Sunday, December 11, 2016

Edward VIII and the Europe of 1936

Eighty years ago today, the abdication of King Edward VIII signed the previous day took effect with an act of Parliament and Royal Assent, his last act as King. Here then are European monarchies as they were upon the accession of King George VI, 11 December 1936.
I'm not particularly nostalgic for the interwar era--we monarchists had already lost so much and there were some nasty regimes about--but in itself, 15 monarchs of 18 monarchies (the discrepancy exists because Ireland and Iceland were both independent but in personal union with the sovereigns of their former colonial powers, and Hungary was a kingdom without a king) is certainly an improvement upon the present, even though we had just lost Spain. It's striking how many monarchs at this time were without a consort: Wilhelmina, Gustaf V, and Leopold III had been recently widowed; Louis II, Zog, and unsurprisingly the 13-year-old Peter II had yet to marry; Franz of Liechtenstein never married; Carol II and George II were divorced. The former Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon brought all the more noticeably then a unique and indomitable presence to the world stage, where she would remain for the next 65 years.

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