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Foreign News: Gentlemen, the Kings!

12 minute read

A piece of traditional British wisdom is that no new King is of much effect. The influence and value of an able King builds up gradually as he ripens on the Throne. Slowly, cumulatively, his prestige with subjects and statesmen rises, and he learns by experience where and upon whom judicious pressure by the King can make itself felt. On the Continent this is no less true than in England and Dutchmen, for example, consider themselves most fortunate to have so ripe a sovereign as Wilhelmina, whose wisdom and sagacity in her constitutional sphere are immense. Contrary to some mistaken impressions overseas, King George in his last years was a terror to certain British statesmen because of His Majesty’s quiet strength of character and experience in getting his way by imperceptible means. He figured largely in setting up the ingenious contraption known as Great Britain’s “National Government.” His will was instrumental in having the general election held just in time to permit His Majesty to die happy in the knowledge that British Tories are safely in for five more years. Last week in this favorable environment the new King was exceedingly new.

Britain’s ruling class and especially prominent London bankers were particularly satisfied that Edward VIII is known to be pro-German—a fact strongly highlighted this week when, at a reception the night before his late father’s funeral, the King singled out Germany’s representative for marked attention. His Majesty made friendly and public overtures to the Nazis last year as Prince of Wales. This at the time flustered Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, who had lucklessly declared that Britain’s frontier was upon the Rhine.

It may have been in 1935, but today the rising might of Germany is more clearly visible. The European balance of power is being further & further upset, and this is the traditional signal for British policy to shift so as to find itself at the new fulcrum. In exalted London circles of birth, finance and politics last week novel and weighty things were being said. One of these was that, sooner than most people think, His Majesty’s Government may be reluctantly obliged to aid in slaking German thirst for more territory. In the city, London bigwigs were to be heard saying with approval that what “they” are now thinking about is to revive the effect of certain obscure pre-War secret treaties and engagements. Under these Britain was to have looked on understandingly while potent Germans obtained as peacefully as possible rich lands in Africa now belonging to impotent Portugal.

Maps of these lands and grave legal comment on the treaty situation are now beginning to appear in London. It is not felt that any of the onetime German colonies now forming an integral part of the British Empire can or should be returned to Germany. In this connection the new King some years ago proved himself sound when a U. S. Senator suggested that since Britain was unable to pay her War debt in cash the Empire might. prefer to dis charge its obligation by ceding the British West Indies to the U. S. in part payment. In Barbados immediately afterward Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, made a vigorous speech which loyal Britons last week recalled with pride in their new King. “The King’s subjects are not for sale to other governments!” he cried. “Their destiny as free men is in their own hands. Your future is for yourselves to shape!”

Apart from such reservations against schemes concocted overseas, His Majesty has said: “The peace of the world depends upon the friendly association of the two great English-speaking peoples. Only the United States and Great Britain working together and in perfect harmony can pre vent the world from drifting into helpless anarchy and barbarism. That is the true mission of our two peoples. I have thought about it a great deal and I know of no other way out.” Analysis of Edward. Decidedly up-to-date, new King Edward analyzes men by the standards of science and, thus analyzed, His Majesty is especially interesting.

Thus far the King’s respiratory system has not shown the House of Windsor’s traditional weakness in the chest which made catching cold a mortal danger to Edward VII and George V.

The circulatory system is vigorous and the glandular balance is such as to make King Edward a man who for 20 years has kept going at a pace which runs his aides-de-camp, his servants and friends ragged.

The new King’s activity is of a different sort from that of the late Prince Consort Albert, who toiled night & day over the lustiest and most arduous matters of state but it does suggest that Edward VIII has stuff in him likely to ripen on the Throne. No woman has ever pleased Majesty unless she was what King Edward calls “snappy” — that is, active, a good dancer, ebullient, high-strung. In horses he has the same taste and the number of ebullient horses which have fallen with His Majesty, spraining his ankle, breaking his collarbone, once kicking him squarely in the face, is further evidence of the stuff in him. In the air King Edward mostly leaves the piloting of his luxurious plane to a professional, playing the genial host to friends above the clouds and shaking cocktails.

Unlike Edward VII, who came to the throne at 59 with many long-cultivated acquaintances among British statesmen, Ed ward VIII is to the Prime Minister and executives of the British Empire almost a stranger — a singularly young-looking man of 41 whom they are accustomed to see pop in at a banquet, toy briefly with cold chicken washed down by Scotch & splash while others chomp the hot roast-beef of Old England, and then, after delivering a brief address, pop off.

It is quite untrue that Edward of Wales always popped off to a night club. He often popped off to rove restlessly and sympathetically about the slums, exclaiming at scenes of squalor “How ghastly!”, but he did pop off, often with Americans and nearly always to points beyond the orbit of those responsible British states men over whom the new King must now reign while they rule. For the sheer energy of this light, lean King the ruled class have a special liking, because to them so many British employers seem languid and over fed. Edward VIII is appropriately a “snappy” King. The extreme difficulty of finding for Britain a future “snappy” Queen among the eligible princesses of Europe is part of the reason why Edward VIII is unmarried.

“When I Am King!” According to the King’s devoted ranching neighbor, biographer and friend in Canada, Mr. Frazier Hunt, Edward VIII is a profound fatalist about his own life and personal affairs. As Prince of Wales, however, he would often vehemently say of his inheritance: “Things will be different when I am King!” Great problems of the Kingdom and the Empire to which Edward VIII has for years given his best thought are: 1) how to promote the sale of British goods; 2) how to combat unemployment; 3) how to minimize the clash of British classes.

As the “Empire Salesman” and the “Prince of Sales” the travels of Edward VIII have been worldwide. Always on returning to London he made strong speeches to British tycoons, rebuking them, in effect, for not resorting to U. S. high-pressure sales methods and clarioning time & again the phrase coined by George V when he was Prince of Wales: “Wake up, England!”

So far as unemployment goes, Edward VIII sensed that the dilemma is so vast as to discourage and paralyze the initiative of many British statesmen. In a most vigorous speech at Albert Hall when he was 37, the future King urged with respect to unemployment, “So far as it is humanly possible, let us break it up into little pieces and refuse to be browbeaten into paralysis by its size!”

To the larger and more ominous question of where the Royal Family is to stand in the event that a really Socialist Cabinet is ushered in, His Majesty gave a clue during the British Coal Strike which precipitated the British General Strike of 1927. At that time the Soviet Government, through the Third International, were pouring some $2,000,000 into British strikers’ funds and Labor leaders in London were publicly exclaiming: “Thank God for Moscow!” With tension extreme, Edward of Wales created a national sensation by dispatching his personal check for $50 to the Somerset Miners Distress Fund with this letter signed by his Comptroller :

“His Royal Highness necessarily cannot take sides in any dispute, but we all owe a debt to the miners in the past, and everyone must feel sympathy for the wives and children in these hours of distress. Besides it would not be a satisfactory end to any dispute that one side should be forced to give in on account of the suffering of their dependencies. His Royal Highness is confident that with good will on both sides there will be a happy issue out of the present difficulties.”

This is commonly cited as the outstanding “Socialist” expression by Edward VIII and it was stretched at the time by some Laborites into an indication that “King Edward the Eighth will be England’s first Socialist King!” Happily last week the nationwide coal strike which has been angrily brewing this winter as miners demanded a daily increase of two shillings was settled as the miners agreed to take one shilling—an auspicious economic opening for His Majesty’s reign.

Victorian Jewel Box. Meanwhile his 500,000,000 subjects can ruffle the pages of English history and survey their previous King Edwards. Too late came Edward VII to be included in that magnificent and useful doggerel The History of England in Rhyme which so many sturdy Victorians still know by heart. In some 400 lines of galloping and definitely learnable verse it equips an Englishman with the history of his country from “great Julius Caesar, B. C. fifty-five.” Gems from this Victorian jewel box apropos the long dead Edwards:

House of Plantagenet

. . . EDWARD FIRST took the crown as his due.

For the wisdom with which he controlled his dominion,

He justly is known as the English Justinian.

He conquered in Wales, named his son as its prince

(The King’s eldest son is so called ever since).

Away from the kingdom he banished the Jews,

And put Wallace to death, acts that none would excuse.

King Edward the First died in thirteen and seven;

To his son, EDWARD SECOND, the crown was then given.

His fav’rite, Piers Giveston, caused discontent,

But, seized by the Nobles, to th’ axe he was sent.

Scotch forces were led by King Robert the Bruce,

Who won Bannockburn’s fight and made thirteen years’ truce.

The fair Queen, Isabella, deserted to France,

Secured foreign troops, on the throne made advance;

Both the Spensers in hate to the gallows they bring,

And within Berkeley Castle they murder the king.

His son, EDWARD THIRD, came the sceptre to hold,

Thirteen twenty-seven, being fourteen years old.

This powerful king warred with Scotland and France;

At Crecy and Poietiers, his son, the Black Prince,

Gained victory and glory, but early expires,

His death by one year antedating his sire’s.

To wars Edward Third by ambition was driven,

Till his death in the year thirteen seventy-seven. . . .

House of York

Through Warwick, the Kingmaker, Richard’s first son

Was crowned EDWARD FOURTH in fourteen sixty-one.

Cruel deeds he enacted throughout his demesne ;

He made Lady Grey, though a subject, his queen.

Earl Warwick rebelled, as this union he hated,

And Henry from prison was then reinstated.

At the battle of Barnet, Earl Warwick was slain,

And Edward the Fourth then continued his reign.

‘Gainst his brother Duke Clarence some charges were found,

‘Tis said, in the Tower in wine he was drowned.

Edward Fourth ceased to breathe in fourteen eighty-three;

His son, EDWARD FIFTH, was the next in degree,

But he and his brother were killed in the Tower. . . .

House of Tudor

King EDWARD THE SIXTH, of Jane Seymour the child,

Accomplished, beloved and in manners most mild,

Began his brief reign when he nine years had seen,

And died of consumption, when aged sixteen. . . .

This was in 1553 and there was no further Edward until 1901—a period of 348 years—when the grandfather of last week’s new King took the Throne as Edward VII and founded the Anglo-French entente which was to defeat Germany. Such was the talent of Victorians that by memorizing only the following 20 lines one has upon tongue-tip all the sovereigns of England from the Conqueror to Victoria:

First came William the Conqueror,

William Rufus, his son,

Henry, Stephen, Matilda,

Henry, Richard and John.

After Henry the Third,

Edwards three, Richard Second,

Henrys Fourth, Fifth and Sixth,

Edwards Fourth, Fifth are reckoned.

After Richard the Third,

Henrys Seven and Eight,

Edward Sixth and Queen Mary,

And Elizabeth date.

James the First and Charles First;

Then with Cromwell they vary;

Charles the Second, James Second;

Then came William and Mary.

Good Queen Anne wore the crown,

Georges one, two, three, four,

William Fourth; and Victoria

Now retains queenly power.

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