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Prince Christian Victor: Only member of the British Royal Family to play First-Class cricket

Christian Victor. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
Prince Christian Victor played one First-Class game for I Zingari. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Prince Christian Victor was born on April 14, 1867. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the only member of the British Royal Family to have played First-Class cricket.

In his lifetime, His Royal Highness Prince Victor Albert Ludwig Ernest Anton Christian of Schleswig-Holstein had won Knight Grand Cross of the Bath, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Distinguished Service Order, Knight of Justice of the Venerable Order of Saint John, Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Medal, India General Service Medal, Ashanti Star, Queen’s Sudan Medal, Queen’s South Africa Medal, Knight of the Order of the Red Eagle (Prussia), Knight Grand Cross of the Saxe-Ernestine House Order (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha), Order of Osmanieh, 1st class (Ottoman Empire), and Khedive’s Star.

He also remains the only member of the British Royal Family to have played First-Class cricket.

Prince Christian Victor was the eldest son of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (the third son of Christian, Duke of Augustenborg, and Countess Louise of Danneskjold-Samsøe) and Princess Helena (the third daughter of Queen Victoria). Born in Windsor Castle, he went to Lambrook, Wellington College (founded by Prince Albert), Magdalen College, Oxford University, and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

He was a trendsetter in the sense that he was the first member of the British Royal Family to have gone to a school instead of being home-schooled. He represented Wellington College in cricket and earned a reputation as a wicketkeeper — a position rather unusual for a member of The Royal Family.

Opening batting against Haileybury College at the home ground of Crowthorne, Victor scored 65 when nobody else in his side managed to reach 20; it remained in college cricket. He also took three catches and a stumping.

The real test came against Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) when a substantially weak Windsor Home Park took them on in a One-Day match. After MCC scored 135, the hosts were blown away by Frank Hearne, whose seven-wicket haul reduced Windsor Home Park to 62. Following on, Prince Victor scored 38 and helped his side save the match. Once the match was secured, he decided to retire out.

The match

Prince Victor had missed out on making it to the Oxford side. When the Parsees (the first Indian side to tour England) landed on the English shores, he arranged for his own team to play a One-Day match at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor. Though the hosts were bowled out for 90 (our hero top-scored with 24; Muncherjee Framjee took seven wickets) the Parsees were bowled out for 33 by Hugh Whitby and Rowley. The match then petered out to a draw.

I Zingari, a club founded in 1845 by a group of Old Harrovians, the Gentlemen of England for a match at Scarborough in 1887. The 20-year old Prince was selected to play against some of England’s finest. Little did he know that he would create a record that would stand over a century after his death.

Charles Thornton won the toss and added 173 for the opening stand with WG Grace (65). Thornton fell for 107 soon afterwards, but Andrew Stoddart decided to join in the fun as well, and amassed 116. Henry Forster, Alexander Webbe, and Francis Lacey shared the wickets as the Gentlemen managed 381 (Prince Victor caught the wonderfully named Charles Burls off Webbe to register his only First-Class catch).

A formidable attack consisting of Grace, Evan Nepean, Edward Peake, and William Collins then reduced I Zingari to 191 for eight when Harry de Paravicini walked out to join Prince Victor. The pair piled up runs and added 63 before the Prince tried to be a bit adventurous (what are princes supposed to do?) and was stumped off Nepean for 35. The pair had added 73.

Unfortunately, Nepean snared William Garforth for a duck, and I Zingari had to follow-on. This time Webbe scored 126 and took I Zingari to the relative safety of 199 for one before Stoddart rolled his arm and picked up four quick wickets with his military-mediums. Prince Victor was one of them: he was bowled for a duck. Up against a target of 192, the Gentlemen finished on 32 without loss. The Prince never played another First-Class match.

Prince Christian Victor's Cemetery in Pretoria. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia
Prince Christian Victor’s Cemetery in Pretoria. Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Later years

Prince Victor subsequently served in the 4th King’s Royal Rifle Corps at Hazara, Mirzanai, Ashanti, and Nile in various points of time in the 1890s. Cricket remained a passion, and he turned up for I Zingari against Worcestershire, Ireland, and the Gentlemen of Durham in subsequent years. It is rumoured that he had scored 205 for Kings Royal Rifles against Devonshire Regiment at Rawalpindee in 1893.

Even as late as in 1898 Prince Victor scored 55 for Green Jackets against Household Brigade at Chelsea. The next year he served as a staff officer in the Second Boer War under General Sir Redvers Buller and subsequently at Pretoria with Lord Frederick Roberts.

While still in Pretoria, Prince Victor was struck with malaria, and passed away of enteric fever on October 29, 1900 at an age of 33 years 198 days. He lies buried in the Pretoria Cemetery.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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