Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo Prince Albert, Freda Dudley Ward and Edward, Prince of Wales around 1925
A 103-year-old letter that's now up for auction reveals how Queen Elizabeth's uncle and father conspired for the future King George VI to have "a chance of being alone" with a married woman in the years before he met and married Queen Elizabeth's mother.
Edward, the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VIII before abdicating the throne to marry American socialite Wallis Simpson) wrote the letter to Freda Dudley Ward, his own married mistress, in 1919. It told the story of how he persuaded Lord Loughborough to play a round of golf so his younger brother, Albert (the future King George VI), could be alone with Loughborough's Australian wife, Sheila, while the brothers were visiting the couple's home.
"After tea I managed to lure Loughie [Lord Loughborough] away on the pretext of wanting to play a few more holes of golf on the local course, so as to give Sheilie a chance of being alone with Bertie [Prince Albert]," Edward wrote. "They said they were tired and we left them, but imagine my horror darling when on arriving at the links we found they were closed on Sundays!!"
He continued, "However, I kept my head and took Loughie for a walk instead!"
Historia/Shutterstock Sheila, Lady Loughborough
Simon Luterbacher, a books and manuscripts specialist at Forum Auctions in London said, according to The Times, "A bit of sibling solidarity was at play as they tried to get Albert alone with Lady Loughborough. It was a bit conniving on their part, and it is unusual to find a letter which goes into such personal detail."
He added, "The brothers clearly had a strong bond at the time, but this would change in later years with the abdication."
Albert and Sheila met at a London dance in 1918. Sheila was best friends with Edward's lover Dudley Ward, and the foursome reportedly called themselves "The Four Do's."
However, the affair came to an end when the brothers' father, King George V, learned of it in 1920. The monarch reportedly offered to make Albert the Duke of York on his birthday — if he heard nothing further about him and Sheila. Although it was the end of their romantic relationship, the two did remain friends and exchange letters.
Albert went on to meet Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, Queen Elizabeth's mother, who he wed in 1923.
John Stillwell - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images Freda Dudley Ward and Edward, Prince of Wales
Meanwhile, Sheila eventually divorced Lord Loughborough. She married twice more, to Sir John Milbanke and Prince Dmitri Alexandrovich of Russia. Her status as a popular socialite is believed to be the inspiration for the Australian term "a good-looking sheila."
She died in 1969 but became the subject of Robert Wainwright's 2014 biography Sheila: The Australian Beauty Who Bewitched British Society.
Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII in 1936 with the death of King George V. However, he abdicated the same year in order to marry Simpson, whose divorce from her previous husband was thought to make her an unsuitable queen consort.
"I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love," he said in a radio broadcast.
His younger brother became King George VI, paving the way for his daughter Elizabeth to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. Queen Elizabeth, 95, will mark 70 years on the throne on Feb. 6 — the day her father died and she became Queen.