I have from time to time mentioned my love of history, and my fascination with how many cataclysmic changes can occur from the smallest of events.
I’ve also expressed my disdain with screenwriters and producers who play fast and loose with historical truth, and change history in their screenplays. Unless, of course, the viewer recognizes it as a complete fiction.
I have mentioned how much I liked the Netflix-produced movie The Highwaymen – about the 2 retired Texas Rangers who found Bonnie and Clyde. I also learned subsequently to posting this that after the 1967 version with Warren Beatty was released, the widow of one of the Rangers, Frank Hamer, sued Warner Brothers and settled out of court for defamation for their fictional portrayal of her late husband.
The Netflix version had it right.
Anyway, I have been watching (actually re-watching) their production of The Crown, about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. I have read that for each season, they want to portray a decade in her life. I think actress Claire Foy, in her portrayal of the young queen, hit it out of the park. For season 3 another actress will portray an older queen.
Anyway, season 2, episode 6 dealt in large part with the Marburg Files, papers found by an American Army unit at the close of WW2. They were records of correspondence between high Nazi officials and the man who became King for awhile, Edward VIII.
They were very damning as to his complicity with the Nazis.
Because he wished to marry a divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, and as a King (and head of the Church of England) was prohibited from marrying someone who was divorced, he chose to abdicate his throne in a famous speech to the British people.
The Netflix episode starts right at the close of the War with the military unit, under directions of a former German Leutnant, finding the papers where he had buried them in a forest. Despite efforts in Britain to quell this information from the public, they were published in America in 1957. *
About this time, Edward is making an effort through his British political allies to return to Britain (which, under the terms of his abdication must be approved by both the government and the Sovereign). The Queen wants to let bygones be bygones, and allow him return but first she asks for the console of now retired Sir Alan Frederick “Tommy” Lascelles, who was private secretary to Elizabeth’s father, King George VI.
I apologize for the poor video quality, but it is a powerful scene.
Here he is seeking to return to Britain and is asking Queen Elizabeth for permission:
I have a lot of respect both for George VI and Elizabeth II. George never expected to be King because of his older brother. The office was thrust upon him with the abdication of Edward. If you saw the wonderful movie The King’s Speech, you know that he was saddled with stuttering which he overcame.
While I can’t readily find documentation on the Net, I read at one point during the Blitz it was urged that he and his family leave for safety to Canada, but he chose to stay in London.
The future Queen during the war and as a young woman worked in a motor pool as a truck mechanic. I read some time ago that she quipped that she became “an expert in propeller shafts” (drive shafts).
I believe, absent Edward, that the Royal Family was as much an inspiration to the British people as Churchill during those dark days.
Had Edward remained King?
In May, 1940 as Dunkirk was being evacuated, Winston Churchill was under tremendous pressure to seek an accommodation with Hitler.
Could he have prevailed with a King seeking an accommodation with the Nazis?
I have mentioned how such profound things in history can come about from small events.
Would France have capitulated without Edward’s alerting the Nazis that the allies had the invasion plans (allowing them to change)?
In her own way, perhaps Wallis Simpson by marrying Edward (and forcing his abdication) was as instrumental as Winston Churchill in saving Britain during those dark days.
Many times, it’s the small things.
**08-27-19 I might add that within the same general time frame as the American publication, they were also published in Britain.