Ah Happy Abdication Day. Today.
80 years ago on this very day, Edward VIII (aka ‘David’) did the best thing he ever did in his irresponsible and selfish life – he abdicated. Well, technically, he signed a short letter on December 10th, but the abdication took legal effect on December 11th. A very logical product of the hereditary principle at work, his career and character were mapped out with eerie precision by Keir Hardie on the occasion of his birth forty two years earlier.
By the time of his accession to the throne, David/Edward was completely dominated by Wallis Simpson, a woman whose string of lovers was alleged to have included Nazi ambassador and future Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop. Dave’s abdication was a huge relief to most people who knew him even slightly, although it required a carefully fudged constitutional arrangement on the part of a cabal of commonwealth leaders to put a gloss of continuity upon a peculiar crisis. The accession of George VI (Bertie) was not automatically taken for granted and some suggested that a younger brother, George Duke of Kent might be picked. Although a notoriously promiscuous bisexual drug addict, George had the advantage of being able to make a reasonably fluent speech on the radio. Ho hum. Dynasts can’t be choosers.
As a consequence of the abdication, Britain’s pro-Hitler head of state was replaced by his brother who was merely in favour of appeasing Hitler up to the hilt. Hooray.
The whole strange story illustrates three important things. Firstly, being “trained from birth” to exercise the office of head of state demonstrably does not work and David/Edward is just one fairly typical example of someone for whom such “training” failed to confer any proper sense of civic responsibility. Royal families are structurally dysfunctional and “trained from work” often as not means “traumatised from birth”. Secondly, when monarchy fails spectacularly, we can rely on committees of the great and the good to do their best to paper over the cracks and give a hastily improvised solution the aura of dynastic inevitability. Finally, it shows that monarchy has always and will always capitulate given concerted pressure from the right people. It’s politicians who keep the monarchy going. Left to its own devices, monarchy has a tendency to implode of its own accord.