He Will Be King
A frank discussion of H. K. H. The Prince of Wales7 qualifications for the role of Edward VIII
THE scene is the terrace at Windsor Castle. King Edward VII is talking to one of his ministers when a small boy in a sailor suit rushes across the lawn below them, chasing a barking spaniel. Watching them, the “Peacemaker” turns to the statesman at his elbow and says quietly, “There goes the last King of England!” The child was Prince Edward, now H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.
Will King Edward VII’s prophecy come true? And will the Prince ever ascend the British Throne? The answer to the query is, Yes—most emphatically he will. And now I will proceed to show you why.
I suppose that if you were to take any ten men in any part of the British Empire, North and South America, or Western Europe, and were to ask them who were the dozen most popular men in the world, nine out of every ten would include in their list H.R.H. Edward David, Prince of Wales.
“Prince Charming,” “Our Smiling Prince,” “The Most Popular Young Man in the World,” “A Regular Feller”—these are but a few of the names that have been applied to him in the past and show every sign of still being applied to him in the future. And the most typical feature of them all is that they consider the Prince of Wales always as a “young man.” For the last fifteen years the Prince of Wales has been referred to in the newspapers as a young man, and there is no evidence that this description will be altered within the next fifteen years.
Yet already the Prince of Wales is thirty-five years of age, and in actual years he is far from being a young man now; he is already mature. In another fifteen years he will be fifty, yet I do not mind making a small wager that he will still be the most popular “young” man in the world then as now.
This is a very dangerous description to apply to one who has already reached years of discretion, and may at any time succeed to the most responsible heritage in the world. Yet, to suggest for one moment that the Prince is not a young man of twenty-one, but a serious man of thirty-five would immediately reduce the prestige of any newspaper in the British Empire.
It is about time we removed the scales from our eyes and looked at the matter in a sensible light. This “young man” stunt, though it is supported by the tradition of fifteen years, and exists, as I have good reason to know, with the consent and almost with the
connivance of the Prince’s staff at St. James’s, is one of the most harmful influences toward the throne today.
Why All This Camouflage?
TN SPITE of the Prince’s almost overwhelming
popularity, there is a feature about it which they take very good care shall not get into the papers. That feature is as strong and as typical as the popularity itself, and just because of the conspiracy of silence between the pundits of Fleet Street and the tacticians of the Princely staff, it is more dangerous than it would have been if it were decently aired and brought out into the light of day.
The Prince of Wales is a heritage of the people of England as surely as is Westminster Abbey or the Crown Jewels, and the people of England have the first right to know every feature of the life of their future King.
That is why it seems to me that whatever is behind this suspicious conspiracy of silence should be brought out fully into the daylight and discussed in a sensible spirit, instead of being rigorously hushed up. Such discussion can do no harm to the Prince of Wales and it may do incalculable good.
Anyone who has read thus far through this article will know what I am going to talk about. Though nine out of ten men will choose the Prince of Wales as one of the dozen most popular men in the world today, the moment you ask them whether they think that the Prince of Wales will be in time King Edward VIII they begin—I was going to say—to hum and haw, but actually they do nothing of the kind. Nearly everyone of them will tell you immediately, and with an air of the greatest mystery, that they personally do not think that the Prince of Wales really entertains tha wish to come to the-throne at all.
They talk of this as if it were their own particular secret: a sort of “Well, I have a friend who moves in the most exclusive court circles, and he had it from a friend who had it from the Prince himself.”
Yet though every other ordinary man to whom you talk says the same thing, the existence of such an impression has never yet been discussed in either the daily papers or the magazines.
It is quite time that it was.
Let us look at the matter quite frankly and see how this very common impression has grown up.
This “Democratic” Business
IN THE first place it is to a certain extent the fault of the Prince himself and his advisers. He has taken as his cue “Our Democratic Prince,” and he has done things that ordinary men do, and done them well. That is what has caused some of his abounding popularity. But his grandfather did all that and more when he was Prince of Wales; yet no one suggested that Edward VII did not want to come to the throne. They even went so far as to say later, if not at the time, that Edward VII was almost too anxious to come to the throne. And the blame for the attitude that people take up about the present Prince of Wales is not so much the fault of himself as the fault of the stupid unimaginative publicity given him by the journalistic big-wigs of England. The British press has got it firmly into its head that the Prince of Wales is to be run as a democratic side-show, and that any other feature of his duties is to be ignored.
In the days when Edward VII was Prince of Wales, the tradition of respect for the throne was too great to be overcome by descriptions of him behaving as an ordinary man, and plenty of stress was laid on the fact that he could, and very frequently did, behave with all the dignity that is required of a prince.
With the present Prince of Wales things are very different. You may read of him dancing at a night club, playing golf with Variety stars, wearing a white waistcoat with a dinner jacket or romping with boy scouts at the Jamboree; but never under any circumstances will you read of him behaving as a prince.
The press has decided that the Prince of Wales is the “world’s most democratic young man,” just as it has decided that Princess Elizabeth is the world’s most beautiful baby, Rudolph Valentino was the world’s most perfect lover, and Charlie Chaplin the world’s best wearer of ridiculous boots.
It has ranked the Prince of Wales as it ranks film stars, and it will only allow him to play one part, and that is the part of a democratic young man, with all the venial sins of ordinary young men, all the uninteresting virtues of ordinary young men, and absolutely none of the dignity of a prince.
He’s Not Like That
"MOW fifteen years close personal knowledge of the Prince of Wales has shown me that he is as much like the newspaper idea of himself as he is like a performing clown. Certainly he has most of the characteristics of an ordinary likeable man, rather young for his thirty-five years; but in addition to that he has a fund of dignity that is quite sufficient to carry him through any of those duties that would fall to him as King of Great Britain, and already he exercises that dignity on state occasions.
But no hint of that dignity gets into the papers. Oh no! The Prince of Wales is our democratic young man, and it would be as much a heresy to suggest that he was either capable of dignity, or enjoyed being dignified, as it would be to suggest that Princess Elizabeth had a wart on her nose, or that Rudolph Valentino was a gifted knock-about comedian.
The tragedy of the whole matter is that not only does the Prince of Wales enjoy being dignified—he told me personally that he was looking forward to the State ceremonial of his brother’s wedding—but also he refuses to recognize the amount of harm that this press “democratic young man” publicity is doing him.
At one time of the Prince’s life one of his private amusements was to read through at breakfast the newspaper reports of what he had been doing the night before; or sometimes he would defer the process until some of his most intimate friends were present. “Oh,” I remember him saying on one occasion, “so that’s what I was doing yesterday, was it? Telling a housewife in the Midlands the kind of cakes my mother makes. To the best of my knowledge my mother has never made a cake
since I was born, and so far as I know she couldn’t if she tried. Oh, well, I suppose these newspaper fellows know their own business best.”
That is the attitude the Prince of Wales takes about it. He knows that the reports about his doings which appear in the newspapers are generally ridiculous, but he “supposes that these newspaper fellows know their own business best.” Nothing will persuade him that actually they are doing an incalculable amount of harm to his future prestige for the purpose of bolstering his present popularity, which is in no need of artificial support.
If only the Prince of Wales were described as being the sort of man he really is, instead of a democratic puppet, his popularity would be nearly as high as it is at present, and there would be no more of this “open secret” that he does not want to come to the throne.
After All, He’s Human
T) UT though half the blame for this lies with the British press in reporting only the dignified things that he does, or more often does not do, the Prince of Wales is not entirely blameless himself.
He has the normal desire of every man to have a good time as long as he can, and he realizes that after he is King his dancing at night clubs, week-ends at golfing house parties, and long hunting trips will no longer be possible. He, therefore, decides to make the most of his opportunities while they are here. So have most other princes, though not to the same extent as the Prince of Wales. But the blame of this again rests largely with the press. In the first place, as part of their silly democratic notion about the Prince of Wales they blazon forth the fact to every person in the kingdom, if by any chance the Prince of Wales does visit night clubs; and in the second place, by reason of this “bright young man” tradition that they have built up, the Prince himself is quite firmly convinced that people like to read about him going to night clubs, and that therefore he ought to follow his normal inclinations and go to night clubs. If for one moment he could be persuaded to believe that this night club reputation is doing him irreparable harm as the future Sovereign, he might stop going to them tomorrow. Of that I am convinced, for the Prince of Wales has himself often said that he is beginning to
find dancing a “bit of a bore.”
The Marriage Question
' I 'HE trouble is, of -*• course, that the press has invented a character for the Prince of Wales, and he feels that it is his duty to live up to it to a certain extent, particularly when his own inclinations happen to run in the same direction. There is another question that the public asks itself. “If the Prince of Wales wishes to be King, why does he not marry at once and get it over?”
That is not quite such a stupid question as it sounds; for although there are a great many husbands in this country who have not married until they were on the other side of forty, there have been very few princes in the history of any royal family who have not been husbands and fathers before they were out of their twenties. It therefore strikes the public as strange that the Prince of Wales should be so striking an exception to this regal rule.
The answer to the public’s question is stated in terms of the greatest admiration by the daily press: “The Prince of Wales has not yet fallen in love!”
That answer is substantially true, though it might perhaps be more accurate if it were framed instead that the Prince of Wales has not yet fallen in love with a suitable wife. With his opportunities for meeting the most beautiful and the most interesting women of four continents, it would only be natural for him to have been attracted quite strongly by some of his acquaintances. But though we are prepared to welcome a democratic prince, we are not willing equally to welcome a democratic future Queen. The Duke of York has certainly married outside the royal families of Europe, and a similar match on the part of the Prince of Wales would probably be enthusiastically received.
But there are very few young women today who are as eligible as the Duchess of York to be the future Queen of England, and to none of them has the Prince of Wales been tempted to plight his troth.
Now it is all very well saying that the marriage of the Prince is a private matter that affects himself alone, but actually it is nothing of the kind. The public has a perfect right to say to the Prince of Wales, “It is time that you married. There is England’s future Queen to be thought of, and there is the succession to the throne to be provided for. Therefore you must marry at once.” But the public, though it may whisper these very words to its next door neighbor, will not for a moment dare to speak out, and the old sycophantic story in the press of the “democratic young man who has not yet fallen in love” goes on. Certainly there is something romantic and attractive in the idea for a prince, but there is nothing to commend it in a future king.
But the Prince of Wales, brought up on this same theory that runs through newspaperdom, and through his own staff and publicity managers, is quite unable to appreciate these whispers that go on in the corners of the drawing-rooms and the smoking rooms of the country. He feels that he has the right to please himself about his marriage, and no one attempts to disillusion him. If once he realized the true state of affairs behind this veneer of sentimentality, I guarantee that he would be wed within a year.
“Will the Prince of Wales come to the Throne?” The answer is Yes—most emphatically Yes. He wishes to, himself; he has all the dignity required to make him suitable to do so. He is not trying to throw up the sponge and hand over the job to the Duke of York.
But the newspapers quite unwittingly are trying to throw up the sponge for him. They picture him as a rather foolish, eminently likable, quite undignified, democratic young man, with no ideas of the qualities of kingship, and a determination to enjoy himself. They even regard these qualities as admirable in every way. Let this idea go on much longer and the very prestige of the throne will be in danger.
Plain speaking is required today.
What we must do is to make the newspapers realize that they are setting up the wrong legend about the Prince. We must make the Prince realize that he must not live down to the Fleet Street legend. And then perhaps the public will realize that the Prince of Wales not only has all the dignity of bearing and seriousness required in the King of Great Britain, but also that there is no man in England more keen on filling the post.
Then at last there will be no more of this pernicious cant in the papers and this unsavory innuendo in the smoking rooms and parlors.
Hush! Someone Told Me . . .
' I 'HEN—while we are about it—there
is another little business which gives the whisperers in corners no end of a kick. I mean those charming little tales and rumors that are so frequently hawked about, bearing on the Prince’s personal life.
There are no two opinions about the efficiency of the Prince of Wales as heir to the throne. He is slightly over ninety per cent efficient, which is pretty good for a business man, whatever his business may be. The remaining ten per cent of inefficiency is due to the fact that in spite of all that his press agents may say, he is human after all—and thank God for it!
If he were the perfect Prince there
would not be these little whisperings that can be heard about him. You know the sort of thing I mean. Someone takes you on one side and says: “You know, of course, that the police were going to raid the Forty-Three Club last night, but they had to put it off because the Prince of Wales was there.” Or, “I see by the papers that the Prince has just returned from his week-end at Le Touquet. I wonder what the attraction is there; they say that it is so-and-so.”
Now that sort of thing in this prince business is inefficiency. There is little enough foundation for the whispers in most cases, but the very fact that they are heard, shows that the Prince of Wales, though he may be Prince Charming, and have a brand of cigarettes christened after his nickname, is not quite all that he should be in his particular line as-heir to the throne.
Of course there is a precedent for this sort of thing even in the Royal Family. His grandfather Edward VII even appeared in the law courts as a witness in that most unsavory case of the Tranby Croft scandal, and I may safely say that he was none the less efficient as the King of Great Britain for his youthful indiscretions.
King Edward VII during his youth as Prince of Wales, had the misfortune to get into the wrong set. Owing to sheer bad luck some of that came out in the courts of law, and though it was hushed up as diplomatically as possible, there was no doubt in the minds of his subjects, that his acquaintanceship with a set where gambling was clearly a possibility was not quite the sort of thing that was expected from an heir to the throne.
When all this came out in court the impression created in the country was most unfortunate, and it took a great deal of living down on the part of King Edward. The crucial point is, however, that it was lived down, and lived down comparatively easily, so much so that King Edward was one of the most popular monarchs that ever occupied the throne.
"M^OW H.R.H. Edward Prince of Wales
' has no such scandal to live down. All things considered, when one realizes how excruciatingly boring a great deal of his official life must bé, he has been remarkably successful in avoiding the least breath of scandal. But naturally there are always malicious tongues ready to wag to his discredit.
This is only too common a feature of journalism today. Even the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, whose life might well have been expected to be above rumor, was grossly slandered after his death, and only the courage of his sons in attacking the slander has left his reputation unsmirched for postérity.
Now the Prince of Wales suffers-under a disadvantage that no commoner or peer ever feels. He can take no action against slanderers. Certainly he has a right to take action, and later when he is king he will have a right, in theory, to arbitrary action of which the courts could take no notice.-
But though the Prince of Wales at present has the right to take ordinary legal action against slanderers through the law courts, and later, when he has succeeded to his father, he will in theory be able to take any sort of arbitrary action that he pleases, yet in point of fact he can do nothing of the sort.
It would be quite incompatible with the dignity of the throne to take any notice of malicious slanders that were printed against his name; and that is why not only do enterprising journalists invent stories to his discredit, but also why the Prince of Wales has to be. more careful
than any other man in the world to avoid the least suggestion of scandal. “Be thou as pure as ice, as chaste as snow, thou canst not escape calumny.”
The Prince’s Keepers
\yfOST people think, because they have heard in the newspapers that the Prince of Wales enjoys more liberty than any other prince in the history of his country, that he able to follow his own inclinations in those hours that he can call his own. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Actually the Prince is under greater surveillance than a certified lunatic. Only because he has been brought up to it, does he not rebel every other day, and kick over the traces to do something that would ruin his reputation for ever.
If you look in Whitaker’s Almanac under the heading of “The Household of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales,” you will find a list of half-a-dozen names of his staff; private secretaries, comptrollers, equerries and other officers.
You probably think that these men are employed only to look after the vast amount of clerical and official business that the Prince of Wales is obliged to undertake. Actually perhaps the greatest part of their job is to see that the Prince of Wales does not get into mischief! Mischief, from the point of view of the Prince of Wales’ staff, consists in their charge enjoying himself as an ordinary young man of his station.
I remember one occasion at a charity ball in London. There happened to be a famous musical comedy star there whom the Prince of Wales had met several times. She was a woman who had delighted the whole of London with the grace of her dancing feet. The Prince of Wales, who has been to thousands of charity balls, entered at the appropriate time, smiling, but under the smile looking phenomenally bored, an expression which, if you observe him very carefully, you will often find under his tactful smile. His eyes just do not smile as well.
After he had shaken hands with all the proper people and expressed his delight at being present, he glanced round the ballroom with a look that said, “Now who on earth can I find here who can dance decently?”
His glance lighted on the musical comedy star, and his face lit up. He went over to her and asked her for a dance. They started dancing, and until the music stopped the Prince looked as if he were enjoying himself at last. He stayed by her and talked to her during the interval, and when the band started again he was just escorting her to the floor for another dance when an equerry made his appearance. A few whispered words passed between them, and the Prince begged his partner to excuse him, while he hurried over to another portion of the room. He danced with several other partners before he left, but not again with the musical comedy star, and I noticed that though his lips were parted in a smile, there was no trace of enjoyment in his eyes.
That is precisely what is happening wherever the Prince goes. He plays a round of golf at Le Touquet with Mrs. So-and-so, who is there without her husband. She is one of the most attractive women of the younger set, and anyone would be delighted to have a chance of playing with her. But unfortunately her reputation has just a suspicion of blemish about it. When, after the round, the Prince meets his equerry again, the equerry conveys to him tactfully that he had better find another partner next time, and in nine cases out of ten the Prince obeys. On the tenth occasion he rebels. I was present at Le Touquet on one occasion when this happened. The Prince insisted on playing on three successive
days with the same woman. On the evening of the third day, there was only one topic discussed in Le Touquet, and that was the Prince’s “love affair” with Lady This-and-that. Now, as it happened, I knew the lady in question, and met her the same evening. As we were old friends we talked together; but the Prince was not mentioned. For the whole evening we talked about her own problem, which was nothing less than the fact that she was in love with a penniless young officer who could not afford to marry her.
Now although the rumors about the Prince of Wales have no more foundation than that, he is nevertheless to blame for the fact that they arise at all. He was inefficient in his prince business because he played golf three times with a woman who was deeply in love with someone else; and one of the things for which he draws his large annual income is for not playing golf with anyone sufficiently for rumors to arise.
If this sort of thing goes on while he is still Prince of Wales, to whom, after all, a certain amount of license is permitted, it will be very much worse when he has ascended the throne. The example of King Edward VII has shown how impossible it is for a King to do even those things that he is permitted to do when Prince of Wales.
That is why the Prince of Wales tries to make the most of what small opportunities that he has of enjoying himself; because he knows that even those will pass away when he is King Edward. And that is why when he returns from his brief excursions to France and elsewhere you will find him looking a bit groggy about the eyes from too many late nights, too much dancing and too little sleep. He is trying to make the most of what liberty he has while he has still a chance of doing so.
Pleasures That Must Go
rT'HE Prince of Wales has two main pleasures. One is hunting, and the other is dancing; and just as he likes a good horse in the hunting field, so he likes a good partner on the dance floor, and as far as is possible to him he sees that he gets both.
When he is King he will have to give up both. Already, because of his father’s illness, he has had to give up the former, and he gave that up with a good grace. When the time comes to give up the latter, he will do so even more reluctantly but with an even better grace.
He knows as well as I do that it is inevitable. He said as much to a dancing partner shortly after he had sold his hunters. “Well,” she tells me the Prince said to her, “I suppose I shall be giving up this next; so I had better make the best of it while I still can.”
You need no longer wonder why the Prince of Wales looks a little baggy about the eyes next time you watch him laying a foundation stone. You need no longer whisper that it is because he is living a life of constant dissipation interspersed with violent love affairs. He is just making the most of his chance, as far as his equerries, those most diplomatic men, will let him, because he knows that the moment the crown is placed upon his head in Westminster Abbey, he must say good-by to his night haunts as he has said good-by to the hunting field. And it will be a sad good-by that he says.
The night clubs of London will suffer by his accession, for the knowledge that the Prince may be present brings quite a lot of visitors to the fashionable night clubs who otherwise might not go at all. Americans particularly hope to have a chance of seeing the Prince shake his feet on the dance floor.
I remember one case in particular, I shall not name the night club but you may be sure it was not a hundred miles from Piccadilly Circus. It was one of the most crowded evenings that they had ever experienced, and though the Prince was there, there were not a few visitors at other tables who had looked upon the wine when it was red. One party of Americans in the corner was particularly happy, and the waiters bringing new bottles of champagne and removing the old ones made almost a procession. It looked like a large family party with father, daughter, and several young friends of both sexes. The father in particular had been celebrating his holiday from prohibition, and it was with unsteady steps that at length he ventured on to the dance floor with his daughter as partner. In about the middle of the dance he found himself wedged up against the Prince of Wales. “Say, Prince,” he muttered thickly, “my. gal here would certainly be pleased if you would take the floor with her. She’s said to be a pretty fine dancer back in Ohio.” The Prince laughed easily. “I am afraid I am booked up for this dance,” he said, “but I should certainly like to later on.”
By the time “later on” occurred, tactful waiters had led the father out of the room, but the daughter remained behind. The Prince lived up to his word, and asked her for a dance. The American girl was abjectly apologetic about her father, but the Prince laughed it off. As he took her on to the floor, he said: “Please don’t mention it. You don’t know how pleased I am to see a man enjoying himself too much, for once in a while.”
“Honi Soit” and a Heel
' I 'HERE was another little incident at a night club, too, that a great many people would have travelled a long way to see. It was on one occasion when the floor was crowded to excess, and during one of the dances the Prince caught his foot in a woman’s shoe, and ripped it
right off her foot. At once he stopped dancing and bending down, picked up the shoe, and amid a circle of curious dancers he knelt down and placed it on the woman’s foot. “ Honi soit,” he said, “qui mal y pense.”
When last that sort of thing happened to a king during a dance, the incident went down into history and was the origin of the Order of the Garter. Today when it happens to the Prince of Wales it is hushed up decently, because it is not considered wise for the public to know how fond the Prince is of attending night clubs.
That is the atmosphere in which the future King of England lives. He must not speak to the same woman twice, unless she is over sixty and as ugly as sin, or else wagging tongues will start again. He must not go to night clubs as every other young man of his income and tastes does, because they are haunts of gilded vice.
Of course the Prince of Wales breaks these rules, because as I have already said he is only ninety per cent efficient. Once he is on the throne he must leave even that odd ten per cent behind and be thoroughly dull and respectable; and an article such as this, suggesting not only that King Edward VIII not only used to go to night clubs, but went there very frequently and enjoyed it very much more than laying foundation stones, will be considered as a malicious libel, if not lésé majesté.
For, once the Prince of Wales has ascended the throne as King Edward VIII, you will find that he is much like his grandfather and namesake. He will be a popular King. The habits of democracy that he has so carefully acquired will not be shaken off, and in a pleasant respectable way he will probably be unconventional; but the scandalmongers who hope to find some traces of dissipation in him are going to be disappointed. He exercises ninety per cent of caution now: he will exercise a hundred per cent then.