John Mcewen comments on Edward Prince of Wales, Later King Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor
JOHN A. A. BERRIE studied at Liverpool’s Bootle Art School in Paris and at the portraitist Hubert von Herkomer’s school in Bushey, Hertfordshire. He was best known as a sporting artist and portraitist, his subjects including Churchill, George V and, in the National Portrait Gallery, the champion jockey Steve Donoghue. He worked in London, Liverpool—where he is well represented in the Walker Art Gallery’s collection—and Harrogate before emigrating to South Africa.
This undated portrait seems to have been painted when the illfated Prince was about 30, seven years before he met his nemesis, the American divorcée Mrs Wallis Simpson. History has so derided Edward VIII for putting his love of a woman above his sacred duty as king, it’s worth remembering that the dismay this caused was deepened by his tremendous popularity—with his staff as much as the public worldwide. ‘He won me completely,’ wrote Alan Lascelles on becoming his assistant private secretary in 1920. ‘He is the most attractive man I’ve ever met.’
The Prince’s boyish looks matched his character. He was the darling of the crowds for his appearance and charm, yet, as the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin said, he remained half a child, volatile, petulant, selfish and subject to self-doubt as well as black depressions. ‘If only the British public really knew what a weak, powerless misery their press-made national hero was,’ the Prince wrote to Mrs William (Freda) Dudley Ward, his mistress for 16 years before Mrs Simpson arrived and forced him to choose between the two.