Wednesday, 22 January 2014

The heirs of 1914: Great Britain

This week marks the anniversary of the accession of one of the most famous heirs Britain's throne ever had.  Edward VIII, as Prince of Wales, was hugely popular, feted for his charm and is film star looks.  In 1914, he was at the start of this stellar period of his life.  Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David of Wales, born in June 1894 was 20 years old and taking control of his destiny.  He had completed his education, including a stint at Oxford where he gained no qualifications, and by 1914 was already dazzling with his handsome face and stunning smile.  And in a sign of things to come, he was already worrying his country's government although the concerns of a century ago were very different from those that would lead to him losing his throne.

To his family he was David, to the rest of the world Edward of Wales was a superstar royal

In June 1914 the then Prince of Wales joined the Grenadier Guards.  There was a general feeling that a mighty war was coming and the heir to the throne wanted to fight with his country's troops.  The government, including the Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener, were adamant it would never happen as there were grave concerns as to the damage that would be done to the monarchy were the heir to the throne to die in battle.  At that point, Edward was the golden boy and the irony is that the concerns of 1914 were that his loss would cause irreparable harm to the British crown.  It would make his younger, less able and less gorgeous brother, Bertie, the next king and that wasn't considered the best option a century ago.  The irony was that Edward was all but forced to give up his crown and pass it to Bertie just 22 years later in a move that was designed to save the monarchy from harm again.  The heir of a century ago saw much change in a very little time but in 1914, Edward of Wales was still a nation's hope in waiting.

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