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King George during a visit to Perivale

The Goodlet diaries: Week 50

Week 50 of Goodlet’s diaries is swept along by the sensational news of the king’s abdication and that his brother George (pictured above during a visit to Perivale) was to be crowned in his place.

December 1936

Monday, 7.12.36

In spite of breakfast in bed did not rise until lunch time, and found my cold was worse.

Went up to the Admiralty at 5 and as Mr Smith did not come up I was put in the Procedure Room with Messrs Clare and Glastonbury and initiated into some of the horrors of procedure. It nearly turned my hair grey. I fear I really must try for a transfer to some other reserve.

Home at 9pm to find everyone shivering in spite of two big fires; really the cold is arctic.

Stanley rang up tonight to ask me to take on the lighting on the school play. This is a damned nuisance, as it’s an awkward job and I may have to miss some of the Reserve sessions over it.

The constitutional problem still remains in status quo today and something very like an anti-climax may quickly develop, I think. In Spain a sort of stalemate seems to have been reached, but Franco now threatened the use of gas.

Tuesday, 8.12.36

Slept until lunchtime. Busy on routine work in the afternoon and after tea went down to the Library and on to the Aunts’. Was worried to learn that AM has had another of her attacks over the weekend.

Busy after dinner until 10.30. Had intended to do some model work this evening, but am too tired and dispirited to make a start. Feel like that all the time nowadays.

This morning Mrs Simpson issued a statement saying that she does not intend to embarrass the King and offers to ‘withdraw from a position which has become unhappy and untenable’. What this is supposed to amount to I don’t know, but many of the papers seem to think it clears up the whole difficulty. I can’t see that it does.

Our Test team seem to be doing very well in their first Test Match at Brisbane.

Today Hitler launched the second new 26,000 ton German battle cruiser, which met with a slight mishap. It is named the Gneisenau.

Had a long letter from Daniel this morning.

Wednesday, 9.12.36

Slept until lunch time. After lunch went down to the bank and then strolled up through Piccadilly. Was interested to see the demolition work going on on the poor old Alhambra Theatre; one can see right in. It is completely gutted and the front walls are down, so one looks straight at the proscenium and the stage. Vale.

Home to tea and at 6.30 went round to the School for dinner and to put in some work on the lighting for the school play. Stayed until 2.15 am and have had a cold, damp walk home.

Very little news. Mr Baldwin is supposed to have said that he will make an informative statement tomorrow on the King’s intentions.

The Pope, who is very ill, is said to be recovering.

We won the first Test Match at Brisbane and this should cheer people; they have not had much else to be proud of these days.

Fuzz’s cat is not well, worse luck.

Thursday, 10.12.36

Well, the appalling, tragic, almost unbelievable thing has happened, and it is with very confused feelings I enter up the log for tonight.
Rose for lunch, to which the Aunties stayed in honour of the birthday, discussion, as might be expected, centring chiefly on the outcome of Mr Baldwin’s statement and what it would reveal.

After lunch accompanied the Aunts over the Common to their house. Then back here to tea and to type a letter for the Pater before going down to the Admiralty. It was while I was walking down Lower Regent Street I saw all the bills, with the various captions, ‘King’s decision’, ‘Abdication’ and ‘the New King’ and knew that the worst had happened. In the Admiralty I found they majority of the old naval blokes in the lower wireless room were vehement in their condemnation of the King’s decision.

Put in an hour and a half’s hard work on Morse, but truly I fear I shall never be any good at it. It is a most disheartening conclusion, but I don’t see any prospect of improvement. Left at 7.45 and as I walked up to Piccadilly I was interested to observe that the people seemed absolutely normal and unaffected, as least outwardly, by the momentous event.

Berrymede Priory, where the Constitutional Club met
Berrymede Priory, where the Constitutional Club met

Returned to Acton, where I was Mr Stanley’s guest at a club supper at the Priory Constitutional Club. A unique and charming evening in a most wonderful old building. The Chairman is an MP and had just returned from the House, where he had listened to Mr Baldwin’s statement. He made a short and good speech on the situation and dealt with it in very good taste, I thought. Home at 12, rather cold and tired, to find the Mater and Pater waiting up for me and very much preoccupied with the news.

I of course missed the wireless broadcast of the statement, but am cutting out a newspaper cutting of it and sticking it in here.

From what Mr Baldwin said it is clear that King Edward, apart from his tragic, inexplicable determination to marry this woman, has used every means to do everything that should be constitutional, helpful and dignified. Mr Baldwin explained the sojourn at Belvedere for the last week as owing to the King’s wish to avoid any personal appeal to popular acclaim such as might be called forth by an appearance in London.

Tonight the first reading of the Abdication Bill was passed and the two others are expected tomorrow; and when King Edward has signed it he will cease to reign and an act of public suicide unexampled in English history will have taken place. The Duke of York will be proclaimed on Saturday morning and Edward will leave the country, presumably for ever.

It is said that the Coronation may after all take place as arranged next year. Well, that of course will be a good thing for the country; but it will have a queer atmosphere of unreality, I am afraid, with King George’s eldest son still living. If there be anything in the divinity of the succession it will make the poor Duke of York’s position a very difficult and thankless one. I think he will however make a splendid king, just the sort King George was, and the Duchess will be most popular as Queen. Scotland, whose daughter she is, will be overjoyed.

Poor Queen Mary, what a public and private grief all this must be to her; but it is safe to say, if any person is the absolute idol of the Empire she is that one. There is some justice and some reward in life.

And so, after just a week it has happened and is all over. I shall never, never understand it.

Friday, 11.12.36

Was very busy most of the night and only got to bed at 6 am, so was very sleepy when the Mater had to call me at 10.30 am to repair a burnt fuse.

Busy on various jobs until after tea, which was rendered very happy by the arrival of a letter from JM, saying that he would be sailing from Port Said on the SS Orion on December 5th. The Mater is immensely bucked. Went to the Library and the Aunts’ and invited them round for King Edward’s farewell broadcast tonight.

Dinner was rather protracted, as we had to wait for the Boys, who were engaged, one as player, one as spectator, in the Modern Languages Society’s Christmas pantomime at MTs. I understand it was a great success and old Buzz did jolly well.

At nine thirty pm the Aunties and Miss Hodges arrived and at 10 pm the farewell broadcast was announced from Windsor, the announcer introducing the former King as Prince Edward. This is rather dignified and altogether better than Mr Windsor.

I must admit I found myself profoundly moved by his address. He was himself, I think, very emotionally affected and indeed, in the circumstances, a man would have to be very insensitive indeed not to have been. The case as he stated it seemed very reasonable and, as he professed himself unable to do justice to the job of kingship without, as he said “The woman he loved by his side” his whole course of action appeared perfectly justified. His declaration of allegiance to the new King, his tribute to him as a Prince and man, and a curious almost envious reference to his married felicity, his tribute to his mother, Mr Baldwin and final loyalty to the Nation were all obviously sincere and in very good taste. Towards the end he was obviously overcome, but finished on a gallant note.

His brother, whose reign began today at 1.52 pm, takes the title George VI and will be proclaimed tomorrow. He is a noble fellow, very much his father’s son, and I think the Nation and Empire will take him, together with the Queen his wife and the two Princesses, very much to their hearts, just as one clings very tightly to a child when another loved child has died. For the queer, brilliant, individualistic Prince Edward has always been the very special darling of the Nation; and I believe that, dating from this broadcast tonight, the reaction in his favour will deepen as the years go on and he will become entrenched in the hearts of the people as a glamorous, well loved memory.

In all the great and stirring events I have missed many others of interest; the terrible aeroplane disaster at Croydon two days ago, when 14 people were killed, including with tragic irony Senor de Cierva, the famous Spanish inventor of the helicopter, the only really safe type of aeroplane.
Yesterday there died Luigi Pirandello, the famous Italian playwright.

Saturday, 12.12.36

Again that 12th of the 12th month, and I recollect old Dub Dub at Watson’s telling us in 1912 that it was the last time for a hundred years that schoolboys would be able to put 12/12/12 at the head of their exercise papers.

Up at lunch time and after listening to the Proclamation on the wireless I went round to Lancaster House, where I stayed to tea and dinner with Mr Stanley wrought at the stage lighting and effects. Home at 1.45 am very wet and tired.

The great news is still of course the Abdication. Prince Edward’s farewell broadcast is the subject of much general approval, and a very sincere and moving message from Queen Mary to the people has raised her still higher, if that is possible, in general esteem. I believe that people do not yet realise what an immense event has taken place. For myself, although all my reason and judgement uphold what has been done, yet somehow my instinct is beginning to rebel at it.

Sunday, 13.12.36

To bed at 5 am and consequently very tired when Kidd turned up this morning at 12 to borrow a razor strop and to report that Thomasina and Anabelle had been unwell most of the week. Happily, however, they are both recovered.

Rose for lunch to learn that Ine and Len had been up last night and left me some cigarettes. Splendid, but alas they are finished now.

Mr Stanley came to dinner and we enjoyed his music till a late hour. We all listened to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s address on the events of the last 10 days. It was a majestic effort, with all the uncompromising directness of a Reformation sermon, grave and tender by turns; yet I found the reflections upon King Edward VIII both ungenerous and even perhaps unjust. Again that suspicion that he and Baldwin had guided an unhappy chance to a tragic, inevitable choice of harsh alternatives, for purposes they may genuinely consider best, grows up in my mind. If it be true, damn them.

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