Thursday, February 5, 2015

Card of the Day: HRH The Prince of Wales

When you're bored with yourself, marry and be bored with someone else

King Edward VIII 

I’ve often written of my dislike for the briefly-reigning King Edward VIII, the one-time Prince of Wales, and later Duke of Windsor. I tend to side with Queen Mary in matters regarding the Royal Family (not that my opinion really matters at all) and tend to keenly feel her disappointment in her eldest son.

But, to be fair, just for a moment, let’s examine the Prince of Wales who is seen here in this 1935 Silver Jubilee card by the Godfrey Phillips Company.

“David,” as he was known within the family was always restless. This was a state of mind which never made sense to his parents—King George V and Queen Mary. The King and Queen were anything but restless. They had their duties, they had each other, they had the empire and they had their family and that was quite enough. Sure, the King and Queen each had their hobbies, shooting and shopping respectively, but at the end of the day, it was a quiet supper en famille which most appealed to them. Prince Edward, on the other hand, yearned for adventure. He was considered quite good looking. Though Mary wasn’t eager to share this with her son, she often wrote to King George just how handsome she thought her fair-haired eldest boy was and that she was pleased that he physically favored, “The old Royal Family.” 

Young Prince Edward
The Royal Collection
David didn’t need his mother to tell him that he was attractive. Everyone else told him. He liked to be told. He liked praise and attention and enjoyed going places where he’d be get both. Sitting at home while his mother sat cataloging her jewels (and truly, this was how Queen Mary spent her evenings) and his father sat smoking and growling to himself about the Empire (which, indeed, is how George spent his evenings), was not appealing. The King was often very vocal (quite violently at times) about his displeasure with his hard-living eldest boy. And, the more the King ranted, the more Prince Edward wanted to be out of the house—typical teenager stuff, but heartily magnified when you’re the Prince of Wales and your dad is the King. What Edward didn’t know was that his mother—though she never said it aloud—often wrote long letters to her husband pleasing with him to be gentler with their son. It didn’t work, but she tried.

Mary, for her part, had no ability to communicate on a personal level with anyone. She was quite shy and inhibited. While she was able to make small talk at parties and while she had no trouble running her myriad charities and talking with her subjects, when it came to talking with her family, she was crippled. This owed a lot to her tumultuous childhood with her egotistical mother and her father, the Duke of Teck, who was, at best, something of a nut. The Queen was very sensitive and loving, but had no means of communicating that. And, so, he children were often left wondering what she was thinking and, when alone with her, would despair that they only talked about vague subjects. Mary’s few attempts to have real conversations with her children were such failures that they would leave her rooms wondering just what had happened.
After the close of the Great War, Mary hoped that “David” would settle down. She had planned to find a way to start to mold him into a proper heir presumptive, but then, her youngest son—Prince John—died during an epileptic seizure. The Queen sank into a private depression. She never spoke of her son’s death. In fact, she rarely ever mentioned him again, but she privately wrote of her secret, deep despair and how it prevented further closeness to her other children.

Meanwhile, the King and Queen couldn’t understand why Britain was so uneasy when they finally had achieved peace. The Prince of Wales began to represent the new sensibilities of the 1920’s—glamour, adventure and excitement. George V and Mary never could understand their son’s sense of boredom. The Queen was the first to point out that she was “never bored.” Yet, “David” was always bored. Always. And, much of the Empire was bored, too.
And so, disappointment built on disappointment. The more the King ranted, the more “David” became bored. He kept questionable company—company which ultimately led to his abdication, and he was, notably, Queen Mary’s deepest disappointment of all.

No comments: