Robin Tudsbery was born in London on 8 July 1919. His parents moved to Scotland when he was two and they acquired a property in West Lothian. Robin was an only child but never lonely. He inherited a deep love of nature from his mother and spent many happy hours exploring the woods around the family home. This passion for nature remained with Robin throughout his life and is reflected in many ways inside and outside the Robin Chapel.
The story of the Robin Chapel is a gracious and moving one. It tells of a beautiful chapel built in 1950 at the centre of a unique housing complex – The Thistle Foundation – in the south east of Edinburgh.
The Thistle Foundation was established in 1944 with a pioneering mission to give disabled veterans the medical support they needed in a home where they could live with their families, rather than being in hospital.The Founder and his wife, Sir Francis and Lady Tudsbery, had witnessed the consequences that resulted in the lack of adequate housing and support for disabled service personnel after the First World War. Many of these people had to spend the remainder of their lives in long stay hospital care, which added significant extra strain and financial hardship for relatives. This frequently led to the breakdown of family life. Sir Francis’s vision was for a community supported by professional staff that would create as normal an environment as possible for families to live together in comfortable circumstances.
He had recently seen a facility in Chelsea, which was running on similar lines, and so began the long and arduous task of raising the funds to form The Thistle Foundation. However, while Thistle Foundation was being built, Sir Francis and Lady Tudsbery tragically lost their son Robin during the final days of the war and decided to incorporate The Robin Chapel in the development.
On the outbreak of World War II, Robin volunteered for service in the army, expressing a preference for a cavalry regiment.In October 1940, he received instructions to report to the 53rd Training Regiment of the Royal Armoured Corps, where he spent 14 weeks. In January 1941, Robin moved to the Officer Cadet Training Unit at Sandhurst then received his commission in the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues), which he joined in June 1941. The Life Guards and The Blues are senior regiments in the British Army, known together as the Household Cavalry, and they form the personal bodyguard of the Sovereign. In 1943, Robin was appointed second-in-command of the Household Cavalry Detachment, based at Windsor, and accompanied the Royal Family on operational and ceremonial duties.
In October 1943, Robin was posted to the First Household Cavalry Regiment stationed in Egypt, moving to Italy in 1944, and returning to England later that year. In 1945, he was stationed in Germany. On 4 May 1945, the day when the Germans surrendered to the Allies, a telegram was received by Robin’s parents informing them that Robin Tudsbery had been killed in action on 30 April. He was aged 25.
The Thistle Trust, which is responsible for the Robin Chapel, still maintains a connection with Robin’s former regiment. In October 2015, a special service was held to lay up the Sovereign’s Standard of the Blues and Royals, reinforcing the special link with the Robin Chapel.
Like Robin himself, the Robin Chapel has enjoyed a close association over the years with members of the Royal Family. The Foundation Stone was laid by Her Majesty the Queen, later Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, on 5 September 1950, accompanied by HRH Princess Margaret.
Both travelled from Balmoral Castle on 20 August 1953 for the Dedication of the Chapel. After returning, the Queen Mother wrote a personal letter to say how deeply touched she had been by the beauty and perfection of the service and how greatly moved she felt by the lovelines of every detail in the Chapel. To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the dedication, a special service was held in July 2013, attended by Her Majesty the Queen and HRH The Earl of Wessex.
Other royal visits have included –
- 1962: The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh
- 1981: Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay
- 1994: The Duchess of Kent
- 2000: The Princess Royal