Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The king who died in disgrace (Part 1)                                               

Edward III was born on the 23rd of June 1894 in Richmond, Surrey as the eldest child of the duke of York (who later became King George the 5th). Edward was always known in his family as David, one of many middle names given to him.  

When Edward III was a child, he was bullied by his nanny and as the eldest child; he was the first target of his father's often violently expressed wrath. He himself, in his later autobiographical volumes, stated that he felt unloved, and he never seemed to have wished for children of his own.

Prince Edward (as he was officially known) was early noted for his charm and good looks. In 1907, he was sent to the naval college at Osborne. His mother (Queen Mary) found her son "very sensitive, and knowing much more of his prospects and responsibilities than she thought. She later said that he was treated like any other boy, both by teachers and the other boys in the school.  However, Edward considered himself a victim of bullying during that particular  period in his life.

In 1909 he progressed to the Royal Naval College on HMS Britannia at Dartmouth. On his sixteenth birthday he was created Prince of Wales nine weeks after his father Ge0rge the 5th became the king of England. Edward was invested at Caernarfon Castle on the 13th of July 1911. The following year he went to Magdalen College. Prince Edward was offered tutorials by Thomas Herbert Warren, the president of Magdalen College. Unfortunately, Edward was a poor student. Warren later commented “Bookish he will never be.” After two years of study it was decided he should be given a commission in the British Army. He joined the Grenadier Guards.

After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Edward asked Lord Kitchener, who was the British Secretary of War, if he could serve in France. When Kitchener refused, Edward commented that it did not matter if he was killed as he had four brothers. Kitchener replied that he was more concerned about the future king being captured by the German Army and then being used as a pawn in future peace negotiations. On the insistence of KingGeorge V, Edward was restricted to serving in staff appointments. In essence, he acted as a messenger boy.

He first came face-to-face with Americans in the First World War when he served as a staff officer, mixing happily with the Americans. Reports of his dancing with American nurses attracted attention in the US.

Initially, he had been critical of the United States for letting the Allies do the fighting. But once the Americans joined the war effort, his views changed. On a visit to the American Army’s headquarters at Coblenz, Germany, as many as 25,000 US troops paraded in his honour. Impressed by American discipline, the Prince wrote to his father George V that “….the United States is a big power in the world now, I might say the next biggest after ourselves and they are worth while making real friends with them.  I’m just crammed full of American ideas just now, and they want me to go over to them’ (ideas) as soon as possible, which is another item for consideration and one that should not be ‘pigeon-holed.”

The war created problems for the royal family because of its German background. Owing to strong anti-German feeling in Britain, it was decided to change the name of the family from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor (named after the town where Windsor Castle is located). To stress his support for the British army, George V and his other three sons made several visits to the Western Front.

After the war, Edward continued to enjoy participating in various dangerous activities. He rode in steeple chases until he suffered a bad fall and his father forbade him to continue race-riding. His father also strongly disapproved of his son's decision to learn to fly.
 Upon his return to England, the young Prince Edward took up his official duties, and traveled throughout Britain. His tours in England together with Edward's visits to areas of high unemployment and deprivation in Britain during the economic depression of the early 1930s, made Edward very popular.

He also visited other parts of the world. Dashing and charming, he became known in the American press as the "arbiter of men's fashions, a fearless horseman, tireless dancer, idol of bachelors, and the dream of spinsters.”

While in the army, the prince developed an enthusiasm for nightlife, nightclubs, and dancing, which the style of post-war London life encouraged. He soon became a leader of fashionable London society, a more eclectic body than before the war. In this context, after several affairs, his liaison with Mrs. Winifred (Freda) Dudley Ward (1894–1983) began in the spring of 1918. She was the wife, with two small daughters, of Lord Esher's grandson, William Dudley Ward (1877–1946), a Liberal MP and chamberlain of the royal household, from whom she separated." His relationship with Freda Dudley Ward caused considerable embarrassment to the royal family. Frances Donaldson, who knew the couple, claimed that Prince Edward "was madly, passionately, abjectly in love with her".

George V kept his son busy by sending him on a series of royal tours. This included visits to Canada (1919), the United States, the Caribbean, India, Australia and New Zealand. Edward drew large crowds and his obvious popularity made him increasingly vain. As one observer noted, “The Prince had difficulty in understanding the symbolic nature of his position and tended to assume that the attention focused on him was a direct consequence of his own particular gifts.”

Edward had affairs with a number of married women in the 1920s. I don’t know if he only went out with married women to get back at his father or because he knew that if the women were married, he couldn’t marry them and at the same time, have them as his queen.  Then he met and fell in love with Wallis Simpson, the wife of an American businessman—her second husband.  

Her first marriage was to a U.S. naval officer, Win Spencer; a marriage that was punctuated by periods of separation and eventually ended in divorce. In 1934, during her second marriage, to Ernest Simpson, she became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. I should point out however that there is no absolute confirmation that the duke committed adultery with her. I have seen pictures of her when she was going with Edward. She looked rather plain.

On the 20th of January 1936, George V died at Sandringham and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. The next day, he broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of his accession from a window of St James's Palace, in the company of the still-married Wallis. 

I should point out that St. James Palace (which is a block or so from Buckingham Palace) is a very old palace. In fact it was King Henry VIII’s palace since Buckingham Palace wasn’t built then. I don’t know why Edward chose to watch the possession from the old palace when he could get a better view from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. 

It was becoming apparent to Court and Government circles that the new King-Emperor meant to marry her. It became evident years later that Mrs. Simpson was under police surveillance long before the crisis erupted.

Two years later, after Edward's accession as king, Wallis divorced her second husband in order to marry Edward. This is when the shit hit the fan. The King's desire to marry a woman who had two living ex-husbands threatened to cause a constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions—Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.

Many of Edward`s advisors did not believe that Edward, as head of the Church of England, should marry a divorced woman, especially since her previous two divorced husbands were still alive. Prime Minister Baldwin even suggested to the new king that if he married the woman while he was the king, it would bring down the monarchy.

The voluminous communication between Whitehall and the Dominion governments is revealing. Opponents of the King’s proposed marriage to Simpson maintained that the Dominions were adamantly opposed to it and that Edward risked breaking the Empire’s bond to the Crown. 

Edward then had to make a decision. It would be a decision that was a really good one for Great Britain and its dominions as you will see when you read  part 2 of this two-part series.  

All attempts to find a solution failed as Edward wouldn`t budge and so on the 10th of December, Edward signed an instrument of abdication. In his speech to the nation, he said;

“At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.

A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.

You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind, I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that 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.

Please Note: That last paragraph is the one he is most remembered having said. 

 And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.

I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.

This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the empire. And he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me;  a happy home with his wife and children.

During these hard days I have been comforted by her majesty my mother and by my family. The ministers of the crown, and in particular, Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration. There has never been any constitutional difference between me and them, and between me and Parliament. Bred in the constitutional tradition by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.

Ever since I was Prince of Wales, and later on when I occupied the throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of the people wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the empire. For that I am very grateful.

I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden. It may be some time before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and empire with profound interest, and if at any time in the future I can be found of service to his majesty in a private station, I shall not fail.

And now, we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all! God save the King!” unquote

The new king’s wife, Elizabeth never forgave Edward. She later said that as far as she was concerned, the king’s early death of a heart attack in the 6th of February 1952 was brought on by the stress he endured while he was the king,

The day he died, I was at the Canadian naval training base HMCS Cornwallis in Nova Scotia as an eighteen-year old—sixty four years from the time (2016) I was writing this book.

The following day, after broadcasting to the nation and the empire to explain his actions, he left for Europe. Shortly after that, Edward's brother became King George VI.

Edward and his sweetheart soon after were quietly married in their chateau in France with a few friends attending. Had he married another woman, then as king, he and his sweetheart would have been married in a cathedral with other kings and queens present. After the ceremony was completed, the procession would have been watched by hundreds of thousands of well-wishers while he and his wife (now a queen) proceeded to Buckingham Palace, their new home.  

Edward and his wife were given the titles of duke and duchess of Windsor. That really pissed off both of them since they wanted to be addressed as their royal highnesses. Queen Elizabeth put an end to that dream when she convinced her husband that it would be disgraceful to give that woman that honour.  

Twelve years after George VI denied Wallis Simpson the title of Her Royal Highness on her marriage to his brother, the King’s continued opposition ensured that Prime Minister Clement Attlee rejected the Duke of Windsor’s strenuous appeals.

A file among the Prime Minister’s private correspondence released with the Abdication papers makes it clear “that the deliberate steps taken to deprive the Duchess of the title”, was the main issue which poisoned the relationship between the royal brothers to the end of their lives.

Further, the duke wanted a large stipend given to him every month. His brother put an end to that dream and gave him a much smaller stipend. Edward stole a great amount of the royal jewels and refused to return them as a means of getting even.

Baldwin claimed that he had not imagined that Edward would stick with Mrs. Simpson once he was King. Furthermore, Edward’s infrequent contact with his brothers prevented them from exercising “any influence upon him. Mrs. Simpson had, in fact, as frequently happens in such cases, come between him and the members of his family.

The files further confirm that Winston Churchill tried desperately for more time on the king's behalf in the hope of rallying public opinion behind him. In an urgent, handwritten letter to prime minister Stanley Baldwin, he claimed that Edward VIII was very near the breaking point and was even suffering blackouts.

The secret files show that Mrs. Simpson was playing an even higher risk strategy, perhaps maintaining an illicit lover even while she was pursuing the king. Her divorce from Ernest Simpson is fully documented for the first time, revealing how senior law officers in the United States covered up obvious evidence of collusion that would have invalidated the separation between Mr. and Mrs. Simson.  If the separation between Mrs. Simpson and her husband were invalidated, then she would still be a married woman and she and King Edward could not then be married.

In Part 2 of this series, I will give you facts about how Edward, the Duke of York became an avid follower of the Nazi ideology and his respect he had for Adolf Hitler and his wife’s relationship with a Nazi official.   

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