28th April 2012. Letters Carry Long Shadows.
In 1936, Archbishop, Cosmo Gordon Lang was the ’eminence grise’ behind the abdication of Edward VIII, in his jaundiced view of the immorality of the King’s proposed marriage to Mrs Simpson, a divorcee, and in his attempt to restore the Church’s authority in a changing society.
However it back-fired, as Lang in a radio message, after the King’s abdication, showed him as narrow, hypocritical and vindictive, which had the opposite effect of what the Archbishop wanted to achieve.
The controversy was revived Today in 2012 when a Daily Mail’s article published a revealing letter, hidden for 76 years, from Lang to Geoffrey Dawson, the Editor of The Times, and Prime Minister Baldwin, in which he plotted to topple the yet to be crowned, Edward VIII.(1)
In the indecipherable letter, Lang accused Edward of insanity, alcoholism and personal mania all of which was to foment the abdication crisis.(2)
Lang had decided that the King was not fit for purpose: ‘He had stopped looking at state papers’, and Lang recoiled from ‘consecrating him as King’. Which wasn’t to happen in any case.
The Archbishop was clear that Edward, who had acceded to the throne on January 20th 1936 after the death of his father George V, could not retain it, if he married a woman twice divorced.whose husbands were still living.
The picture below was drawn in advance of the expected coronation, for the Illustrated London News, but shelved and only recently discovered.
Supporters of Edward, including Churchill, suggested that Mrs. Simpson could be made Duchess of Cornwall on marrying Edward VIII but not become Queen. That was the idea King Edward put to his mother, Queen Mary widow of George V.
This notion was relayed to Lang on December 1st 1936, who went to see Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin the two days’ later.
However then Baldwin told the Commons that there was no such thing as a ‘morganatic marriage’, as the King envisaged: on December 5th, Edward decided to abdicate on the 10th.
He became the Duke of Windsor and left with $50m in jewels, to be exiled in Paris, with liveried servants, a tax free allowance and money siphoned from Duchy of Cornwall into offshore investments.
The rest is history, but it left his stammering brother George to inherit the throne, a job for which he was totally unprepared for.
On the outbreak of war after a brief period with the military mission in France, Edward fled to Spain after the Germans had broken through Holland and Belgium, where they hatched a plot to kidnap him with a view to making him a puppet monarch.
He stayed at the Ritz Madrid, when Fascist Franco was ruler, until exiled to the Bahamas in August 1940.
He and his spouse spent the rest of their lives in Paris, no doubt enduring boring luncheons and dinners with dress makers and jewellers, nobody else would go near.
(1) Article by Claudia Joseph’s, ‘Madness of King Edward VIII’.
The letter was discovered at Lambeth Palace by Rev Robert Beaken when researching his book (see below).
(2) Lang quotes another close sources as to the King’s mental state.’He was a depressed adolescent…worryingly unsafe, he could be certified.’ (Lord Wigram George V’s Private Secretary). Also courtier Sir Alan Lascelles had remarked that: ‘Certain cells in his brain have never grown.’
Ref: That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Anne Sebba, Weidenfield & Nicholson 2011.
Ref: dailytelegraph.co.uk/Edward-VIII-portrait-uncovered. Pic. Ref.
Ref: Edward VIII: A Plot to topple a King: Channel 4 (9 pm May 2012).
Ref: Cosmo Gordon Lang: Archbishop In War and Crisis, Rev Dr Robert Beaken published, I.B. Taurus, October 2012.