Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A King's Story by The Duke of Windsor

Published 1951  Chapter 5   around 1911





I might add that to the end of his life my father [King George V] upheld his own ideas of fashion against the roads of modern informality. He always kept a frock coat in his audience room at Buckingham Palace , which he would hastily slip on whenever an official visitor was announced. And he had never yielded to the new style in men’s trousers, which introduced what in England were called “turn-ups” and in America “cuffs”. His aversion to this innovation was impressed upon me with almost shattering finality about this time. It happened this way: when I came in to breakfast one morning, dressed in a brand-new suit of which I was rather proud, instead of complimenting me on my taste, my father looked at me in a curious way and suddenly asked, with magnificent irrelevance, “Is it raining in here?” For a second I was speechless; but, when my father repeated the question, with his eyes focused in obvious repugnance on my feet, I realized what he meant: Why turn up one’s trousers in such an absurd manner except to cross puddles? Thereafter, just as my father kept a frock coat handy against the arrival of unexpected visitors, I always kept a pair of old trousers without turn-ups, which I could slip on before I went to see him.



observations:
The 60th anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is being celebrated in the UK this week, so here's a look at the nearly man, who never quite made it to coronation, though he was King briefly before abdicating. 

The picture is of the Duke of Windsor visiting Canada, complete with turnups. He looks like Fred Astaire (who featured last year) - as if he is going to do a little shipboard dancing with that jaunty cane. In fact in the 1936 Astaire/Rogers film Swing Time, turnups or cuffs play a key role – Fred is made to believe that they are a fashion essential, and misses his wedding because he gets drawn into a gambling game while waiting for his trousers to be altered. Not great husband potential there – certainly not compared with a man who would give up the Throne to marry you.

And oh dear – the passage above is how fathers talk to their sons about clothes everywhere and at all times, and yet it is clear from this book that the Prince of Wales (as he then was) had a terrible relationship with his father, but also longed for his approval, his attention, his love.

It’s not clear how much of the book is ghost-written, but it is very well done – very entertaining and he comes over well. The Duke – always a fashion leader – was always credited with popularizing trouser turnups in the UK, though we were surprised to find them introduced so early in the century.

Links up with: The Duke’s memoirs are full of clothes, and so have featured before, while Diana Mitford (Mosley) was funny about Royals, fashion and the Duke's wife Wallis Simpson. Princess Margaret was the Duke of Windsor’s niece. This entry shows Fred Astaire dancing. Last week a blog entry picked an actor to play the Duke.

The photograph is from Wikimedia Commons.

3 comments:

  1. Moira - Ghost-written or not, I do like those books that give some insight into certain people we read about. And that family just has a certain fascination for people.... Now you're making me wonder which articles of clothing my daughter keeps to wear when I visit.. ;-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. You are coming up with too many non-fiction books I want to read. I don't have time. I will have to retire (words my husband cannot hear me say).

    ReplyDelete
  3. Margot: That's a funny idea - it could work the other way, there are children who would change into something deliberately provocative.
    TracyK - yes I know, too many books. The rest of life gets in the way of sensible reading time.

    ReplyDelete