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Feather's Miscellany: Edward - Act 4, Scene 1

Here is the next scene in John Waddington-Feather's play, performed in London last year, which vividly brings to life one of the biggest dramas in British royal history.

Time: July 1936.
Place: Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop’s London residence. The
Prime Minister, Baldwin, is conferring with Archbishop Lang over tea.

Lang: Do try some of this fruit-cake, Mr Baldwin. I may be a bachelor, but I have a
first-class cook and housekeeper who looks after me well.

Baldwin: [Sampling the cake] Excellent, Your Grace. You choose your staff well.

Lang: Rather they choose me. They would better paid if they worked elsewhere,
but they’re very loyal and that for me counts more than money; and speaking
of loyalty, Prime Minister, could we discuss the King and Mrs Simpson?
Their enthusiasm for Nazi Germany disturbs me and has been on
my mind for some time.

Baldwin: Mine, too. It’s a ticklish business, Your Grace. He’s put us all in a
quandary; you with his relationship with…how shall we say?...a woman of
some repute and a divorcee to boot; and myself because of his liaison
with the Nazis. He’s treading on very dangerous ground there and becoming
an embarrassment to the Government.

Lang: I would be more blunt and say he’s landed us in a real mess. War looms
close and there are more serious matter to think about than royal romances,
yet in some ways the two are intertwined. [Slyly} Have you considered,
Prime Minister, that marrying a divorcee might provide an excuse for
his abdicating? An abdication would let us all off the hook.

Baldwin: [Looking up quickly] At present I’m inclined to let things run their course.
His affair with this woman could well fizzle out and he may yet come to his
senses and see Herr Hitler and his hysterical rallies for what they’re worth.
One can only hope that when he’s crowned he’ll view things very differently.

Lang: And what’s your honest opinion, sir, if he goes ahead and marries this woman?

Baldwin: I sincerely hope it won’t come to that, Your Grace, but Parliament may
just tolerate a socialite whore who’s his mistress. The republican
left couldn’t care less who he marries.

Lang: A socialite whore! Strong language, sir!

Baldwin: Strong feelings, Archbishop. Parliament may turn a blind eye if she keeps
well out of sight behind the scenes, but they will never countenance her
sitting by his side as Queen. Not only is she twice divorced but she’s too
close to the Nazis for comfort. Imagine what might happen if the King
shared any sensitive dispatches with her.

Lang: [Bluntly] It must not be. As head of the Church of England he cannot marry
the woman. The monarchy’s standing would be utterly compromised if
the King’s private inclination came before his public duty. {Wryly} What
would nation think if I had a mistress?

Baldwin: [Smiling] Now there’s a thought, Your Grace. [More serious] But it’s
all brewing up at a critical time, just when nation needs unity and
not division. What with Hitler on the move, and Mussolini and Laval in
cahoots with him, we need to be one now most of all. They’re like
hounds baying for blood and it’s our blood they’ll be baying for before we
know it.

Lang: Has the King any supporters in Parliament?

Baldwin: Yes and it’s splitting the Government, though he’s still very popular with the
people. The masses swoon over him, as they swoon over the latest film idol.
He has them in the palm of his hand and he knows it, playing all the time to
the gallery and lapping up their adulation. Then there’s the Parliamentary
faction who supports him, notably Churchill whose an out-and-out royalist,
but he’ll come to his senses once he realises just how much the King is in
Hitler’s pocket. Mosley’s another, and he’s all for the marriage because like
the King he’s pro-Nazi. They’re blinded by Hitler and the charade he puts
on, giving those ridiculous salutes and strutting about at his rallies like a
little turkey cock.

Lang: The German people must also be aware that he’s persecuting the Church as
well as the Jews.; or are they blind to the number of refugees fleeing the country?

Baldwin: They look the other way or they tacitly support what Hitler’s doing; and
from what I’ve heard the King say, I don’t honestly think he has any love for
the Jews either,or for any race other than his own for that matter. He said
some appalling things about the Aborigines when he visited Australia. Our
poor High Commissioner there was mortified.

Lang: What about the Labour Party? How do they view Mrs Simpson?

Baldwin: Atlee told me that while they had no objection to an American or any
other foreigner becoming Queen, he could not approve of Mrs Simpson
because of her reputation; and for the same reason there’s little support for
her outside London in the provinces where the Free Churches are strong
and are more down to earth what they say.

Lang: Thank God for the Methodists and the Baptists! They do have their
have advantages at times. Far better to err on the side of God than
the devil.

Baldwin: However, the most dangerous support for the marriage comes from the
press, who can make or break anyone they wish these days. The
“Daily Express” and “Daily Mail” both support the King vigorously.
They openly say he has the right to marry who he will and are
actively campaigning for support both in Parliament and the country at large.

Lang: So we have a serious problem on our hands, Mr Baldwin.

Baldwin: We have, indeed, Your Grace. We can only hope the King will choose
the throne before Mrs Simpson. If he goes against the Cabinet’s wishes, he
could precipitate a constitutional crisis. We would all resign rather
than countenance this marriage, and as far as I can gather, no other
Party leader will serve under the King if he marries her.

Lang: And just at the time when the country needs to be united.

Baldwin: What’s the feeling within the Church, Your Grace?

Lang: Without doubt he commands a great deal of popularity in the pews, but
the House of Bishops is united in their opposition. Indeed, the Bishop
of Bradford has openly voiced his opposition in no uncertain terms at a diocesan
synod recently and threatened to resign if the marriage goes ahead. I realise
they accept divorce in America as a matter of course, but here we still
regard marriage as sacred. When divorce, even though necessary at times,
becomes commonplace, it cheapens marriage and it’s the Church’s duty
to uphold the sanctity of wedlock. As head of the Church of England the
King should not marry Mrs Simpson, a woman who has not set a very
good example for married life.

Baldwin: We also have the support of the royal family. Mrs Simpson is not popular
with the Queen Mother or with other members of the royal family, but that
seems to count for nothing with the King. He’s always been at odds with
them.

Lang: And he’ll go his own way whatever advice we give.

Baldwin: Neville Chamberlain drafted a memorandum about the King for
Parliament, which I had to suppress.

Lang: Oh? I didn’t know.
Baldwin: He wanted the King to act more like a King and not a playboy and start to
settle down, wearing less outlandish clothes and working harder at his
daily despatches He also wanted him to consult his Ministers before making
public pronouncements; and he requested the King not to make
political remarks off the cuff when the press was present.. They only hamper
our work in Parliament, when heaven knows we’re doing our best to
foster employment and rid the slums from our cities.

Lang: You were right to suppress it, sir. It would have turned the King
completely against us straight into the arms of Hitler.

Baldwin: Best let things run their course, I always say – but try and steer the course in
the right direction.
Curtain

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