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Feather's Miscellany: Edward - Act 1, Scene 2

John Waddington-Feather continues his five-act play which illuminates the greatest crisis faced by the English monarchy in modern timers.

Scene: The private quarters at the Palace of King George V and Queen Mary.
Time: The late-1920s.

Mary: Itís all very well, George, Davidís keeping on telling us how popular he is with the masses, but people are beginning to talk. When I spoke to the Archbishop last, he told me outright that the Prince is not setting very good example for the young.

George: [Wearily] I know, I know, my love, but there seems little we can do about it. Heís always gone his own headstrong way Ė and the youngÖ well what can any of us say about the young now? The world has gone crazy since the war: no discipline, no sense of propriety. All that young people think about is having a good time, and the way women dress now is frankly disgusting.

Mary: But youíd expect a Prince whoís next in line to the throne to be above all that. He ought to be self-disciplined enough to be above tittle-tattle, but he isnít. Every
day I read in the papers more scandal about him and the women he keeps company with, married women of the most common sort, I might add. And he seems to have predilection for American women of the most vulgar kind. Do you think if we gave him his own home heíd settle down? Perhaps itís living in the Palace with us which unsettles him, and makes him want to gallivant off to the wild parties where he picks up these women. With a home of his own he might marry someone of his own station and settle down.

George: If we suggest anything he does just the opposite and itís getting me down, May. You know, my dear, there are times when I earnestly pray heíll never marry and
that Bertie and his wife will take over the throne one day. Theyíre ideally suited and the people love their children, Lillibet and Margaret.

Mary: Youíre right. Bertie is so balanced and level-headed, a good husband and father, completely different from his brother right from the start.

George: David is so easily taken in and itís almost like history repeating itself. When I was young Iíd enough to contend with, embarrassed by my father flirting with every woman he met and gallivanting off to Paris to the brothels. My poor mother! How she put up with it I canít imagine; and now our eldest son seems to be going the same way.

Mary: Your father had a vulgar streak in him, George, which I never liked. Your mother once told me heíd an eye for the maid-servants wherever he stayed, and though she put a brave face on it, it upset her. He led her a dogís life.

George: Mama was as hard as steel and never dropped her guard. I never really got to know her, May, nor my father, their generation was so hard and unfeeling. I hope Iíve been a better father to my children. My parents terrified me and it seems almost unbelievable now how they brought me up; packing me off into the navy at the age of twelve, where I stayed till I sent to university. Of course, after the navy I wasnít cut out for Cambridge at all and didnít last long there. I was no academic. All my learning had to come from life, but Iíve tried to give my own children a more rounded education; and thatís what grieves me about David
and the way heís living it up with the fast set. Heís nothing more than a parasite on the public purse, and it grieves me deeply, May.

Mary: Rings the bell] Now, my dear, donít go fretting so about David. You know your health isnít good and worry will only make you worse. Thereís little we can do about Edward now.

[Enter maid with more tea. She curtsies and puts a plate of cake on the table]

George: Ah! Apple cake. My favourite. Thank you, Betsy.

Maid: Will that be all, maíam?

Mary: For the time being, Betsy. (Maid curtseys and leaves). Sheís a good girl, George. Quiet and efficient. Not given to tittle-tattle like so many of the servants.

George: [Sampling the cake] The cook who made this is first-class, too. Itís delicious.

Mary: Donít eat too much, George. We donít want you ill again. [George takes a cigarette from a silver box on the table] And Iíd rather you didnít smoke in here, my dear. Itíll only start you off coughing and your doctor said you mustnít smoke if youíre to breathe more easily.

George: [Gloomily] All the doctors tell me to do is to stop eating and drinking what I like most and stop doing what I enjoy most.

Mary: [Smiling] Thatís what doctors are there for. If you really must smoke, George, do it in the grounds when you take your stroll.

(George puts the cigarette back in the box]

George: [Coughs into his handkerchief, then puts his hand on hers] You fuss me like a nurse, but you know, May, Iíve never lost my love for you.

Mary: [Holding his hand] We need each otherís love, George, for thereís precious little of it in the world right now. Weíve gone through a lot together, my dear, and in our position we never know if all the deference and bowing and scraping is false. Yes, George itís reassuring to have each other still and know the love we share is genuine.

George: [Patting her hand again] Monarch or not, thatís all a man wants from his marriage. As you say, weíve been through thick and thin together: through a dreadful war, which saw my cousins lose their thrones, and now when our own country and Europe are in turmoil again it seems nothing has changed. We need each other more than ever.

[They sip their tea]

Mary: Tell me, George, why were you so short with your secretary this morning? I heard you ticking him off.

George: I didnít like the way he referred to the Welsh strikers. He called them revolutionaries.

Mary: That was rather harsh.

George: Yes and I told him so. I said: ĎTry living on their wages before you judge them.í Poor fellows. Theyíre starving and itís all very well for people like us sitting with full bellies when the poor are growing in numbers every day. We give what we can but itís a pittance compared with what they really need. Only the Government can do anything about that.

Mary: Youíre a kindly man, George, and your people love you.

George: But one has to be so discreet. If youíre seen helping one charity you have the rest on your doorstep clamouring for money. If David would only concentrate more on his public work and not dilly dally with his women and the fast set, heíd gain us all more respect. You know, May, I do believe if given half a chance heíd go to Hollywood and be a film star. Heís a celebrity, not a Prince and until he learns how to live with dignity, heíll never be a King. Still, with his generation, good taste and dignity have gone out the window At times I think the worldís gone mad!

Mary: But every generationís different, dear. Look how different we were from our parents'

George: That may be, but thereís such a thing as tradition, which puts the brake on too much change. Thank God the Church and our Forces stick to their traditions. Without them our nation would fall apart.

Mary: And as King and Queen we have our part to play, too.

George: But that will all go when David is crowned King. Youíll see, after Iím gone his wild ways will put all the family in jeopardy. Once heís King, he will ruin the Crownís reputation within twelve months. Britain could easily become a republic like Russia the way heís going.

Mary: I think youíre exaggerating, my dear. Heís simply sowing a few wild oats.

George: Which he ought to have stopped sowing. Heís no longer a boy. Heís into his thirties and should have grown up long ago. Everyoneís tittle-tattling about him and his goings-on. I just donít understand him. None of our other children are like that. Why canít he settle down like them?

Mary: Iím sure he will.

George: Itíll be too late when the monarchyís gone. Look whatís happened in the rest of Europe? Greece, Austria, Germany, Italy, Russia have all lost their monarchs. Weíre hanging on here by a thread and the way heís behaving David will snap it. [Pauses] You know, my dear, in his heart of hearts I donít believe David wants to become King. Heís far happier playing the rancher in Canada Ė or being the playboy in Europe.

Mary: David is well thought of in the Empire; and you, my dear, in your state of health you could never have made the long journeys heís made on your behalf. Heís helped
hold the Empire together.

George: Iíll grant you that, May. Perhaps we should send him off abroad more often where he canít womanise. [Knock on the door] Yes, come in. [Maid enters and curtseys]

Maid: Your majesty, the Prince of Wales has arrived and asks if youíre free to see him.

George: Talk of the devil! Send him in, please.

[Maid curtseys and exits. Enter Edward, who bows to his father, then kisses his mother lightly on the cheek before turning back to his father]

Edward: I heard you werenít well and that you wanted to see me, father.

George: I havenít been at all well these past few days. [Points to the cigarette case] Iím sure itís these damned things, but once youíre hooked oníem itís impossible to give up. Anyway, they relax me and goodness know I need calming these days. Affairs in the country go from bad to worse.

Edward: You take your work too seriously, father.

George: A King can never take his work too seriously, David. Thatís what heís there for and itís about that I want to speak with you.

Mary: Do you want me to leave, George?

George: No, my dear. Iíd rather you stayed. What I have to say concerns all of us.

Edward: [Guardedly] Itís about my lady friends, isnít it?

George: Exactly, David. Iím hearing such bad reports about you, which is not good.

Edward: From the Prime Minister and his cabinet?

George: From many quarters, David.

Edward: Oh? But Iíd like to guess our prudish Prime Ministerís first on the list.

George: Heís only doing his duty and relaying whatís being gossiped about you.

Edward: So heís logging my private life, eh?

George: [Warmly] Heís trying to maintain the integrity of the throne for its own good. To make sure the monarchy remains a symbol of right living in the eyes of the nation. To set an example for young and old alike. In short, to make sure we survive.

Edward: The old didnít set much of an example sending the young to their deaths during the war, did they?

George: I didnít ask you to come here to lecture me about the rights and wrongs of the last war. We did our best to stop it.

Edward: But not enough. The crowned heads of Europe could have done a lot more to stop that carnage, but they didnít. They stood back and watched it all happen.

George: [Angrily] Damn you, David! I forbid you to talk like this. We were all to blame for that war; the people as much as their leaders. They wanted war and it was too late to stop it once it started. There were no winners.

Edward: Only losers Ė and Germany most of all, but theyíre bouncing back under Herr Hitler.

George: [Sternly] And thatís what I wanted to speak to you about, David. As well as your women, Iím very concerned about your attitude to the Nazi Party in Germany. You ought to know that I and the Prime Minister have warned our ambassador in Berlin not to appease Herr Hitler or liaise with him in any way. Heís a very dangerous man and we donít trust him - or his advisers. You, David, will steer well clear of that man and his hangers on, like the Mitfords and Mosley. Do you understand?

Edward: (Sullen] Is that an order, sir?

George: It is. Youíre treading on very thin ice showing any support at all for the Nazis.

Edward: [Angrily] Am I to have no mind of my own? Am I to have no opinions on anything?

George: Thatís a privilege no monarch is allowed Ė leastways in public. What we think about in private, we keep to ourselves and those we can trust. We cannot escape the destiny of birth no more than those born to poverty whom it is our duty to help. Our minds, like all else, are for the good of the kingdom we rule; not to promote ourselves in the eyes of others.

Edward: Rule, sir! The monarchy no longer rules here. We are merely the puppets of Parliament.

George: Indeed not! You over-reach yourself, David. We are not puppets, we are co-workers and advisers.

Mary: And more, David. One would hope we are the focus of love among our people. When our subjects cease to love us, it is time to go.

Edward: [Sulkily] And supposing I donít want to be King. Have I no say in anything?

Mary: Does anyone have much say in what they do or how they live? We rely on each other and serve each other. Many of our servants have lived and worked here all their lives. They would have it no other way. All we can do is make the best of whatever station in life weíre in and try to improve it.

Edward: And itís that attitude which will bring this country down Ė as has happened elsewhere Ė Russia, Austria and the rest. Weíre a class-ridden society.

George: Every society has its pecking order. Even Bolshevik Russia. Take away hierarchy and you have anarchy. You must always have leaders, but itís up to the leaders not exploit those they govern.

Edward: Benevolent despotism?

George: No. Kindly rulers, who do their best and take on board responsibility, which at present you donít appear to have. Your affairs are being tittle-tattled in the vulgar press across the world and bring us into disrepute.

Edward: [Angrily] My personal life has nothing to do with you, sir, or anybody else.

George: Rubbish! Utter rubbish, boy! As royals our personal lives are always under scrutiny. Monarchy stands or falls by what the nation thinks of them.

Edward: And what has the nation made of monarchy in the past? They seem to have survived whatever the nation thought of them. Indeed, our Church of England was founded on divorce by a womanising monarch who fell out of favour with half his kingdom as well as the Pope.

Mary: Please calm down, the pair of you. We have enough to cope with without quarrelling among ourselves.

Edward: Iím sorry, mama, but Iím fed up with people trying to run my life. Iíll live my life the way I want to.

George: [Wearily] Then youíll lose the throne.

Edward: So be it, if thatís the case. I always have my ranch in Canada to pull back to.

George: [Sarcastically] Youíd make a worse rancher than you would a King.

Edward: [To his mother] I seem to have out-stayed my welcome, mama, so Iíll leave now before we begin arguing again. Itís every time I visit we argue, so Iíll take my leave and be gone [Bows to the king and his mother, then exits]

Mary: You look pale, my dear.

George: Iím not surprised. Edward winds me up each time he visits. Why, oh why canít he be like his brothers and sister? Any one of them is more fitted to rule than he. Why must he be so wayward?

Mary: Iím sure heíll change when he becomes King.

George: Heíll never change. But one day heíll have to choose between himself and the throne, thatís for sure.

Curtain

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