portrait bust c. 1947 of HRH Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester is by Edward Kohler (1890–1964) is also in the Fund Collection.

This selection represents a small sample of our collection. Our book detailing the collection is currently out of print.
An updated edition has been published in 2017.
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