Notable Middle Templars
In its long and eventful history, the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple has counted among its members a dazzling array of figures of historical importance, renown and - occasionally - infamy. From alchemists to aviators, soldiers to Suffragettes, playwrights to Prime Ministers, Middle Templars have made their mark on the world in myriad spheres and disciplines. These short biographies, covering members from the 16th to 20th centuries, tell the stories of some of these notable sons and daughters of the Inn.
Members have been grouped by the century in which they were admitted, with separate sections for Royal and Honorary Benchers.
1841 - 1910 Benched 1861
King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India, eldest son of HM Queen Victoria
HRH Albert, Prince of Wales was elected to the Bench in 1861 and on the day of his Call officially opened the new Middle Temple Library. In 1872, he attended a soiree of the International Prison Congress at the Inn and attended a dinners and Grand Days in 1874, 1877, 1883, 1887 for the Golden Jubilee, 1891 and 1893. After his ascension to the throne as King Edward VII, he was the first reigning monarch elected to the Bench to dine at an Inn of Court in 1903. He is also credited with making smoking permissible in Hall after he lit a cigar at dinner, which led to a change in policy. Other events that the Prince of Wales attended were a luncheon on the opening of the law courts in 1882, the Call to the Bench of HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale in 1885, a smoking concert in 1896, and a performance of Twelfth Night in 1897. He was Treasurer of the Inn in 1886 with Sir Peter Edlin deputising for him and became its Senior Bencher in 1907, forty-six years after his Call.
1864 - 1892 Benched 1885
Eldest son of HM King Edward VII, second in line to the throne during his lifetime, predeceased father
HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, was elected to the Bench in 1885 at a ceremony attended by his father, HRH Albert, Prince of Wales. The only recorded subsequent visit that he made to the Middle Temple was for the occasion of the Golden Jubilee Grand Day in 1887. He died from influenza in 1892 at the tragically young age of twenty-eight.
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale by W. & D. Downey. Carbon cabinet card, circa 1891. NPG x29171 © National Portrait Gallery, London. This image has been cropped and is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivs 3.0 Unported Licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/legalcode
1894 - 1972 Benched 1919
King of the United Kingdom and Dominions of the British Empire and Emperor of India (voluntarily abdicated), eldest son of HM King George V
HRH Edward, Prince of Wales was elected to the Bench in 1919 and the feathers of the Prince of Wales and his coat of arms were placed above the gate to honour the Inn’s newest Royal Bencher. His Highness dined twice at the Inn in 1922 and 1929. When Prince Edward became King Edward VIII for a brief period from January to December 1936, the arms above the gate were changed to the Imperial coat of arms and crown in order to signify the King’s decision to remain a Bencher – this crown was offered to Inner Temple, King George VI’s Inn, after King Edward’s abdication and subsequently disappeared. The former king, subsequently titled Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, remained a Bencher of the Inn, but after serving for much of the Second World War as Governor of the Bahamas, spent the remaining decades of his life in France.
Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (King Edward VIII) by Vandyk. Vintage print, 27 February 1920. NPG x130086 © National Portrait Gallery, London. This image has been cropped and is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivs 3.0 Unported Licence. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/legalcode
1900 - 2002 Benched 1944
Queen Consort of HM King George VI, mother of HM Queen Elizabeth II
HM Queen Elizabeth was Called to the Bench in 1944 despite falling German rockets and was the first female Bencher of the Society. After the war, Her Majesty visited to view many of the restoration works in progress at the Inn, opening a temporary Library in 1946, the restored Hall in 1949, the Queen Elizabeth Building in 1957, the new Library in 1958, and was also present at the rededication of Temple Church in 1958. In 1949, she was elected Treasurer of the Inn in the same year her husband, HM King George VI, was Treasurer of Inner Temple and gifted the Society with a monogramed silver snuff box. A Joint Bench Dinner was held in Middle Temple Hall to celebrate the Treasurership of the two monarchs, which was immortalised in a painting by Terence Cuneo that now hangs in the Queen’s Room. The Queen Mother became a reliable presence at Grand Day and Family Dinners throughout her lifetime, attending her last Family Dinner three months before her death in 2002. Her fondness for the Middle Temple was returned in equal part by the Inn’s membership and she is remembered for her remarkable warmth and charm.
1961 - 1997 Benched 1988
First wife of HM King Charles III (divorced)
HRH Diana, Princess of Wales was elected to the Bench in 1988. In 1990, she attended Special Mixed Dining Night and dined again at the Inn in 1992. Princess Diana died tragically after a car crash in 1997 at the age of thirty-six. After her death, a scholarship was created in her honour entitled ‘The Diana, Princess of Wales Scholarship’.
1982 - Benched 2009
Eldest son of HM King Charles III, first in line to the throne
HRH Prince William of Wales, later the Duke of Cambridge and then Prince of Wales, was elected to the Bench in 2009. In 2011, in acknowledgement of the Inn’s relationship with the Prince and as wedding present to him and Duchess of Cambridge, two scholarships were created entitled ‘The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Scholarship’. In 2015, the Duke and Duchess attended an event in a private capacity in order to meet students awarded the Queen Mother Scholarship, the Diana, Princess of Wales Scholarship and Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Scholarship. In 2017, the Duke of Cambridge attended afternoon tea to meet with scholars.
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