Strange Interlude: Edward Viii's Brief Reign

KINGSLEY MARTINhas been studying the influence of the British monarchy ever since he became editor of the NEW STATESMAN AND NATION in 1934. He stood in a close relationship with Edward VIII at the time of the abdication, as is clear from the account which follows. In the June ATLANTIC Mr. Martin will describe the high cost of monarchy

“There will soon be only five Kings left — the Kings of England, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades, and Clubs” — King Farouk to Lord Boyd-Orr in Cairo, 1951.

Monarchy in Britain, as King Farouk’s quip suggests, stands in a class by itself, uniquely popular and secure. Outside Europe the type of revolution that made Farouk a fugitive has become everyday news. Inside Europe only six monarchies are left. In Greece and Belgium the crown seems precariously poised. The unpretentious monarchs of Scandinavia and the Low Countries are respectfully accepted by their sober subjects. They go out shopping like other mortals without being mobbed by sightseers or surrounded by photographers; their homes are not besieged, as Buckingham Palace is, by crowds who gather outside even when no royal personages are in residence. In short, Scandinavian countries are republics which find it convenient to maintain hereditary presidents — which is what liberal theorists not long ago took also to be the reality of monarchy in Britain.

This commonsense attitude toward the throne is now out of fashion in Britain. A glorified, religious view of royalty is the vogue. The Queen is not allowed to wear a crown; nothing less than a halo will suffice. But the halo is neon-lighted — a combination which seems to make the worst of both worlds, the divine and the secular. This unreal light is reflected on all members of the royal family. Writers and speakers change gear every time they mention royalty; their reverent phraseology makes the innumerable books about royal personages astonishing to foreign readers who do not share our novel habit of simultaneously staring and genuflecting. The monarchy has become a sacrosanct object, beyond criticism and regarded as essential for national safety.

When the personal and public character of the monarch conforms to the appropriate pattern, there is a natural tendency, which propaganda can easily exploit, to see in him the ideal personification of those qualities which are most admired in contemporary society. In the sixteenth century Tudor despotism was welcomed because it guaranteed order after the baronial wars, secured the nation against foreign enemies, and gave the emergent middle class the prospect of stability and riches. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Britain needed a constitutional monarchy to end religious struggle and preserve the new structure of society, in which traders, merchants, and the new industrialists could exploit the enlarged possibilities of wealth; this was achieved without depriving the aristocracy and gentry of their political power.

In the nineteenth century the acceptance of the democratic idea forbade the public exercise of royal authority. Though the Georges had made the crown excessively unpopular. Britain was still just — and only just — prepared to accept the monarchy, but, as the liberal theorists who dominated British thought made clear, only on specific conditions. Political leaders were now elected and responsible. The monarchy had become a survival to be maintained, if at all, as a useful constitutional device and the focus of national loyalty. The conditions were that it play no personal part in the political battle and that the character of the monarch could be respected.

Only when the public was sure that these two conditions were fulfilled — and that was not until the latter part of the nineteenth century — could politically conscious democracy allow itself to indulge its natural capacity for devotion to an idealized personality. In her old age, Queen Victoria, brought from retirement by the skill and flattery of Disraeli, became the adored symbol of domestic virtue and imperial greatness.

When Edward VII came to the throne, he proceeded with caution and never flouted the Constitution, which his mother, as only her advisers knew in her lifetime, had often felt at liberty to do. Edward was well aware that monarchy had become an anomaly in democracy and understood the lesson of the unsuccessful rising against the Czar in 1905. Like Lord Esher, his confidential adviser, he was alarmed at the growth of “Continental socialism.” Toward the end of his life he betrayed his fears for the future by introducing his son, afterward George V, as the future “last King of England.” Such thoughts also haunted the mind of George V; a guileless and conscientious monarch, he was always anxious to do his duty, and by so doing to strengthen the position of the crown at home and especially in the Commonwealth. He was immensely successful, and in the latter part of his reign was both surprised and touched by the spontaneous demonstrations of affection that met him wherever he went. He had taken the impressive pageantry of the Durbar in 1911 as proof that monarchy had a great role to play throughout the Empire; the unsophisticated diaries in which he daily made brief notes on the weather, his engagements, and on public affairs show that, until his jubilee in 1935, he had not fully realized how far the character of monarchical institutions had changed since he came to the throne.

The King had been shocked and, indeed, terrified by the tumbling of crowned heads during his reign; Sir Harold Nicolson calculates that in the twenty-five years George V was on the throne five Emperors, eight Kings, and eighteen minor dynasties came to an end. He was especially distressed by the assassination of his cousin, the Czar, in 1917. When, inexperienced and untrained for his position, he came to the throne in 1910, he was immediately confronted with constitutional crises which looked as if they would split the country and even plunge it into civil war. He survived these perils and lived through the alarming period of army discontent and revolutionary trade unionism that followed the war. He was also greatly relieved to discover that monarchy was in no way endangered by the two very loyal Labor governments of 1924 and 1929, and he played a personal part in finding a Conservative solution for the constitutional and financial crisis of 1931. By 1935 it became manifest that the King was no longer a mere constitutional symbol but an object of personal veneration to a large part of the population. One of the main factors in bringing about this new and positive attitude toward the crown was the great success of the King as a broadcaster

At the death of George V we were finally able to gauge the strength of popular affection for him. When the old King died, no one who talked to his neighbor on a bus, to the charwoman washing the steps, or to a sightseer standing at the street corner could doubt the almost universal feeling of loss, nor could any perceptive observer fail to notice the peculiarly personal character of this emotion. People who had never seen the King and only heard his voice on the radio talked about him as if he were a personal friend or a near relative cut off in his prime. Propaganda, no doubt, accounts for much, but no propaganda can create this type of personal emotion unless the conditions are particularly favorable. Propaganda can exploit, spread, intensify existing emotion. It cannot create when the materials are lacking.

Here, I think, one can find the truth in a remark frequently heard at the death of George V. People constantly reiterated that King George “was a father to us all.” He had become a universal father figure. A process of identification of the royal family life with that of the individual life of the subject had begun during the previous half century. This development dates from the last period of Queen Victoria. In his autobiography, H. G. Wells describes how his mother followed everything in the life of the Queen with a passionate loyalty; she saw in the Queen a “compensating personality,” an ideal example of the sort of mother that she would have liked to have been. To such people the royal family provided a color and a splendor which their own family lives too often lacked, but which they could nonetheless feel to be part of their own romance.

ADORATION of the crown could never have grown to such astonishing proportions had not the monarchy during the last hundred years fitted so well the popular conception of what a monarch should be. In Queen Victoria, people had learned in the last decades of her reign to picture the perfect model of British motherhood. In Edward VII they saw a man who had outlived the follies of youth before he came to the throne (he had been publicly hissed as Prince of Wales) and had become, as they believed, the most genial type of sporting English gentleman. They believed, on no evidence at all, that he was a kind and goodtempered man (though, in fact, he was neither), and they imagined that he played a far greater part than any twentieth-century monarch could in cementing the Entente with France and in helping to preserve a peace that in fact was not preserved. George V, as they constantly put it, was a “good-living man,” a model of what a middle-class family man should be. The point has never been better put than by his son Edward in A King’s Story:

It has always seemed to me that one of my father’s great contributions to monarchical practice was the manner in which, without apparent design, he managed to resolve the internal contradiction of Monarchy in the twentieth century that requires it to be remote from, yet, at the same time, to personify the aspirations of the people. It must appear aloof and distant in order to sustain the illusion of a Monarch who shunning faction, stands above politics and the more mundane allegiances. At the same time, it must appear to share intimately the ideals of the multitude, whose affection and loyalty provide the broad base of constitutional Monarchy. My father, with the instinctive genius of the simple man, found the means of squaring the apparent circle within the resources of his own character. By the force of his own authentic example — the King himself in the role of the bearded paterfamilias, his devoted and queenly wife, their four grown sons and a daughter, not to mention the rising generation of grandchildren — he transformed the Crown as personified by the Royal Family into a model of the traditional family virtues, a model that was all the more genuine for its suspected but inconspicuous flaws. The King, as the dutiful father, became the living symbol not only of the nation, but also of the Empire, the last link holding together these diversified and scattered communities.

EDWARD VIII himself could never fulfill such an ideal conception, for many reasons, no doubt, but above all, as he himself says, because he was a bachelor. Nevertheless, he took up his royal burden “in good heart,” conscious that as Prince of Wales he was already an immensely popular figure throughout the Commonwealth. He had somewhat vaguely, but sincerely, a notion of being King in his own way, of giving the British concept of monarchy a new twentieth-century flavor.

The story of Edward VIII’s brief reign makes a strange interlude in the history of British monarchy. Its significance was not constitutional. He behaved, indeed, with the strictest constitutional propriety and would not run the risk of damaging the throne by permitting the formation ol a King’s Party. He abdicated because he could not fulfill the domestic image of British monarchy which had been established by his grandmother and his father. It is interesting now to speculate whether, if he had been stronger and more purposeful, he could have reshaped the pattern of monarchy in England. He could not be a father figure, but could he, within the limits imposed upon him, have created a more personal and more democratic type of King, symbolizing the arrival of a new and less conventional generation?

Some saw him as a champion of youth and modern ideas. He did not disguise his distaste for much of the expected ritual of royalty. His speeches were freshly worded and seemed sometimes to have been written by himself. It was no accident that in his abdication announcement he omitted to call himself “King by the Grace of God, Defender of the Faith.” He did not regard himself as a Defender of the Faith. His father used such phrases and spoke of God’s care of his people and his Commonwealth with simplicity and sincerity. King George’s Christmas broadcasts, greatly appreciated by his subjects, revealed the same unthinking acceptance of the eternal truths of the Anglican creed that characterized the utterances of Queen Victoria. But Edward VIII was in revolt against the past; the fear that unorthodox opinions and an unconventional private life might mar the success of his reign was already apparent in the uneasy balance of adulation and admonition achieved in the accession speeches of the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The King was in fact unconventional, but not, as some people imagined, any kind of socialist. He disturbed Conservatives by contributing to the miners’ relief fund during the 1926 strike, and he did not disguise his view that society could be improved. He also wondered why a King should not be allowed to walk in the streets, wear a be wler hat, and carry an umbrella. He did not agree with Sir Frederick Ponsonby, his father’s Keeper of the Privy Purse, who told him while he was still Prince of Wales that he ran the risk of making himself too accessible. “ The monarchy,” said Sir Frederick, “must always retain an element of mystery. A Prince should not show himself too much.”

The Prince differed, but Ponsonby, echoing a famous passage from Walter Bagehot, replied, “If you bring it down to the people, the crown will lose its mystery and its influence.”

“I do MOI agree.”said die Prince, “times are changing.”

But Ponsonby replied. “I am older than you. sir. I have been with your father, your grandfather. and your great-grandmother. They all understood; you are quite mistaken”

Was he mistaken? It was true that no monarch since George III —and he was insane at the time — had walked unattended among common people in the streets. Some thought that Edward VIII had taken the first steps toward the Scandinavian monarchy, where royal personages may be called on the telephone and have been seen riding on bicycles.

The weakness of Edward was that he was not sure what he wanted to do. He writes of himself in his younger days: “Given my character, my roving curiosity and independence, my life appeared to form a disconnected pattern—duty without decision, service without responsibility, pomp without power.” In fact, he took his kingly duties extremely seriously, and it is a common error to think that he chose, in the cant phrase, “love rather than duty.” He knew that he could not perform his duties without being with the woman he loved, and he thought it his duty to abdicate rather than to do without her. His fatal error in negotiating with Baldwin was to ask the Prime Minister to consult the Dominions; by submitting the issue of morganatic marriage as a matter of constitutional advice, he played into the hands of Baldwin and the Archbishop. For “advice,” in its technical context, means the instruction given by the Prime Minister which the King has to obey. Baldwin had only to reply that the Cabinet and the Dominion governments were opposed to the suggestion, and the issue was closed.

EDWARD could have behaved like his forefathers; no one, certainly not the Prime Minister, would have complained about a discreet affair, a side door with a latchkey and an illicit relationship with Mrs. Simpson. But if he was determined to marry, abdication was the only way - unless he was prepared to flout the Constitution. A King’s Party was growing up; he might have challenged the authority of the Cabinet. But he was loyal to his oath as constitutional monarch. He had no thought of refusing the advice of the Prime Minister, even when Mr. Churchill painted a rosy view of his future as a new kind of King with Mr. Baldwin humiliated at his feet; even when Lord Beaverbrook rushed back from America to give his support; even when MPs championed his cause in the House; least of all when the fascists, led by Sir Oswald Mosley, began organizing squads of toughs in the streets and Communists began demonstrating in his favor. He “put out of mind all thoughts of challenging the Prime Minister . . . by making a stand for myself I should have left the scars of a civil war. A civil war is the worst of all wars. Its passions soar highest, its hatreds last longest. And a civil war is not less a war when it is fought in words and not in blood.” He saw that to fight such a battle would permanently damage the monarchy, and that he refused to do.

One other course was open to Edward which neither he nor anyone else at that time appears to have considered. Here was the unique opportunity for translating into reality Bernard Shaw’s fantasy in The Apple Cart. If King Edward had abdicated, married as he wished, and refused a dukedom, what could have prevented him from entering politics as a private citizen? Like King Magnus in Shaw’s play, he could have offered himself as candidate for the borough of Windsor or, indeed, for any other borough. He would certainly have been a popular candidate.

As it was, the King’s Party came to nothing for lack of a King walling to accept its support. When Winston Churchill finally attempted in the House of Commons to obtain a delay which w ould benefit the King’s case, he was, in effect, howled down. The King had put himself into the position in which there was no constitutional alternative to abdication. Therefore, puritanism was once again, as in the seventeenth century, associated with parliamentarianism. People who were least inclined to take a puritanical view of the King’s way of life were compelled to support the Archbishop and the Prime Minister in the interests of parliamentary government. Those who were least puritanical and most hostile to the Prime Minister were compelled to behave like Roundheads. They detested what they regarded as a hypocritical conspiracy engineered by the Prime Minister, the editor of the Times, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. But if the alternative was an alliance with a twentiethcentury royalist party, they had to choose to be parliamentarians. The King went across the water without leaving a Cavalier party behind him, and victory went by default to the parliamentarians and puritans.

A later generation does not realize the shock of the King’s abdication. A moment had come when the failings of the ruling King were publicly admitted. I recall, as we left a cinema on the night of December 2. 1936, discussing with a friend the scandal around the throne and the possibility that it might lead to the King’s abdication. “Hush, sir, hush,”said a deeply shocked voice behind me. Colonel Blimp had not yet discovered that the monarchical taboo was shattered. He was still manfully trying to impose silence, even though all the world’s press, except the British, had long been making headlines out of Edward and Mrs. Simpson. In England the story had long been the most popular topic of discussion in clubs and around the dining tables of journalists and top people. The American dailies, thriving on gossip about the British throne, had no general circulation in England; British wholesalers cut out references to the monarchy (even at the sacrifice of whole pages) before they allowed magazines like Time to appear on English bookstalls. Only those who subscribed directly to American papers or who received cuttings from American friends knew how widely the scandal had spread on the other side of the Atlantic. The well-informed might nudge one another when they saw Mrs. Simpson’s name in the Court Circular or noted her attractive figure in photographs of the guests at Fort Belvedere or on the royal yacht. But such indirect references to the best of all news stories were all the British press allowed itself.

It was widely assumed, especially in the United States, that the British press was subject to a highly competent form of censorship. Lord Beaverbrook has made clear his own part in persuading Fleet Street to keep silent. But Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere had no influence on the Daily Worker or the Times or the independent weekly reviews. Yet they, too, sacrificed sales by a unique reticence. The truth is that no newspaper would have thought it good policy to win a temporarycirculation boost by printing scandal about the royal family. Even the Simpson divorce case, which was news no one could be blamed for printing, was played down. Certainly telephone calls between Fleet Street, Whitehall, and Buckingham Palace played their part. But the absence of any kind of comment, even in weekly reviews and papers which were not members of the Newspaper Press Association, was due to other causes. One inhibiting factor was the law of libel; any comment would have been guarded and evasive. Far more important, however, was the royal taboo, which everyone concerned with a newspaper, from the proprietor and editor to the reporters and compositors, found it immensely difficult to break.

IT MAY be of interest for me to give my own experience. As editor of an independent weekly review, I naturally knew about the headlines in the foreign press and debated wrhat comment I should make. I agreed with a friend of the King’s who urged that it would be disgraceful to start a scandal in England about what was, after all. a matter which concerned the King only. He was happy for the first time in his life; why interfere? But the situation changed when I was told authoritatively and confidentially that the King had made up his mind to marry Mrs. Simpson. I was also told that he would be pleased if a serious discussion of the constitutional issue began in a responsible and sympathetic paper such as the one I edited. If the story broke in this way, the scandalous headlines in the popular press would be forestalled, and possibly the real issues would be discussed. This argument removed all doubts, since the choice of the Queen — or. for that matter, the King’s wife — is indubitably a matter of public importance. So I wrote an article arguing that the King had as much right to marry the woman of his choice as anyone else, and that if there were good reasons against Mrs. Simpson as Queen, there would be none against a morganatic marriage.

Since the information of the King’s intention had come to me from him, I sent the article to him. It was returned with a message that he would be glad if I went ahead and published it. I was about to send it to the printer (with some misgivings about whether he would accept it) when I received a further message asking me to wait a week because its publication might damage the chances of a settlement. The King, in short, still hoped to persuade Mr. Baldwin; an article in the New Statesman and Xation might be taken as a declaration of war, or at least as a sign of an intention to appeal to public opinion against the government. So I held up the article. Then came a blow with a Blunt instrument, as jesters said at the time, and my article died a natural death.

During the week before the news actually broke, all Fleet Street was aware that the King’s attachment to Mrs. Simpson could not be much longer concealed. The press had to cope with an immense shock to a public complacency that it had itself done much to foster. The monarchy was not, after all, perfect, and proprietors and editors were obviously flummoxed by not knowing how the public would take the news. There was rich comedy in their efforts to have it both ways. How be loyal and sustain the national myth while exploiting a wonderful news story? How appear to give a lead when they did not know in which direction public sentiment would move? They were constantly forced to reiterate that the King was, “after all, human.” People had to be let into the secret that the monarchy was not perfect, because otherwise the situation was inexplicable.

On December 2 Bishop Blunt’s apparently innocent reference to the King’s failure to appreciate God’s grace was the signal for which all the newspapers had been waiting. Their material was ready; their comments were not. On the first day they reported the bishop’s statement without editorial comment. In strict privacy, editors had been waiting and rewriting innumerable leading articles; one, I was told, wrote seventeen. The Times from the beginning showed inside knowledge; even before the crisis it began to write up the Duke and Duchess of York. The Telegraph was also from the outset clearly for Mr. Baldwin. It argued that the King would certainly choose duty even at the expense of personal happiness, but made clear that it preferred abdication if he made the wrong choice.

The same view was implicit throughout the nine days’ crisis in the columns of the Yorkshire Post (where Bishop Blunt’s remarks were first printed), in the Manchester Guardian, and in most of the provincial press. The Daily Herald also, in effect, supported Baldwin throughout, basing its attitude on authoritative articles by Professor Laski dealing with the constitutional position. Neither of the opposition parties supported the King’s desire for a morganatic solution; Colonel Wedgwood, who moved a Cavalier motion in the House of Commons, spoke, as so often in his highly individualist career, for himself, and not for any considerable body of Labor members. The only daily which espoused the morganatic solution was the News Chronicle, which urged that the King had the same right as other people to marry whom he wished, even though the woman of his choice had been twice in the divorce courts and might not be considered a suitable Queen. The New Statesman and Nation took the same line, pointing out that King Edward’s most attractive characteristic was a dislike of humbug, which would prevent his making a formal marriage to a royal personage whom he did not love.

The issue abruptly changed when Mr. Baldwin stated that the King had asked for special legislation to enable him to make a morganatic marriage and that the Cabinet, after consulting the Dominion governments and the opposition leaders, had refused. From that time onward the only supporters of the marriage were those who were prepared to risk a revival of the seventeenth-century struggle between crown and Parliament. Hitherto the division had been between those who held, either for reasons of religion or snobbery, that the marriage was unsuitable and those who were untroubled by the prospect of the King’s marrying a commoner, an American, and a divorcee. It now became a simple issue of the King’s right to act against the Prime Minister’s “advice.”

The Catholic Times declared that the crisis was a ramp, contrived by the financiers. The Daily Worker took much the same line, reporting Mr. Harry Pollitt, who spoke of the “flummery and flapdoodle” of the crisis. The apostles of social credit revived, in more flamboyant forms than hitherto, Hilaire Belloc’s thesis that the King in our day should assume his sixteenth-century powers in order to champion the cause of the people against twentieth-century robber barons. In Reynolds, Mr. Brailsford quietly remarked, “While England chatters about a lady from Baltimore, Germany marches forward to the conquest of Spain.”

The King, as we have seen, gave no countenance to the motley army which rallied to his standard. Inquiries at the time led me to agree with a lobby correspondent who held that for about forty-eight hours there had been a real danger of the birth of a King’s Party in the House as well as outside it, but even MPs who were personally inclined to oppose the government on the morganatic issue were deterred by reports from their constituencies. Backing for the King’s marriage seemed to be almost wholly confined to London. Scotland was firmly against it. South Wales members reported that the King’s popularity was almost gone; the film of his recent visit was watched in cold silence in the very valleys where the same people had cheered him so vehemently only a few weeks before.

Similar reports of solid opposition came from all parts of the country. The marriage just did not fit into the pattern expected of a British King. I enjoyed the comment of a fox-hunting squire who was in the process of divorcing his wife; he held that the King was no gentleman. A friend whose work brought her into contact with many poor people said that general opinion was summarized in a working woman’s phrase: “He’s a naughty boy, but we don’t want to lose him.” Another said, “Of course he’d better marry her. It’s no use living alongside someone you don’t like. You only want to do them in.” But when the issue was clear and the news of the abdication was announced, a taxi driver summed it up by saying regretfully. “It wouldn’t have done. It wouldn’t have done.”

In this remarkable story, the British press, radio, public, Prime Minister, and House of Commons all behaved according to pattern. On the night of King Edward’s broadcast I heard the radio announcer declare that the world stood amazed at the admirable behavior of England in this unprecedented crisis. The phrase was part of a familiar tune. During the next few days it was repeated in one form or another in almost every British newspaper. We had behaved, as always, with astonishing sobriety, judgment, self-restraint.

THIS self-congratulation on our own modesty, reticence, and other sterling gifts always marks British recovery from a shock. The crisis is resolved, and the process of self-reassurance begins. The same pattern of behavior was noticeable in the general strike, in the economic crisis of 1931, and on various occasions when a financial scandal or example of personal corruption had been publicly exposed. On such occasions, some of those things which the British ruling classes would not admit to be possible in this country have indubitably occurred. It is an axiom, resolutely upheld and only to be disputed by the contumacious, that while other people have social divisions and revolutions, no class struggle exists in England. The general strike, nevertheless, occurred. Similarly, bad finance and unsound economic policy might upset the economic stability of Continental countries or of the United States; in England the banks were invulnerable and capitalism unshakable. Yet the economic crisis of 1931 occurred. Again, graft may be rampant abroad, but its absence is the peculiar glory of British public life. Yet scandals do occur.

In every case exactly the same technique is adopted. When the unprecedented had happened and could no longer be hidden, every effort was made to insist that it was an isolated incident having nothing to do with anything else in society, a mere aberration from the normal, to which we could at once return when the incident was over. No reason to examine its causes or to consider whether the moral and social axioms that had been momentarily challenged were in need of revision. No reason to blame anybody, or to dwell on the past. No one so apt as Mr. Baldwin at saying the healing word. It was most needed in the abdication crisis. At first the confused public was like a man who had received a violent blow on the head and who feared in his pain and bewilderment that the injury might be permanent; it woke up a few days later in hospital to find Mr. Baldwin sitting by the bedside explaining that nothing very serious had occurred, that the monarchy was safer than ever, and that it had proved the soundness of our Constitution that we were able lo return to normal with another King, a family man. like his father, who would carry on the great traditions of British monarchy and assure our stability.

If matters could have remained there, Mr. Baldwin would have pulled off a perfect job — a job as difficult and as successfully handled from his point of view as the general strike. For complete success, however, he should have had the last word. His farewell to the King was a masterpiece; Edward alone knew its subtle dishonesty.

The tone was perfect and would have been scarcely criticized had not the Archbishop of Canterbury caricatured it in a broadcast which nauseated a surprising number of people. Many will still recall Gerald Bullett’s scathing quatrain on Cosmo Lang’s broadcast. My version runs:

My Lord Archbishop, what a scold you are!
And when your man is down, how very bold you are!
Of charity how oddly scant you are!
How Lang Oh Lord, How full of Cantuar!

This broadcast produced a remarkable outburst of anticlerical feeling. The tone of his broadcast was judged to be that of a party leader who boasts of having downed his opponent, which is never a popular attitude in Britain. It contrasted altogether too sharply with the simplicity and directness of the Duke of Windsor’s broadcast, in which everyone learned that he had been prevented from speaking to the public by Mr. Baldwin and that he was abdicating for no other reason than that he wanted to marry a divorced woman.

There was little more criticism. A small group of left socialists polled five votes for a republican amendment. Mr. Maxton urged in eloquent but not inflammatory language that monarchy was an out-of-date institution which naturally led to such crises in the twentieth century, and he was supported by four other members, one of whom, Mr. Buchanan, remarked, amid the eulogies of the departing King, that he had never heard so much humbug in his life; if the eulogists believed what they said, “why did they unload him?” The Labor Party attitude, however, was expressed by Mr. Attlee, who said that socialists could not waste their time on abstract discussions about republicanism. Monarchy, it was true, had been absurdly played up in the past and invested with “an unreal halo.” This had tended to obscure the realities.

What was the reality after the abdication? Mr. Maxton quoted Humpty Dumpty;

All the King’s horses
And all the King’s men
Could not put Humpty Dumpty
Back again.

Shouts of “Together again” came from all parts of the House. Tension was relaxed. It was pleasant to correct the scansion of a misquoted nursery rhyme, but the correction did not dispose of Mr. Maxton’s point, and the press at once set about putting Humpty Dumpty together again. Arrangements had already been made for a Council of Regency, and the picture was quickly redrawn of the monarchy restored in the image of King George V.

Impeccably, George VI, with his wife and daughters, sat on his father’s throne. Everything that could be found to say about the new King was said; stress was laid on his work for boys’ camps, on some remarks he had made about the need for social improvement, and above all, on his happy and blameless family life. All the resources of propaganda were ready to build up the new King and Queen and to re-establish the approved pattern of British monarchy.