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Saturday, August 01, 2020

The devil in the details

I never understood why King Edward abdicated, since marriage vows clearly never meant anything to the man. This excerpt from a book by one of his courtiers finally makes sense of his real reason for exiting the British throne.
My impression is that the Prince of Wales was caught napping by his father's death; he expected the old man to last several years more, and he had, in all probability, already made up his mind to renounce his claim to the throne, and to marry Mrs S.

The comparatively sudden death of George V upset any such plans. But I believe that even then, he would have clung to them (he always hated changing any scheme he had evolved himself) but for the provisions of his father's will.

The will was read, to the assembled family, in the hall at Sandringham. I, of course, was not present; but, coming out of my office, I ran into him striding down the passage with a face blacker than any thunderstorm. He went straight to his room, and for a long time was glued to the telephone.

Under the will, each of his brothers was left a very large sum — about three-quarters of a million in cash; he was left nothing, and was precluded from converting anything (such as the stamp collection, the racehorses, etc.) into ready money.

It was, doubtless, a well-intentioned will; but, as such wills often do, it provoked incalculable disaster; it was, in fact, directly responsible for the first voluntary abdication of an English King.

Money, and the things that money buys, were the principal desiderata in Mrs Simpson's philosophy, if not in his, and, when they found that they had been left the Crown without the cash, I am convinced that they agreed, in that interminable telephone conversation, to renounce their plans for a joint existence as private individuals, and to see what they could make out of the Kingship, with the subsidiary prospect of the Queenship for her later on.

The events of the next ten months bear out this supposition; for, throughout them, he devoted two hours to schemes, great and small, by which he could produce money to every one that he devoted to the business of the State.

Indeed, his passion for 'economy' became something very near to mania, despite the fact that his private fortune, amassed while he was Prince of Wales, already amounted to nearly a million — which sum he took with him, of course, when he finally left the country.

It was substantially increased by the considerable sums which his brother paid him for his life interest in the Sandringham and Balmoral estates, so that, by the time he married, having no encumbrances, no overhead charges and no taxes to pay, he was one of the richest men in Europe — if not the richest.
But what worked out well enough for him, at least monetarily, doesn't appear to be working out so well for his great-grandnephew. Another example of how tragedy is followed by farce. And it appears the people of England may owe a great debt to Mrs. Wallis Simpson for saving them from a longer rule by such a fundamentally dysfunctional man, not that Queen Elizabeth's long reign hasn't been a complete disaster for them.

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21 Comments:

Blogger Lazarus August 01, 2020 6:43 AM  

The last thing a Secret King wants is to be a Real King.

Blogger Jamie-R August 01, 2020 6:47 AM  

You sometimes go wtf like with Harry, hereditary rulers have their own issues within family, they're just dipshits like most others, but they come from a line of people that held power and are coached into it, some never grasp the implications or the wisdom of their personal choices with power, I'd say the Rothschild's have fared better among the Euro elite, maybe because they understand they are minorities. It's interesting how the Magna Carta provides hope and a future for fixing the problems of Monarchy but was only fulfilled in colonies beyond England, the one I suspect their far reach is tearing apart for daring to assert itself from beyond its global structures with other Monarchs again. You either advance the rule of law and get the people onboard or you end up with Prince Harry's Wild World of Confusion.

Blogger Silent Draco August 01, 2020 8:09 AM  

As always, follow the footsteps of Count de Money. Q said to follow the wives (or women); same case here.

Blogger flyingtiger August 01, 2020 9:20 AM  

Don't worry, Megan will save them!

Blogger Rabid Ratel August 01, 2020 9:50 AM  

Silent Draco wrote:As always, follow the footsteps of Count de Money. Q said to follow the wives (or women); same case here.

Funny things start to emerge when you follow the women - see Miles Matthis for the Phoenicians and their wives.

Blogger Weak August 01, 2020 10:36 AM  

One had a passion for economy that was very near mania. The other a passion for social justice. That explains the monetary difference in the wayward princes outcomes.

Blogger John Best. August 01, 2020 10:51 AM  

Was it George V who was killed by his own doctor?

Best King England had was Edward I, we need more like him.

Blogger Fozzy Bear August 01, 2020 10:54 AM  

Yes, the divorce and money problems led to the abdication. The final push came when the Australian and Indian Prime Ministers presented a united front and announced privately that Edward no longer had their support and confidence as King.

This is difficult for Americans to understand, because their history wrongly teaches that Kings are Tyrants: Constitutional Monarchs have no power of their own, they exist entirely at the whim of their Parliaments, and cannot act on their own initiative. We forced the King to abdicate, this princeling doesn’t stand a chance.

Blogger tublecane August 01, 2020 12:13 PM  

"it was, in fact, directly responsible for the first voluntary abdication of an English King."

No, the King's character was directly responsible. The will was secondary.

If he was that dead-set on having an unsuitable, greedy wife, there are ways to amass fortunes besides inheritance and being a monarch.

Furthermore, he kept on demonstrating poor character the rest of his life. See for instance hijinks during WWII when Churchill ordered him back to British soil as he stalled for consideration while being wooed by Nazi spies.

Blogger James Higham August 01, 2020 12:30 PM  

Pretty accurate, Vox.

Blogger Ransom Smith August 01, 2020 1:02 PM  

This is difficult for Americans to understand, because their history wrongly teaches that Kings are Tyrants
It most certainly does not, and that's further ignorance on the part of non Americans.
George III was called a tyrant, not Kings as a whole. Early America had strong relations with the Kingdom of France and the Kingdom of Prussia.

Blogger Fozzy Bear August 01, 2020 1:33 PM  

@Ransom Smith Really? Due to my accent, I’m regularly asked by Americans about the tyranny of Queen Elizabeth taking away my guns.

Blogger Ransom Smith August 01, 2020 2:03 PM  

Fozzy, isn't it a fair question though? Disarming ordinary Englishmen is tyrannical, and being presided over by old Liz.

Blogger T-Rav August 01, 2020 2:15 PM  

While many regrettable things have happened during Elizabeth II's reign, is that the fault of her or of "her" ministers? Seems to me that the Brits won't tolerate a monarch that amounts to more than a figurehead.

Blogger Ransom Smith August 01, 2020 3:07 PM  

While many regrettable things have happened during Elizabeth II's reign, is that the fault of her or of "her" ministers?
One does not negate the other when the other is of equal value.
The Crown still holds the right to declare war, sign treaties, approve of laws, and claim dolphins and whales.
She could do much more than she does.

Blogger Fozzy Bear August 01, 2020 4:13 PM  

No, she can’t do anything at all unless directed by her Prime Minister, except during a constitutional crisis where the Prime Minister himself is threatening the constitutional order. Even then, all she can do is call an election, or appoint another Prime Minister who she would again have to obey. She has the right to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn, but she does not have the right to act.

Blogger Snidely Whiplash August 01, 2020 4:32 PM  

Fozzy Bear wrote:No, she can’t do anything at all unless directed by her Prime Minister,
"Can't" and "Hasn't tried in a long while" are two different things.
In power structures you have as much power as you can successfully assert.

Blogger Josh Brown August 01, 2020 5:49 PM  

Not Kings in general but George III. At the risk of over simplification when the people who made America started leaving the Old world the King of the United Kingdom was James VI / I who ruled as an absolute monarch through the Divine right of kings, in other words a tyrant, and that concept went to the New World. The constitutional developments of the Civil War, Commonwealth, Restoration and then Glorious Revolution did not transfer to the New World, and by the time of the Founding Father British Nth American policy was being determined by the parliamentary goverment lead by Lord North and others. That is how it can be seen today although George III might well have still thought he could play a role to a greater degree than what Elizabeth II might.

Blogger Jazz The Boxer August 01, 2020 6:11 PM  

I don't comment here but it's a daily read. Thanks to the great moderation for keeping the comments section top notch.

As a subject of Her Majesty in one of the colonies I must object to giving QEII an out. After she ascended the throne Her Majesty almost tripped over herself in her haste to give away the Royal Powers to the Parliament. The Parliamentarians at the time could not believe their luck. It appears to my eyes that Her Majesty wanted all the pomp and pageantry but none of the responsibility.

Blogger Cataline Sergius August 01, 2020 8:17 PM  

Snidely Whiplash wrote:Fozzy Bear wrote:No, she can’t do anything at all unless directed by her Prime Minister,

"Can't" and "Hasn't tried in a long while" are two different things.

In power structures you have as much power as you can successfully assert.


One of the first things I learned during my time on the Beltway was, "power goes with permanence." The longer you are there, the more people need you.

My second lesson was "almost all power is really just influence." What you can theoretically do is drastically more limited than what you can actually do.

Elizabeth II first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill, she's been around that long. Her power is soft but very, very deep.

I suspect there will be a real debate about the future of the Institution when she dies but not before.

Blogger Canadian Warlord August 02, 2020 12:24 AM  

Another factor here sometimes, besides foreign PMs as mentioned, is the House of Lords. As for Queen LizardBeast, there's an audio clip that surfaced a few years ago featuring a private chat between her and Jimmy Carter sometime in the 1990s. She was lamenting what fresh hell the Brits were voting for at the time, but she was resigned to it.

My read is that Elizabeth II has chosen longevity over fighting the people against their dumb wishes. She has now passed Elizabeth I and Victoria as the longest reigning monarch ever, which does have something to do with modern medicine. She's taken more of a back seat to the proceedings than she's needed to, which may serve the crown's interest long-term in Australia for example where they've had referendums about dumping the royals. Stay out of sight, pay taxes, and wait for this peace craze to blow over.

Everywhere I look I see "crown land," and today I drove on the "QE2" "Queen Elizabeth II" highway. Soft power isn't direct political power, but it does have a tendency to survive.

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