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  • Hodder & Stoughton

The Flying Prince: Alexander Obolensky: The Rugby Hero Who Died Too Young

Hugh Godwin

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Prose: non-fiction

As a 19yr old Prince Obolensky captured the nation's heart's. Now, finally, his story will be told.

Prince Alexander Sergeevich Obolensky made his name on a cold January day at Twickenham in 1936, his achievements captured for posterity by the newsreels of the time.

On his England debut, having already scored one exhilarating try, the striking blond winger collected a pass on the right and, path blocked, veered left at such a pace that a line of opponents were left grasping at thin air. It was a historic try, unrivalled in skill and speed - and it inspired England's first ever victory over the All Blacks.

Born to a noble family in St Petersburg in 1916, he had been due a life of wealth and privilege, until revolution forced the Obolenskys to flee Russia. Arriving in Britain with just a handful of possessions, they were reduced to relying on handouts, little Alex's very education resting on the charity of others. But as the young boy began his new life in a strange country, it was his natural sporting ability that would bring him lasting fame.

The controversial selection for England of a Russian-born prince was a huge story in the press, stirring up xenophobia as well as excitement at the 19-year-old Oxford student's sheer pace. His later exploits on and off the field would keep his name in the papers, yet Alex was destined to win only four international caps, despite touring with the Lions and appearing for the Barbarians. After joining the RAF to serve his adopted king and country, he died at the controls of a Hurricane in March 1940.

Bringing a fascinating era to life, The Flying Prince explores the mystery and mythology surrounding Alexander Obolensky, and for the first time tells the full story of the sporting hero who died too young.

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Hugh Godwin

Hugh Godwin is a sports journalist who is the rugby union correspondent of the i, a national daily newspaper in the UK. He has held that role since April 2016 and before that he had the same position with the Independent on Sunday for eight years. Overall, he has written on rugby and other sports for thirty years, reporting live from five Rugby World Cup finals, and he has interviewed every major rugby player and personality of the modern era. He is a regular broadcaster as a rugby analyst for BBC Radio London, and he is the secretary of the UK Rugby Union Writers' Club. In 2004 he wrote England: Rugby World Champions, a book celebrating England's 2003 World Cup success. This is his first biography.

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