A King's Story by The Duke of Windsor
Published 1951 Chapter 5 1911
[The narrator is about to be formally invested as Prince of Wales]
The ceremony I had to go through with, the speech I had to make, and the Welsh I had to speak were, I thought, a sufficient ordeal for anyone. But when a tailor appeared to measure me for a fantastic costume designed for the occasion, consisting of white satin breeches and a mantle and surcoat of purple velvet edged with ermine, I decided things had gone too far. I had already submitted to the Garter dress and robe, for which there existed a condoning historical precedent; but what would my Navy friends say if they saw me in this preposterous rig? There was a family blow-up that night; but in the end my mother, as always, smoothed things over… “Your friends will understand that as a Prince you are obliged to do certain things that may seem a little silly. It will be only for this once.”
observations: Earlier in the book the Duke of Windsor has described how the other young Naval cadets had opened a sash window, thrust his head through it, and brought down the window on his neck, as a “crude reminder of the sad fate of Charles I and the English method of dealing with Royalty who displeased”, so you couldn’t say he was wrong to worry. At least he never had to go through a coronation in stupid robes: this is the Prince of Wales who became Edward VIII, abdicated, and lived out his life as the Duke of Windsor.
It is surprising that this book isn’t better-known and widely read – it seems to be out of print at the moment, and has been published in recent times only by small reprint specialists. But it is unique – how many actual monarchs have produced honest(ish) memoirs, let alone Kings who have been part of one of the biggest British controversies in a century?
He has had a bad press, but it is a sad story, and he does seem to have been treated shabbily. His main problem was that he wasn’t prepared to be hypocritical, and keep divorced Mrs Simpson as his mistress while marrying a suitable princess. And as he points out in this very entertaining book, it was quite hard to find a suitable bride after WWI – the Russian royal family was gone, all Catholics had always been ruled out, and the remaining princesses were mostly German, highly unpopular after 1918.
Links up with: In the notes on this entry, we have Evelyn Waugh wondering about the abdication, and about whether the Duke and Duchess of Windsor regretted it.
The photograph of the Prince in his robes is from this Welsh cultural heritage site.