75 years ago today, on 20th January 1936, the British Empire got a new king. It was Edward VIII who became most famous in the world for his tragic romance with the twice-divorced US-American Wallis Simpson. He was only king until December of the same year when he stepped down and later married Mrs. Simpson. Many people still admire his loyalty to the woman he loved or at least pity him for the “cruelty” of his family and government.
Yesterday I watched a TV documentary which showed the story in a very different light. Obviously the affair with Mrs. Simpson was not the main problem the British government had with him and when they forced him to step down this affair was only secondary. The main reason was that the King proved to be an admirer of Adolf Hitler and tried to influence the British policy accordingly. Even after he had stepped down and left Britain he continued to give all information he received about his country’s policy and military decisions to the Nazis. In return Hitler invited him to Germany and addressed Edward’s wife as “Royal Highness”, a title which the Royal Family denied her. There is evidence that Edward tried to get back on the throne with the help of the Nazis and wanted to establish an absolute monarchy in Britain. After the war he denied his admiration for Hitler and support for his regime.
Fortunately for Britain and the monarchy, his younger brother and successor, King George VI, was a very different sort of man. He was sensible and brave, happily married with two daughters - the older one is now Queen Elizabeth II – and he refused to leave London with his family, even when the German bombs hit the palace, because he wanted to stand by his people. Just recently he became a “film star” by “The King’s Speech” – actor Colin Firth (“Mr. Darcy”) was awarded a Golden Globe for this role.