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Feather's Miscellany: Edward - Act 2, Scene 3

Here is the conclusion of Act Two of John Waddington-Feather's highly readable play concerning the 20th Century crisis threatening the British monarchy.

Time: 1935
Place: The private quarters of King George and Queen Mary at
Buckingham Palace.

Mary: George, my dear, you really must cut down on your smoking. Itís affecting
your chest more and more.

George: It helps calm me, my dear.

Mary: But your coughing gets worse

George: [Sighs] I know, I know, but Iím hooked on the damned things, so I might
as well carry on smoking them. If there wasnít so much stress, Iíd smoke
less, but matters are going from bad to worse every day, and poor
Macdonald looks as if he could go at any time. Heís not a well man and
it saddens me. Iíve great faith in the man for I always felt I could trust him.

Mary: He looked so exhausted the last time he was here.

George: Both of us have worked ourselves to the bone.

Mary: Whoíll replace him?

George: Baldwin again, no doubt, but whoeverís in charge will lead a
coalition. Thereís no place for politics the state the countryís in.

Mary: Iím sure things will improve when the economy picks up.

George: Baldwinís very capable. It isnít as if heís new to the game; yet heís got
an uphill task on his hands; and abroad he has Germany to
deal with. Heaven only knows where that fellow Hitler is leading us. It
doesnít bear thinking of his killing like cattle the very people who brought
him to power. If he murders his own who put him in power where
will it all end? The manís insane!

Mary: I hope nothing like that ever happens here. Itís unthinkable, George.

George: [Gloomily] Thank God the Channel and our Empire keep Europe
at bay. Now that Hitlerís marched into the Ruhr, Germany will
start re-arming, thatís for sure. That madman is determined to take
by force everything he wants even if it leads to war Ė and God help us if
that breaks out again. We all know what happened the last time. [He starts
to cough]

Mary: There, youíve set yourself off coughing again. You take it all far too
seriously, George. Do try not to let yourself get so worked up. It only
makes you ill.

George: [Still coughing] This whole damned business will finish me off.

Mary: Donít say that. We both have plenty of years ahead.
George: Iíve never deceived myself on that score, May. Timeís running out for me
and we both know it..

Mary: Your doctor saysÖÖ

George: My doctor will tell you anything but the truth [He coughs] I know what
my body is telling me and it says I wonít last much longer.

Mary: [Patting his hand] Donít talk like that, my dear. Youíll feel better when
the weather is warmer and you can get out and about more. The new
Prime Minister will cheer you up. Mr Baldwin is such a pleasant man.

George: And heís in better shape than poor Macdonald. Poor chap, he wonít be long
for this world.

[Enter butler]

Butler: Mr Baldwin, the Prime Minister, has arrived, Your Majesty

George: Then please show him in.

[Exit butler}

Mary: Iíll leave you, George, to your business.

George: No, stay, my dear. Itís just an informal visit which we arranged the last
time he was here. Nothing official. Heís only up-dating me about matters
in general.

[Enter Baldwin]

Baldwin: [Bowing] Your majesty. [To Queen Mary] Maíam.

George: [Beckoning Baldwin to a chair] Please take a seat, Mr Baldwin. How are you?

Baldwin: Very well, Your Majesty Ė and a deal better than poor Macdonald. From
what I hear, I fear heís not long for this world.

George: He served us well and didnít deserve the treatment he received from his
own Party.

Baldwin: Indeed, Your Majesty, but Iím afraid thatís politics. But he and I worked
well together through some harrowing times, though Iím afraid weíre still not
out of the wood [Pauses] Your MajestyÖ..

George: Yes?

Baldwin: As a matter of some urgency, Iíd like to speak with you about the Prince
of Wales.

George: Letís not beat about the bush, Mr Baldwin. My son is an embarrassment to
us all. Iíve spoken to him at length about his goings-on and his affairs
but all he says is that itís no business of mine, even though I keep
reminding him of his duty to the country. If heís to become King,
his country must come before self. That has always been the case with
the monarchy.

Baldwin: Of course, sir. That is also the role of Parliament and politicians.

George: And to put it bluntly, Mr Baldwin, my son is a middle-aged Peter Pan.
He hasnít yet grown up. Heís downright immature.

Baldwin: [Smiling] Some of his actions do appear to be immature, sir, and thatís
precisely what I want to discuss with you. Theyíre diving public opinion just
at the time we desperately need unity.

George: I entirely agree, but what do you think, May?

Mary: Heís asked me to receive Mrs Simpson here at the Palace and that I cannot
do. From what Iíve heard of her and her reputation it is out of the question.
I find the woman quite vulgar to say the least.

Baldwin: Iíve heard rumours he wants to marry her, maíam.

Mary: [Sighs] So have I, so what can we do?

Baldwin: Do you want my honest opinion, maíam?

Mary: Of course, Prime Minister. If we are to present a united front against
this woman, we must all be open with each other.

Baldwin: I sincerely hope the Prince will put his responsibility to the throne before
his infatuation with Mrs Simpson. To marry a divorced woman would
precipitate a constitutional crisis at a time when we can least afford one.

George: It may well come to that, Mr Baldwin. He was always hot-headed and
self-willed. Heaven knows how often the Queen and I have tried to dissuade him
from seeing this woman, but to no avail. Heís always gone his own way.

Baldwin: And our problem in Parliament, Your Majesty, is that the Prince has
his supporters there, and very powerful supporters in the press.

George: Who, for heavenís sake?

Baldwin: Churchill, Mosley, Beaverbrook. Theyíve all said the Prince has the right
to marry whom he will; and whatís more theyíre drumming up support for
him.

George: It will finish off the monarchy if he weds this woman.

Baldwin: I wouldnít go so far as to say that, sir. Your majesties are much loved by
the people.

George: [Brightening] You really think so?

Baldwin: Iím certain, sir.
George: I donít know what Iíve done to deserve that. Iím just an ordinary sort
of fellow, yíknow.

Baldwin: Perhaps itís exactly that which has endeared you to the nation. They can
relate to you. Youíre not aloof and your Silver Jubilee was celebrated with
great enthusiasm by everyone. They regard you as the mother and
father of the nation and they hold you in affection.

Mary: How kind of you to say that, Prime Minister.

George: I only wish we had a more responsible Prince of Wales. The example
heís setting the young is appalling. Heís always mixed with the wrong set.

Baldwin: Perhaps the Prince has more in common with the young than with those of
his own age, and the young are a very different generation from ours.

George: Thatís half the problem. The Prince is still acting like someone half his
Age, but he canít go on acting like this for ever Ė not if heís to become King.

Baldwin: Iím sure heíll change, Your Majesty. Heís well liked among the working
classes. If heíd only build on that and be more mature, heíd
a popular King with all.

George: Iíve been thinking seriously about the future. Tell me, Mr Baldwin, if the
worst comes to the worst and he married Mrs Simpson, how would
Parliament and the people react to a morganatic marriage, so that any of
their heirs would not ascend the throne; which would then go to his brother, the
Duke of York, and his children?

Baldwin: I could test the feelings of the Cabinet, sir, and let you know their
response. But remember, we have to take into account also the feelings of
the Dominions and other parties, especially the Church.

George: Indeed. What an infernal position my son has put us all in and just when
we should be directing our efforts at curbing this fellow Hitler. Itís
preposterous what heís doing now, but the frightening thing is that he has
so much support here, including the Prince and his set.

Baldwin: The Mitfords?

George: And others.

Baldwin: But theyíre simply part of the London chatty-chatty set: The mass of people have
no truck with the Nazis.

Mary: Iíve never had any time for London sets. All these coming-out balls and
garden parties I have to attend bore me to death. The people who go there are
so empty-headed.

Baldwin: A provincial like myself canít comment on that, maíam, but nevertheless
these people do have some pull, and they provide the popular papers with
all their scandal. Theyíre full of their doings.

Mary: Like the Princeís?

Baldwin: Heís certainly a celebrity, maíam. Thatís for sure. The young idolise him.

Mary: How vulgar!

George: What does the Church feel about all this? Youíre in regular contact with
the Archbishop, Mr Baldwin.

Baldwin: Archbishop Lang has said openly in the Lords that any King, as head of
the Church of England, should not marry a divorcee, and many bishops,
have voiced their opposition to divorce in no uncertain terms.

George: So the monarchyís prestige will suffer greatly if he weds her?

Baldwin: That is the general feeling, sir.

George: And itís also mine.

Baldwin: Moreover, the Princeís open support of Herr Hitler is also working
strongly against him. Theyíre worried in the House that when the
Prince comes to the throne weíll have a Nazi monarch.

George: Heaven forbid! We can only hope he grows up before then!

Mary: That woman Mrs Simpson is of the same persuasion, too. My
ladies-in-waiting told me some time ago that sheís very close to the
German ambassador Ė whatís the fellowís name?

Baldwin: Von Ribbentrop, maíam.

Mary: Yes, thatís the fellow Ė heís also one of the set the Prince and she move in.

Baldwin: It would be more diplomatic for the Prince to distance himself from
any social contact with the German ambassador just now. People might
think heís already in Herr Hitlerís pocket.

George: You know, Baldwin, all this is making me ill.

Baldwin: Things could be much worse, sir. You take the nationís affairs too much
to heart, when you should be leaving matters to us politicians. Thatís
what weíre here for, sir.

George: [Gloomily] And Iím very grateful for all you do as Prime
Minister, nevertheless, I do worry bout the way the countryís going Ė and
my son doesnít help at all.

Curtain

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