Sunday, February 27, 2011

The King's Visit

Tonight are the Academy Awards and many people expect The King's Speech to win several major awards, including Best Picture. I certainly hope it does. I'm a big Anglophile and this was an excellent film, shedding new light on some otherwise well-known history.

The film is about King George VI who came to the British throne in 1936 when his older brother King Edward VIII abdicated to marry "the woman I love," American divorcee Wallis Simpson. George was shy, awkward, and had a terrible stutter (his attempts to cure being the subject of the film). George never wanted to be king but he did his best. Along with Winston Churchill, FDR, and Stalin, George was one of the leaders who led the Allies through WWII and helped to conquer fascism. He died in 1952 and was the father of the current British monarch, Queen Elizabeth.

After his abdication, however, Edward became something of pariah. He and Wallis traveled the world, living in luxurious exile, and generally becoming the first couple we might call "celebutards." Allegedly they were sympathetic to Hitler and engaged in financial shenanigans and were generally just awful.

They also had a connection to NYC. Every year they would come here and stay at the Waldorf-Astoria, bringing loads and loads of luggage, including their own serving china. Edward was actually staying in NYC in 1947 when then Princess Elizabeth married Prince Phillip. And after they left town, rumor has it that this outlaw royal duo would never pay their hotel bills.

That said, they weren't so truly horrible. Apparently, in 1941, Edward visited a tenement on the Lower East Side. For all of his wretchedness, Edward always cared a great deal about the poor and working class. During his brief reign as King, he actually went into working class neighborhoods in England and talked face to face with commoners, even saying at one point "Something must be done" (like Princess Diana fifty year later, who was one of the first public figures who bravely shook the bare hands of AIDS patients). Edward may have been an SOB, and a creepy guy, but he was not totally without merit. And here in NYC, at least at one time, he showed that to be true.  

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please keep it civil, intelligent, and expletive-free. Otherwise, opine away.