Saturday, December 11, 2010

Pop History Moment: The Abdication of Edward VIII

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In many respects, countries get the leadership they deserve; a nation more concerned with geniality than intellect, for instance, might choose an affable madman who'd never left his country until after he was elected... Rather than, say, someone so able to interpret the zeitgeist on behalf of the entire world that he has to settle for an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize rather than the Presidency, which the nitwit who 'defeated' him spent his entire administration driving into the ground anyway, all the while earning himself the lowest approval rating in history. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Well, the same principle applies for unelected Kings; it's just unfortunate for Edward VIII that he missed his own window of opportunity... What a merry King he'd have made in the 1920s, dancing the Charleston across a nightclub tabletop on Black Friday, the modern equivalent of fiddling while Rome burned.

By the mid-1930s, though, the frivolous and frankly lightweight character of Edward VIII were exactly the opposite of what England needed; fortunately by then he'd fallen into the clutches of a serial maneater and, to borrow the words of Sir Tim Rice, 'the greatest social climber since Cinderella'. Faced with an array of every available maiden in the land positively oozing with virginity or a twice-divorced broad who looked like Ned Sparks in drag, Edward VIII chose Mrs. Simpson, and it was a win-win situation for everyone - except maybe for her, who'd probably delusionally envisioned herself as becoming Queen of England, and instead ended up having to settle for the booby prize as Duchess of Windsor.

Unable to live without this paragon of femininity, Edward VIII did the only patriotic thing, and on this day in 1936 divested his nation of what was by then its most serious liability by abdicating.

While often seen as the gravest danger England had withstood to date, the Abdication Crisis on the contrary strengthened the nation and her Empire, proving that the system worked by eliminating someone unsuitable and seamlessly replacing him with someone else who was altogether better for the job, no matter how trepidatious he might have been to assume the role. Subsequent events - such as the discovery of the his-and-hers Nazi sympathies on the part of the newly created Duke and Duchess of Windsor - only seem to reinforce the fact that the right decision had been made.
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