On Monday, 5 June HRH The Prince of Wales, President of the National Trust, visited Chartwell to see the important collection and to thank those who have supported the “Keep Churchill at Chartwell” appeal to help reinvigorate Churchill’s legacy at Chartwell and secure hundreds of Churchill’s possessions for the nation. Zoë Colbeck, general manager for Chartwell said: “It was a great honour to welcome The Prince of Wales to Chartwell today and to introduce him to staff, volunteers and some of the many people across the world who have supported the appeal.”
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
Adrian Phillips, The King Who Had to Go: Edward VIII, Mrs Simpson and the Hidden Politics of the Abdication Crisis, Biteback Publishing, 2016, 394 pages, £25.
Review by John Campbell
John Campbell’s books include major biographies of F. E. Smith, Aneurin Bevan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and most recently Roy Jenkins.
So much has already been written about the abdication of King Edward VIII in 1936 that one wonders what more there can be to say. But Adrian Phillips has found a new angle by focussing on the role of the senior Whitehall mandarins in alerting the politicians, even before George V’s death, to the potential danger to the Crown posed by the Prince of Wales’s determination to marry an unsuitable American divorcee, and pressing them to take action to get rid of him. In this reading the key figures were Sir Warren Fisher, the powerful head of the home civil service since 1919, and Sir Horace Wilson, his protégé and eventual successor, who held a more shadowy but equally influential position as special adviser to the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin. Between them Fisher and Wilson played a crucial but hitherto under-appreciated part behind the scenes in driving the crisis to its swift conclusion.
Phillips’ insight derives largely from the discrepancy between the bland official account, which Wilson wrote for the record soon after the event, and the notes he wrote at the time, which reveal far more of the alarm, urgency, and ruthlessness of those he calls the “hardliners,” notably Neville Chamberlain, and their impatience with Baldwin’s apparent reluctance to grasp the nettle. But he has also drawn on an impressive range of other contemporary accounts and diaries, many unpublished and some quite obscure, to produce an almost hour-by-hour examination of the scheming and calculations of a wide range of players with different agendas that led to the eventual result. Paradoxically, however, all this new detail of the pressure on Baldwin to force the issue actually serves to confirm the accepted view that he played it very skilfully. By giving the King time to see that his position was impossible he was able to present his abdication to the House of Commons and the world as Edward’s own entirely voluntary and honourable choice, glossing over all the machinations, politicking, and pressures that had been brought to bear over the previous weeks.
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
Review by Sonia Purnell
The Crown, season one, produced by Left Bank Pictures and Sony Pictures Television, distributed by Netflix, initial release date 4 November 2016.
Sonia Purnell is the author of First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill (2015). Her article about Clementine starts on page 17.
The words exchanged at the weekly audience between the British monarch and her prime minister are meant to remain private in perpetuity. It is all part of the mystique and majesty that make the British monarchy probably the best known but least understood institution in the world.
Very occasionally the royal door is opened a little—Tony Blair was once indiscreet about an exchange he had had with Queen Elizabeth II on the subject of Princess Diana’s funeral. A predecessor described the Queen during these encounters at Buckingham Palace as “friendly” but certainly not a friend. Historians remind us that as a constitutional monarch the Queen has only three rights—to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn—and it is likely that she exercises all of them, particularly in these troubled times.
Yet even with such meagre fare, Peter Morgan offers us a credible depiction of Winston Churchill’s audiences with the Queen in the new Netflix series The Crown. Skillfully Morgan plots the transformation of a privileged, under-educated, flesh-and-blood young woman into a monarch anointed in an abbey and answerable to God—a journey of self-sacrifice and personal transformation in which Winston Churchill, her first premier, is one of her greatest guides.
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
By Roddy MacKenzie
Roddy Mackenzie is a retired Canadian lawyer, enthusiastic monarchist, and lifelong Churchill admirer. This article is based on his 2016 address to the Rt Hon Sir Winston Spencer Churchill Society of British Columbia.
The relationship between Sir Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II is both fascinating and important for many reasons. Among them:
—Churchill was the United Kingdom’s longest-serving Member of Parliament, while The Queen is the longest-serving monarch
—The Queen was Churchill’s sixth and final sovereign, while Churchill was the first of The Queen’s thirteen British Prime Ministers to date
—Churchill at twenty-five was elected a Member of Parliament, while Elizabeth at twenty-five became Queen (the first Queen Elizabeth was also twenty-five when she became Queen in 1558)
—Most importantly, Churchill’s expert tutoring of The Queen on the complexities of the law, practices, and politics of constitutional monarchy benefited all who live in the many countries under her sovereignty
Finest Hour 162, Spring 2014
HRH THE PRINCE OF WALES
AS NOTED BY ALLEN PACKWOOD WITH THE APPROVAL OF CLARENCE HOUSE
His Royal Highness began by declaring “how deeply touched, honoured, and, at this point, humbled” he felt by the Award, and by describing the Oscar Nemon bust with which he had been presented as, “without doubt one of the best sixty-fifth birthday presents I could have been given.”
“The extraordinary thing about getting older,” he continued, “is that suddenly you are presented with a chance to reminisce. Most of our lives when younger consist of sitting listening to older people.” As an historian he had been particularly fascinated in hearing them and asking questions.
His fond memories of Sir Winston go back to seeing him when Churchill had come to visit The Queen at Clarence House “when I was very small….I remember him vividly in the hall, with a large cigar, when he was putting on his coat and hat to go out.” He also remembered Churchill at Balmoral in the early Fifties. The tradition then was for the netting of very small trout, each year in August in Loch Muick, and everyone would take part. Sir Winston was sitting on a boulder with Lady Churchill; he picked up an enormous log and declared that he was “waiting for the Loch Muick monster”! A cine film taken by HM The Queen had reminded him of this, and of how annoying he must have been to Sir Winston at the age of five.
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