Sunday Mail (UK)

The king, a castle and the summer he lost his crown

Secret letters reveal their scandalous behaviour during 1936 Balmoral stay

- Heather Greenaway Queen Victoria

It’s become famous around the globe as the much-loved Scottish home of the Royal Family – a place of refuge from the rigours of palace life.

The Queen heads to Balmoral next week for her annual summer break amid speculatio­n about Harry and Meghan and their relationsh­ip with his gran.

But the row is nothing compared to the abdication crisis of 1936 that rocked the monarchy – and nation – to its core.

And the beautiful Highland estate played a significan­t role in the scandal. A new book reveals how Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson’s visit in September 1936 led to controvers­ial events that hastened his departure from the throne.

Author Alexander Larman, who was given access to never-before-seen royal letters from the period, tells how on that fateful trip, Edward managed to offend the whole of Scotland and caused a ruckus with his brother Bertie and his wife Elizabeth.

Larman, whose book The

Crown in Crisis is out now, said: “Edward and Wallis’s visit to Balmoral was a public relations disaster and ended up being the turning point which kickstarte­d the abdication crisis.

“Edward’s arrogant carelessne­ss saw the holiday begin terribly. He decided to shun his royal responsibi­lities to open the new Aberdeen Infirmary to drive to the station to collect Wallis.

“The Duke and Duchess of York, otherwise known as Prince ‘ Bertie’ Albert and Elizabeth h stepped in but this was not enough to placate the people of Scotland, who felt snubbed. Citizens of Aberdeen chalked their walls with ‘down with the American harlot!’. In letters, Edward’s private secretary Alex Hardinge called it ‘ folly – an act which antagonise­d at a blow the whole of Scotland’.”

The writer, 38, who pieced together events of the visit from Royal Archive letters written by those who were there, says things thin deteriorat­ed after Wallis arrived arr and rubbed the whole household hou up the wrong way.

He H said: “Wallis acted like she owned the place.

“She sent Edward off, like a serservant, to fetch champagne as she played bridge and demanded the kitchen serve an American inventioni­nv of chicken, bacon and toasted breabread – a club sandwich. “Edward also handed her confidenti­al state papers in full view of guests and,

as one aristocrat­ic guest remarked, ‘all her judgments were acclaimed by him with ecstatic admiration’.

“Even the choice of their guests was disastrous and politicall­y embarrassi­ng. Royal gatherings traditiona­lly consisted of bishops, politician­s and diplomats, but Edward and Wallis preferred the company of fashion magazine editors, men-about-town and lounge lizards of both sexes, which appalled the Royals, especially Bertie and Elizabeth – the soon-to-be Queen Mother.”

Larman added: “The relationsh­ip between the brothers had been distant since the start of the year, due to Edward’s perception that his younger brother disliked Wallis and his flippant attitude towards his role as monarch.

“This tension hit boiling point on September 26, when the Yorks visited Balmoral for dinner. There was awkwardnes­s

already, both because of the

Aberdeen incident a few days before, and because Edward had shown no previous interest in Balmoral.

“But Wal l is made the situation markedly worse through a mixture of carelessne­ss and arrogance. Etiquette dictated that visiting royalty should only be welcomed by the official host, namely Edward, but Wallis took it upon herself to greet the Duchess of York when she entered the drawing room, in what was a calculated display of power.”

“Elizabeth pointedly ignored Wallis, saying loudly, ‘I came to dine with the King’. Her interventi­on had the desired effect as Edward took over as host.

“The Queen Mother put Wallis in her place, letting her know that although she liked to act like a queen she was no match for the Royal Family.”

Edward called his 11- day Scottish holiday “extremely pleasant” in memoirs and talked of his pride of being the first royal to play the bagpipes there, but the rest of the household hated it. Elizabeth wrote to Queen Mary: “There has been a great sadness and sense of loss for us and all the people. I feel that the whole difficulty is a certain person. The whole situation is complicate­d and horrible.”

Larman, who lives in Oxford, said: “The visit proved to be the beginning of the end for Edward’s reign.

“Although he did not abdicate until December, the combinatio­n of the hostile press coverage, the open disdain his brother and his wife exhibited towards his way of life and Wallis’s boredom with


Scottish castles’ meant they never returned to

Balmoral. Wallis hadn’t wanted tomake the trip in the first place. Edward had telephoned her and said he would commit suicide if she didn’t join him.”

The eyes of the world are on the Queen’s imminent visit to Balmoral and whether Harry and Meghan will take up their invite to join her. The couple, who stepped back from royal duties in March, are due to holiday there next month but with the Covid crisis and the backlash caused by the book Finding Freedom, it is thought they may remain in LA. Larman said: “Hopefully this year’s Balmoral vacation won’t be as eventful as 1936. There are parallels between Edward and Wallis and Harry and Meghan but also huge difference­s. “The coverage of both Meghan and Wallis hhas been full of misogynist vitriol and the narrative has not changed – divorced

Amer ican prey ing on the poor English prince. They were both outsiders who never became insiders.”

 ??  ?? VISIT
Wallis and Edward at Balmoral
ACCESS Larman has written book
VISIT Wallis and Edward at Balmoral ACCESS Larman has written book
Edward VIII, centre, and the Duke of York. Wallis and Edward in 1942
Balmoral Castle was built for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 Getty
FATEFUL TRIP Edward VIII, centre, and the Duke of York. Wallis and Edward in 1942 STEEPED IN TRADITION Balmoral Castle was built for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 Getty Picture RETREAT

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom