Edward had been a dominant figure in the newsreels ever since the end of the Great War.
Audiences saw him on his numerous visits to the industrial areas and the inner cities,
touring factories, visiting housing estates, opening hospitals
and inspecting lines of ex-servicemen in Britain and France.
When he became King, Edward was the most widely known
and most universally popular personality in the world....
Edward had first met the ordinary men of Britain during the Great War,
for much of which he served at the front...
PEOPLE'S GOOD KING EDWARD VIII
On their own, Edward's democratic leanings might have been ignored.
But combined with his massive popularity they were a cause of grave concern to the Government....
Chamberlain drafted a memorandum for Cabinet circulation urging that the King should
'settle down', wear conventional clothes, work at his 'boxes'
and not make remarks in public, which were apt to be reported in the newspapers,
about such topics as the slums and unemployment.
Today, December 11, 2004, is the 68th anniversary of the 1936 abdication of England's King Edward VIII. At the time he was 42 years old and the woman given credit for stealing his heart was a 40 year-old American divorcee married to her second husband and living in London. Edward, while Prince of Wales, met her at a dinner party in 1931. Wallis Simpson, described by some as "hard as nails", wasn't beautiful, wealthy, generous or kind which causes wonder as to what Prince Edward saw in her. It's been conjectured that she learned black magic in China and cast a love spell* on him. That idea deserves some credence when one realizes how intelligent, popular and well loved King Edward was, and how committed he was to the betterment of his British subjects. Why, unless he was out of his mind, would he abandon his position of power, from which he could do good, and hand it to a weakling younger brother who the people didn't like? No one will ever know what really happened and history says it was just a simple matter of Edward "giving up his kingdom for the woman he loved".
While in England this past summer I came across a book that describes why the common people loved Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David (known to his immediate family and friends simply as David) and how unloved he was by the "establishment". ~ Jackie Jura
THE PEOPLE'S KING, THE TRUE STORY OF THE ABDICATION
by Susan Williams, pages 1-46
More than two thousand people were waiting for King Edward VIII at the abandoned steelworks of Dowlais in South Wales on Wednesday, 18 November 1936. It was a damp and chilly day: jackets were tightly buttoned and shawls held close. As soon as the royal car was seen driving up the hill from Merthyr Tydfil, everyone cheered in delight and the Dowlais Aged Comrades' Choir struck up God Save the King. Excited children jumped up and down, waving their Union Jacks in a sea of flags. The King - a short, slight figure, with deep blue eyes and a shock of thick, golden hair - stepped from his car, smiling, and waved his hand in greeting. Forty-two years of age, he was sovereign to over 600 million people, the citizens of Britain and its Empire. And today, just ten months after his accession to the throne, he had travelled through the night to visit the people of South Wales.
But once the King had looked about him, he stopped still. He was evidently distressed and stood quietly for a few minutes on the road, his bowler hat in his hand. He was facing a scene of desolation - hundreds of gaunt and weary men sitting on heaps of twisted metal. Their clothes were worn and their boots were broken. Three-quarters of the men of Dowlais were unemployed: once a symbol of industry and prosperity, the Dowlais steelworks had closed down six years before and was now a derelict ruin. The King stood gazing in silence at the wreck of the huge blast furnace; few people, observed a Pathe Gazette newsreel, would ever forget His Majesty's expression at that moment. Then he went slowly among the men, who rose to their feet and removed their caps. Some of them started to sing the Welsh hymn Crugybar, and the strains of deep male voices lifted into the air. The King walked down a gangway into the centre of the works, through the roofless buildings and in the shadow of a skeleton of steel girders. Doffing his hat again and again to the crowds, he turned to the officials walking next to him. 'These steelworks brought the men hope', he said. 'Something must be done to see that they stay here - working.'...
King Edward's warmth and concern for the poor marked him out as different from previous monarchs. He had first visited South Wales in 1919, after the end of the war, when he had spent four days visiting slum areas and had gone down a pit. This was the first of his numerous tours as Prince of Wales to the industrial and impoverished parts of Britain. King Edward VII, Edward's grandfather, had shown little interest in the ordinary people of Britain. 'He'd just sit in the open landau, receive an address, snip a ribbon and declare something open', observed Edward many years later, returning 'to dine with his girl friends. He didn't even leave that landau.' David Lloyd George had considered King George V, King Edward VIII's father, to be obtuse about working-class grievances 'He is a very very small man and all his sympathy is with the rich - very little pity for the poor', he wrote to his wife from Balmoral in 19ll, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. 'The King is hostile to the bone to all who are working to lift the workmen out of the mire.'
'You seem to us to be about the only reigning monarch who is worth anything at all', wrote a Chester woman to Edward VIII. 'We like you for the concern you have for the welfare of the poorest and most unfortunate of your subjects. No other King has gone among them as you have done, or shown signs of appreciating their distress in the way you do.'...
It wasn't just in South Wales that people witnessed Edward's ready sympathy with the unemployed of the valleys, for the following week newsreel reports of the royal tour were shown in every cinema of Britain. It had been filmed by all five of the newsreel companies - Gaumont-British News, Movietone News, Pathe, Paramount and Universal. The coverage of the tour was highly sympathetic to the King: it followed him as he walked among the poor, visited their homes, mixed mortar at their instruction, doffed his hat and nodded his head, and showed his evident distress at their sufferings. 'Bringing the whole problem of the Depressed Areas out of the shadows into the floodlight of world attention,' announced Pathe Gazette's The King Visits South Wales, 'His Majesty's visit to South Wales is not only a promise of new life but a gesture of sympathy.' It stressed the King's plea for urgent action:
But beneath all this his Majesty saw the disillusion and suffering brought by long workless years. His visit has cheered them as nothing else could. And as he leaves there is a new found faith that some solution will be found. Let no one belittle the magnificent work that is being done by the social services. But social service is not enough. These men want work. New industries must be brought to the stricken areas of South Wales.
Through newsreels like these, people all over Britain were made aware of Edward's visit to South Wales.
In 1934 there were over four thousand cinemas in England, Scotland and Wales, and going to the 'pictures' was the most popular form of entertainment for just about everybody except the very poor (who could not afford the tickets) and the very rich (who disdained it). By the middle of the 1930s, some twenty million people in Britain each week saw the newsreels, which were shown before the feature films. These newsreels gave suburban audiences and people throughout Britain all kinds of new knowledge about their own and other countries. Watching the reports of Edward's visit to South Wales, they learned not only about the latest exploits of their King, but also about the plight of the peole living in the Special Areas. This was driven home to cinema-goers by the scenes of unemployed families and pale, thin children against a backdrop of disused pits and grassed-over coal tips. In the middle of these scenes was Edward, his slight but regal figure commanding viewers' attention. Without his visit, newsreel directors might not have sent film crews to South Wales to film this story of human suffering amid industrial decay. Edward had brought the distressed areas into the news.
Edward had been a dominant figure in the newsreels ever since the end of the Great War, first as Prince of Wales and then, when he ascended the throne on 20 January 1936, as King. Audiences saw him on his numerous visits to the industrial areas and the inner cities, touring factories, visiting housing estates, opening hospitals and inspecting lines of ex-servicemen in Britain and France. Films such as 50,000 Miles with the Prince of Wales showed his overseas tours. When he became King, commented Sir John Simon, who was then Home Secretary, Edward was the most widely known and most universally popular personality in the world.
His popularity came not simply from his being the newsreels' favourite star. He earned it with his warm personality and genuine concern for people, whatever their background, age or status. He won Charlie Chaplin's esteem by sitting at a party with his host's mother, who was in her eighties, until she retired; only then, remembered Chaplin years later, did he join the rest of the group and have fun. He was remembered for many such acts of kindness. A woman wrote to the King to tell him that
When you visited Sydney NSW it came to your knowledge that my late Aunt, one of the oldest inhabitants of tht city, and who had seen the wedding of your Grandfather, was longing to see you. You caused her to be brought to you, yourself hand her to a seat, and chatted with her for some time. Such kindly consideration will never be forgotten by members of my family...
Another woman wrote to express her gratitude to him for 'listening to my appeal re the railway Arabs', who were homeless children living near railway lines. His interest in the poor was especially appreciated. One mother described him as
The man who moved among them with sympathy and Christ-like understanding, and in so doing compelled the people to learn of the terrible distress, bravely borne, by the peoples of the distressed areas. . . you had trod their slums, entered their homes, spoken to them words of hope, actions kindly and kingly, such as no High Church bishops, archbishops and lesser Church lights had condescended to do.
Marcus Garvey, the President of the General Universal Negro Improvement Association, told King Edward that 'the Negro race' regarded him 'as a true friend'.
Edward was no socialist, though. His concern for the poor and his keen sense of social justice were genuine and heartfelt, but he shared the political attitudes of most of the upper classes: he did not support the Labour Party and he did not want to see any fundamental change in the structure of society. He put his faith in David Lloyd George, the Liberal Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, and then, when the Liberals were no longer a political force to be reckoned with, in the Conservative Party. However, he objected strongly when the Conservative-dominated National Government failed to meet the most basic needs of the poor and the long-term unemployed. Like Harold Macmillan and other Tory paternalists, he felt a keen sense of obligation towards those who were were less well off. In fulfilling his own responsibilities, notably for the vast estates of the Duchy of Cornwall in London and the West Country, he sought to act as a fair and decent landowner. His official biographer, Philip Ziegler, records that he invested a great deal of money in new machinery for the Cornish tin mines, and set up a farming concern run on cooperative lines. In London, he regularly visited his estates in Kensington, and the housing areas of the borough which he owned was much better than in the parts for which the Council was responsible.
He may not have been a socialist, but he was driven by democratic ideals. One ex-miner described him as 'a real democratic King, The Common People's King (as the snobbish aristocracy will have it)'. Using imagery that drew on the experience of his working life as a miner and washer-up, he told the King, 'You have constantly been mining under the feet of the snobbish aristocracy. You have washed it up and dried and drained it wherever you went.'...Edward could be 'a very serious young man on serious questions', said the American writer Alexander Woollcott in 1936, adding, 'That is what will get him into trouble one of these days with the Tory prigs and bigwigs.'
Edward's personality would have been remarkable, observed the historian John Grigg, even if he had not been royal. 'Allied to his princely status it was irresistable.' There was about him, he added, 'the indefinable aura known as star quality'. This 'star quality' shone brightly during a visit to the Home Fleet at Portland in November 1936, in the week before Edward's visit to South Wales. He arrived exhausted. The day before, he had been to the Cenotaph in the morning for Armistice Day, and at the Albert Hall in the evening. He then caught a midnight train to Portland, which arrived in the middle of a storm at four o'clock in the morning. But despite this fatique, reported a naval commander who was there, the King's words and manner went straight to the hearts of the men. Edward was accompanied by Samuel Hoare, First Lord of the Admiralty, an old friend from Oxford days. He noticed that Edward managed to make every officer and seaman in the fleet feel that he knew them personally. On one evening, at a smoking concert in an aircraft carrier, the underdeck was packed with thousands of seamen. In his long experience of mass meetings, said Hoare, he had never seen one so completely dominated by a single personality:
At one point he turned to me and said: "I am going to see what is happening at the other end.' Elbowing his way through the crowd, he walked to the end of the hall and started community singing to the accompaniment of a seaman's mouth-organ. When he came back to the platform, he made an impromptu speech that brought the house down. Then, a seaman in the crowd proposed three cheers for him, and there followed an unforgettable scene of the wildest and most spontaneous enthusiasm.
'Here, indeed,' observed Hoare, 'was the Prince Charming who could win the hearts of all sorts and conditions of men and women and send a thrill through great crowds.' No wonder that so many people wrote to tell him of their love. "When I go to the pictures or see your photo in books,' said one woman, 'I have bought them and loved them and you don't know what a sensation I have I almost want to shout out to you.'
This massive popularity with the general public did not make Edward popular with his father, George V. When George came to the throne in 1910, Edward was sixteen. "To the very natural dislike that a very conventional man often feels for an adolescent,' commented Diana Mosley, 'was added in this case an equally natural grain of jealousy of the physical beauty and winning manners of the Prince.' Many things about Edward annoyed the King, but 'above all his undoubted popularity'...
Edward had first met the ordinary men of Britain during the Great War, for much of which he served at the front. He joined up as an officer in the Grenadier Guards in 1914, at the start of the war. He had just completed two years at Oxford University and the president of Magdalen, his college, watched his departure for the army with regret:
The Prince, and this is what he would have wished, has suffered the common lot of his compeers. Like two-thirds and more of the men with whom he was up, like ever so many 'second year' men of 1914, he was swept off into the service of his country, and his second year of Oxford has proved his last.
It was a terrible war, most of it fought from the trenches cut deep into the ground of the battlefield by both sides and protected by barbed wire and machine-guns. Many of the soldiers lived in these filthy, rat-infested trenches. Every so often they would be ordered to climb 'over the top' of their trench and advance over no man's land towards the enemy's trench, in an attempt - usually useless - to capture it. On just the first day of the Battle of the Somme, nearly twenty thousand men were killed and nearly sixty thousand were wounded. The death toll was increased by the epidemics that swept through the trenches. From 1916, all able-bodied British men between the ages of eighteen and forty-one had to go into the army, replacing the injured and the dead.
Edward had been determined to fight, but this was flatly forbidden on the grounds that he might be captured by the enemy. 'If I were sure you would be killed I do not know if I should be right to restrain you', said Lord Kitchener, the Secretary for War. 'But I cannot take the chance of them ever taking you prisoner, which always exists.' Edward, though, was obsessed with the desire 'to be found worthy and to share in the risks and struggles of men'. He could not bear to stay safely behind the line while his compatriots were dying in their tens of thousands. Ziegler has recorded that he never stopped trying to get to the front line and never stopped hating it when he was there - he found the shelling terrifying and was ready to say so. After spending his first night in the trenches in July 1915, Edward wrote to his father:
My impressions that night were of constant close proximity to death, repugnance for the stink of the unburied corpses . . . and general gloom and apprehension. It was all a real eye opener to me, now I had some slight conception of all that our officers and men have to go thro!! The whole life is horrible and ghastly beyond conception.
Edward was horrified at the ineffectiveness of the Allies' strategy, with its repeated fruitless attacks, achieving at best the occupation of a few trenches. During the Battle of the Somme he wrote that, 'These continuous heavy casualty lists make me sick . . . I can't keep the wretched infantry being slaughtered out of my thoughts.' His admiration of the fighting men and a sense of his own inadequacy made him reluctant to wear the war decorations he was given. In 1916 he was awarded the Military Cross, which he felt he had not deserved.
He eventually got himself posted to the staff of the British Expeditionary Force's commander in France. Whenever possible, he moved to the battle zone, and had a narrow escape visiting positions at the front before the Battle of Loos. However, he did not take unnecessary risks, according to General Sir Ian Hamilton: 'He did take risks, but they were always in the line of duty. We did worry about him . . . but not because of any insubordination on his part.' His most important role in the war was to boost the morale of the soldiers - a job at which he excelled. One soldier later wrote to him a letter of thanks for his encouragement:
Our King, I saw you in the trenches in front of Arras in March or Feb 1917. The [Battalion] did not know you were there, it was your youth that made me recognise you, being 17 myself I wondered at you looking so young & your face & medals flashed a photograph into mind that I had seen of you in uniform & I knew & I worried & pondered, you should not have been there. But it gave me courage to carry on when sometimes all hope had fled.
In 1916 the Prince went on a morale-boosting visit to the Canal Zone in the Middle East, where he met Australians and New Zealanders evacuated from the battle of Gallipoli**...
During his four years on the Western Front, Edward achieved a 'quite novel popular touch' by rubbing shoulders with thousands of ordinary people in the trenches, observed Lloyd George. An American soldier said that his 'manner was so simple and unassuming - he was simply one soldier among a group of soldiers - that he won the liking and respect of all of us.' Soldiering brought to the Prince of Wales, as to many other fighting men of the ruling classes, contact with men outside their own narrow circles. 'The First World War', he wrote later, 'had made it possible for me to share an unparalleled human experience with all manner of men.' In a letter written at the end of the war, he told Freda Dudley Ward that, 'One can't help liking all the men & taking a huge interest in them.'...
The young Prince of Wales may have been disappointed that he was not allowed actually to go 'over the top' with the other soldiers. But he saw far more of the war and of the servicemen than did his brother Albert, who was a midshipman on the battleship HMS Collingwood when war broke out. After just three weeks, Albert was brought home by an attack of appendicitis, to his bitter disappointment. This was the start of three years of almost constant sick leave, caused by a gastric ulcer. To his great relief, he had rejoined the Collingwood when it opened fire in the battle of Jutland; and although he was then in the sick bay, he insisted on going to his battle station. But he fell ill again soon afterwards. He spent most of the war working at the Admiralty - a tedious job, which he endured without complaining. This was a humiliating experience for Albert: men who did not fight were generally regarded as cowards, and white feathers were sent to them in the post. Edward understood how badly he felt. He wrote to his mother on 6 December 1918 to suggest that 'Bertie' stay as long as possible in France after the Armistice. 'By remaining with the armies till peace is signed,' he told her, 'he will entirely erase any of the very unfair questions some nasty people asked last year as to what he was doing, you will remember.'
After demobilization, Edward took an active interest in the work of Toc H, an organization that was set up to provide a refuge for veterans of all ranks of men and officers, and the British Legion, which was founded in 1921 to cater for their welfare. His commitment to ex-servicemen was uncompromising. When he was in Belgium in 1923, one of his duties was to visit a hospital for the treatment of English soldiers suffering from facial disfigurement. He was introduced to the patients, but noticing that there were only twenty-seven present out of twenty-eight known to be in the hospital, he asked to see the absent man. The officer in charge explained that his was such a frightful case - repulsive, even - that the patient had been kept away. But the Prince insisted on seeing him - as far as he was concerned, this man had the highest claim to his sympathy. He was taken to the patient's room, where he went straight up to the man and kissed him. This heartfelt compassion for the casualties of war was captured by newsreel reports. During a visit to North Wales, where he walked down lines of veterans, a Pathe newsreel lingered on his visible grief as he talked to a blind soldier who had lost his sight in battle 'I've seen both in France during the Great War and home [how] the interests of your Subjects however humble (Especially Ex Service men) have been one of your interests', wrote a veteran to the King from his London basement in 1936...
Edward's concern for ex-servicemen embraced everyone, regardless of their background or nationality. In 1936 he invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace six thousand Canadian war veterans who - like himself - had shortly before attended the unveiling of the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France to mark the single victory in the Battle of the Somme. The garden party was a remarkable and alien sight to the conservative-minded officials of the royal court. The Deputy Comptroller of Supply at Buckingham Palace was astonished to see the Canadians
strolling around the Palace grounds and passing through the famous Bow Saloon . . . dressed in lounge suits, all wearing their war medals, and many of them with berets on their heads. It was in striking contrast to the usual elegant, morning-coated, top-hatted guests at the normal Palace garden-parties.
When it started to rain hard, the King hurried indoors. A minute or two later he appeared on the balcony of the first floor, bareheaded, and gave a short speech of welcome. Never before, observed the Deputy Comptroller, had a sovereign spoken so informally at a garden party at the Palace. In the royal household, opinion about his behaviour was divided: 'The older ones, naturally, were taken aback by this new example of the changes that were taking place in Royal procedure.' But the younger ones like himself, he said, 'took the view that this was a fine thing . . . for the King to step down for a moment from his exalted isolation and talk almost as a man to the men who had been under fire with him in the muddy trenches of France and Flanders.'
This affinity with war veterans was something that Edward's father, King George V, did not share. In 1923, he rode in an open carriage with the Prince of Wales and some other members of the royal family to review some 35,000 Silver Badge ex-servicemen in Hyde Park. He was given an enthusiastic reception, 'but there was also another spirit abroad' - the dissatisfaction of ex-servicemen. They were angry - because they had returned home not to the 'Land Fit For Heroes' promised them by Lloyd George's slogan, but to unemployment and poverty. They had decided to tell King George of their bitterness:
As if by a prearranged signal, hitherto concealed banners with slogans were defiantly unfurled among the milling humanity which pressed about the King. In so tense an atmosphere there were possibilities of serious trouble, but fortunately the police were able to extricate the King without incident.
George V failed to understand the feelings of these men. Back at Buckingham Palace, he muttered, 'Those men were in a funny temper' - and shaking his head, as if to rid himself of an unpleasant memory, he strode indoors'.
But to Edward, both as Prince of Wales and later as King, veteran soldiers and sailors looked faithfully at their royal patron. They begged him to use his influence with the Government to do something for them. In 1927, Edward became an enthusiastic patron of the National Council of Social Service, and went to hundreds of clubs and schemes for the unemployed and visited the poorest homes. The majority of the men waiting for Edward in South Wales and Monmouthshire in November 1936, at least those who were middle-aged, were ex-servicemen like himself. The local press stressed this link between the King and his subjects: 'I served in the War with the King', many a be-medalled veteran would say, and then, to leave no shadow of doubt in the mind of the listener - 'Was in the trenches with him.'...
When the King returned to London from South Wales in November 1936, he immediately sent a message to the Lords Lieutenant of the regions he had visited, asking them to pass it on to the men who were unemployed. 'I would urge them', he said, 'not to lose heart and to rest assured that their troubles are not forgotten. - Edward. R.I.' The people had been immensely encouraged by his visit. 'He came amongst us, he has seen, and will assuredly never rest content until happiness is abundant and useful work has been restored to the submerged tenth of Darkest Wales', observed the Western Mail & South Wales News. 'The whole nation', it added, 'has been stirred by the events of the wonderful tour.' The South Wales Argus thought the same. Referring to Edward's 'kingly brotherliness', it pointed out that he was ready to go 'among the humblest of his people in order that he might see for himself how the poor lived - in order that he might open the eyes of the nation to the evils which need to be redressed.' 'It may not be out of place', wrote John Rowland from the Welsh Board of Health to Sir Kingsley Wood on 20 November,
if I write to tell you that the King's Visit to South Wales has everywhere been a tonic to the people. I have not heard a single discouraging note; on all sides there is a strong hope that something very definite is to be done soon . . .
Beyond Wales, too, there was widespread approval of the royal visit and of the King's words at Dowlais. They 'reverberated round the country like a thunderclap', wrote William Deedes in an article for the Morning Post. Most national newspapers were enthusiastic. 'Standing bowler-hatted before the towering cobwebbed chimneys of the once-famed steelworks of Dowlais, South Wales,' reported the Daily Mirror in November 1936, 'Britain's monarch spoke four live-wire words':
Spurring a Government.
Electrifying a nation of loyal subjects.
'Something', he said, 'must be done . . .'
'Never has the magic of personal leadership been better shown', observed the Daily Mail, 'than by the King's visit to South Wales.' It drew a sharp contrast between the King's energy and the National Government's inaction. Unlike Government Ministers, it observed, 'the Sovereign examined their plight and drew from them the tale of their trouble . . . the King has called for action . . . The contrast to the way in which national questions are customarily approached can escape nobody.' Everyone knows, enthused the New Statesman, 'that . . . he is genuinely and deeply troubled about the misery and poverty which successive Governments have failed to relieve.' The News Chronicle, the chief organ of non-conformist opinion, commented that what the King had done was 'in the sole interest of truth and public service . . . The man in the street feels that Whitehall stands condemned.'
The 'man in the street' was certainly encouraged by Edward's visit to Wales. The President and Secretary of the United French Polishers' London Society wrote that his organization admired the King's interest in the Special Areas 'and your Majesty's promise "Something will be done" to relieve them'. The genuine sympathy which he had recently displayed in South Wales, wrote a woman to the King from a village near Manchester, 'is only one of countless actions by which you have forged a bond between yourself and your people.'
But other sections of the population were nervous about Edward's trip to Wales. 'Peers and politicians who resented his "demagogic" interest in labour', commented an American magazine, 'watched his trip nervously.' The statement that 'something must be done' was seen as particularly offensive because it carried an implicit criticism of Government policy and Government practice - and it was reported in this way in much of the national press. Ramsay MacDonald, who was Lord President, expressed his annoyance with the King in his diary. Referring to a meeting on 21 November with Sir George Gillett, the newly appointed Commissioner for the Special Areas, MacDonald recorded that they 'talked Distressed Areas & King's visit to S. Wales which has roused expectations; and the promises he has made will embarrass the Govt. These escapades should be limited. They are an invasion into the field of politics & should be watched constitutionally.' Members of the royal family, he added, were supposed to be above politics.
It was not just the ministers of the National Government who were irritated by Edward's visit to South Wales. Dismay was felt across the whole matrix of the Establishment - that is, the groups of men and women who ruled Britain by reason of their traditional prominence or their wealth. The Establishment represented a very powerful alliance of the Conservative party, the Church of England (which was - and still is - the official or 'established' church) and the Tory press, especially The Times, the Telegraph and the Morning Post...
At the centre of the Establishment was 'Society' - the exclusive circle of upper-class men and women who were closely tied to each other by birth, marriage and culture. Society was a tiny fraction of the population, but enormously influential in terms of social and political power. At its apex was the royal family, supported by the senior functionaries of the court. It was understood that either you were 'in' Society, or you were 'out'. If you were 'in', then you shared with other members of Society a horror of anything vulgar - the word 'common' was used to express contempt. If you were 'out', then you simply did not belong. Businessmen were mostly 'out', unless they came in through the door of Conservative politics. Baldwin tried to imagine, said Beaverbrook, 'that he had the mind and habits of a country squire'. But in fact his family had made their money in iron and steel.
Going to public school, then to Oxford or Cambridge, was the standard route to adult life for men of Society. For women it was necessary to be a debutante and to 'come out': some eight thousand women were presented to the monarch each year at the four courts held in Buckingham Palace. Social barriers were starting to break down in the 1930s, but the power structure of British society was overwhelmingly monolithic.
On behalf of the Establishment, the editor of The Times, Geoffrey Dawson, was determined to set things straight on the matter of Edward's visit to South Wales. Dawson, in his early sixties, was a severe-looking man with thinning silver hair. A graduate of Eton and Magdalen College, Oxford, he was a Fellow of All Souls and a member of the Beefsteak Club, the Travellers Club and the Athenaeum, exclusive London clubs where he lunched and dined and discussed national affairs with other members of the male elite. In a written account of the period in which Edward went on his tour of the Welsh valleys, he objected that the Daily Mail had made a 'monstrous attempt to contrast his Majesty's solicitude for the unemployed in South Wales with the indifference of his Ministers.' He wrote a short leader on the impropriety and danger of this attitude which appeared in The Times on 24 November 1936. 'The King's Ministers are His Majesty's advisers,' it insisted, 'and to contrast his personal and representative concern for the well-being of a section of the people with the administrative slips of his advisers is a constitutionally dangerous proceeding and would threaten, if continued, to entangle the Throne in politics.'
But as far as the King was concerned, he had simply responded to the tragic situation he found at Dowlais. 'I was quoted', he explained years later in his memoirs, 'as having said in the midst of some dismal scene of ruined industry, that "something must be done" to repair the ravages of the dreadful inertia that had gripped the region.' But this statement, he added, 'was the minimum humanitarian response that I could have made to what I had seen.' It was motivated not by a political aim, said Edward, but by a simple humanity. This was exactly how the visit was perceived by many of the ordinary people of Britain. 'When . . . King Edward came to Wales and said, "something must be done," he got into trouble for saying that but he was not wrong. I would have said the same thing myself', observed a man who grew up in the Glamorgan town of Penarth in the 1930s.
The Government could not afford to ignore the King's visit to South Wales. A 'wife and mother' observed in a letter to the Daily Mirror that although it was not the King's job to pay any attention to the suffering of the long-term unemployed, 'he had to do it before anything was done by the politicians.' Neville Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, felt obliged to alter a speech he delivered in Leeds on 20 November, a couple of days later, to acknowledge the problem of the Special Areas. The Government was continuously studying the situation in those areas, he insisted, and searching for new ways to help them. But he admitted that in South Wales, in particular, the situation was no better than it was when they had begun to look at the problem. He warned that the Government could not promise any 'spectacular plan which in a trice would solve one of the most obstinate, baffling problems that has ever faced a Government in this country.'
On their own, Edward's democratic leanings might have been ignored. But combined with his massive popularity they were a cause of grave concern to the Government. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative Prime Minister of the National Government, made it clear to a colleague that he was increasingly perturbed about 'the delicate situation created by the personality of the new King'. Clement Attlee, the leader of the Labour Party, noticed Baldwin's anxiety at a meeting of the Accession Council after the death of George V. Chamberlain had his own doubts about the new King. 'I do hope he "pulls up his socks",' he wrote in some notes, 'and behaves himself now he has such heavy responsibilities, for unless he does he will soon pull down the throne.' It was known, according to Montgomery Hyde, writing in his biography of Chamberlain, that he
drafted a memorandum for Cabinet circulation, urging that the King should 'settle down', wear conventional clothes, work at his 'boxes' and not make remarks in public, which were apt to be reported in the newspapers, about such topics as the slums and unemployment. It is also known that the Prime Minister thought it wise to suppress this memorandum.
Geoffrey Dawson was horrified by the popularity of King Edward. He knew that he would have to take this into serious consideration when thinking about 'the possible value of publicity' in any campaign to force the King's hand on the matter of Mrs Simpson. On 12 November 1936, in the period leading up to Edward's visits to the Home Fleet and South Wales, Dawson noted in his diary that if 'newspaper criticism were to begin before these engagements it might be taken as an attempt to undermine H M's popularity in advance; if immediately after them, as an attempt to minimize his influence. It was a very difficult problem, on which S B [Stanley Baldwin] professed himself quite unable to give advice.'
Many of the leading members of the Government belonged to a different generation from the King. In 1936 Edward was forty-two, whereas Baldwin was sixty-nine and Chamberlain sixty-seven. But it was not simply a matter of years. More importantly, it was a matter of experience. Baldwin's generation had not seen the horrors of the First World War at first hand. Indeed, this generation would not have been so dominant in Westminster and Whitehall, had it not been for the deaths in battle of so many young men. 'It is only at times you notice it,' wrote the Labour M P Ellen Wilkinson in 1930,
but when you do it comes as a shock that a whole generation has dropped out of the House of Commons. In the seats of the mighty in all parties are the men over sixty. The criticisms come from the under or early forties. And of the intermediaries, the men who should be bridging the generations there are just a scattered few, the survivors of the Great War.
These survivors, all over Britain, were haunted by grief and terrible memories - of violent death, of the continuous and useless carnage at battles like Passchendaele, and of the dreary and terrifying reality of trench life. They had a comradeship and a shared knowledge that nobody else could ever understand.
King Edward VIII shared in this comradeship - by reason of his war service, and by reason of his generation. 'You are our age, the age who's [sic] youth sacrificed during the Great War', said one letter to Edward in 1936. 'You mean so much to our generation,' insisted the writer of another letter, 'which shared with you as with no one else the danger and trials of the War, and for whose present problems you show such deep understanding and practical sympathy.' Nor was this appreciation of Edward limited to British war veterans. A French woman who had been an English interpreter during the war wrote from Paris to tell the King that he was 'loved by the World, especially we French people who have not forgotten those days of War.'
The author Vera Brittain shared this sense of belonging to a generation blighted by war. She had been a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, nursing in France, and had been so horrified by the slaughter that she became an ardent pacifist. 'I belonged, like Edward VIII,' she said, 'to a generation which was still on the early side of middle age but had already seen almost more history than any generation could bear.'...
The brutality of the war had made many of Edward's generation long for a new kind of society, free of the social injustice that had characterized the pre-war world. 'The dark ages are past and the twentieth century rolls on!' declared one of Edward's subjects. 'Your words and actions since you have been King have made us, and thousands of people like us,' wrote one woman,
realize that you are far closer to the people in your aims and beliefs than any previous Sovereign. We admire your courage and honesty, your pacifism and your sympathy with the people in the Distressed Areas . . . And specially for disliking red carpets & all they stand for. You appear to us to belong to the Spirit of the Age.
This spirit was contrasted with the decay and self-interest of the governing classes. 'England needs a good hoovering', wrote one woman to Edward, emphasizing her point by referring to the vacuum cleaner, which was starting to simplify housework in the homes of the better-off. But 'these politicians and folk of a previous generation', she added, 'refuse to see the grime and dust their antiquated hard brushes cannot cope with . . . We feel that you are the hand with the Hoover and hope you will continue - we are with you.'
The hearts of Baldwin and his Government must have sunk when they heard after the King's visit to South Wales that he was making plans to visit another Special Area - this time, the North-East. The King 'asked for big maps of Tyneside and the North-East districts', reported the Daily Mirror. 'Minister of Labour Brown was phoned for consultation several times,' it added, 'and officials were called to the Palace to help to arrange the programme.' The local press in Wales was delighted: 'The second Special Areas tour, we learn, will probably take place in February. And it may extend to Westmoreland and Cumberland.' Local dignitaries in the North-East region and the Tyne Improvement Commission in Newcastle rushed letters of enthusiasm to the Special Areas headquarters...
Nobody seemed to know whether the King was really making plans for another royal tour, or whether it was just a rumour... But even a rumour must have horrified the Government. For although there would be opportunities in the North-East to show economic recovery, such a trip would have to include Jarrow - which had an unemployment rate as high as 80 per cent. In the very month before Edward's visit to South Wales in 1936, protesting jobless steelworkers had walked all the way from Jarrow to London, where they cheered King Edward in the Mall. The march had been organized by the local council, with the support of both Labour and Conservative councillors, and was covered sympathetically by the press and in newsreels. 'They're foot-slogging all the way, 280 miles,' reported the narrator of British Movietone's Jarrow Crusade, which was shown in cinemas on 8 October 1936. 'Everyone must sympathize', it added, 'with this orderly demonstration which has such a deserving object. Here's wishing them a happy march and good luck at the end of it!' The next report by British Movietone, Jarrow Marchers, told the story of their arrival in London. Ellen Wilkinson, said the soundtrack, was at the marchers' head, 'and marching with them is the dog that has joined the crusade. The demonstration has been mostly orderly. Their object - a petition to aid their town - a worthy one. So here's the very best of luck to them - every one.' Baldwin refused to meet the Jarrow marchers on their arrival in London. 'This is the way civil strife begins,' he said, 'and civil strife may not end until there is civil war.' But the nation was deeply touched by the marchers' desperate plight.
It was certain that a visit by King Edward to the North-East would be given full attention by the media and the newsreels. Once agian, cinema-goers would see Edward walking among the poor and workless. Once again, he might say that "Something must be done.' It was not an attractive prospect for Baldwin's Government or for any of the Establishment who were fearful of change.
~ end quoting from THE PEOPLE'S KING, by Susan Williams ~
*The Harry Potter Spells Quiz (http://www.kidsreads.com/harrypotter/quiz0818.asp) and WITCHES, WIZARDS & DEMONS
**in Gallipoli in 1915 the Allies had suffered a terrible and brutal defeat with over two hundred thousand casualties
Edward VIII: Abdication Time Line. BBC, Jan 29, 2003
ORWELL & HARRY AT ETON
KITCHENER'S FACE BIG BROTHER (reader turns on light bulb). Mar 28, 2005
PEOPLE'S PRINCESS & PRINCESS'S PEOPLE
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