Monday, August 04, 2008

The Churchill Series – Aug. 4, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill)

I said I’d post this week concerning Churchill and his role in King Edward VIII’s abdication crisis. Now I hesitate to do that. Here’s why:

As I read on the subject this weekend I saw some aspects of the crisis could be easily explained. For example, there was no legal impediment to the King’s marrying Wallis Simpson. Edward was free to marry the twice divorced American socialite and still remain King by right of birth and accepted ancient precedents of royal succession.

But Edward would not have been able to reign as a constitutional monarch who held the throne not only in the name of God, but of the people of Great Britain and the Dominions.

It was Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin’s strong, unqualified threat to resign rather than accede to a marriage he knew would be hugely unpopular in Britain and the Dominions (I’ve read that was the opinion of the head of every dominion state) that created what we call today, somewhat erroneously I think, “the abdication crisis.”

The King could have kept his relationship with Wallis Simpson, a relationship most in “court circles” had known about for years. Baldwin would have raised no objection. But the King insisted on marriage to “the woman I love.”

At that his First Minister would resign and so would his other Ministers.

Baldwin would then call a general election, the results of which would certainly have gone against the King.

So, assuming Edward had persisted with his marriage plans, he would’ve had to look to a hostile Parliament for his Government's Ministers.

Since almost all Polarimetry figures supported Baldwin’s position – and not because of short-term political considerations, but from deep beliefs concerning what was a suitable marriage for the Head of the Church of England and the vital importance in a constitutional monarchy of public respect and affection for the Crown – the best Edward could have hope for was a rump government.

That was the brink he was bringing his Crown and Country to; and from which he finally stepped back and abdicated.

I’ll say more tomorrow about the difficulty I have understanding and explaining Churchill’s position – really positions – during the crisis.

Reader advice is always welcome.


Jim in San Diego said...

Winston Churchill was fanatically loyal to his friends, and to a set of ideas he held about British royalty. His wonderful mind was almost medieval in his fealty to these ideals.

Perhaps the best analogy is to religious faith. Those who have it are unshakeable. So was Winston.

Jim Peterson