Few men in the first half of the 20th century knew more royal secrets than Sir Alan & # 39; Tommy & # 39; Lascelles, who served four monarchs, from George V to the Queen – and is now seen on TV as a key character in The Crown, which returns for a fourth series later this year.
Here, in an excerpt from his newly published private magazines, he gives a brutally honest portrait of Edward VIII, whose staff Lascelles was cast twice – once when he was Prince of Wales and again when he became king.
He had very little opinion of the king, who gave up the British throne to marry an American divorced woman, and lived abroad for the rest of his life.
A few years after I joined his associates in 1920, I had great affection and admiration for the Prince of Wales.
I saw him every day for the next eight years; I saw him sober and often as drunk as it doesn't matter. I have traveled through Canada with him twice; I camped and trampled through Central Africa with him; In fact, I probably knew him as well as any other man.
But until 1927, my idol had feet – and more than feet – made of clay. Before our Canada trip ended this year, I was so desperate about him that one evening I was looking for a secret conversation at the Government House in Ottawa with Stanley Baldwin (then Prime Minister and one of our parties).
Sir Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, in front of the government building in Nassau in the Bahamas in 1942
In his small living room, I told him that, in my unbridled pursuit of wine and women and any selfish mood that was bothering him at the moment, I think the apparent heir quickly went to the devil, unless he got better from his Paths would soon not be a suitable bearer of the British crown.
I was expecting my head to be bitten off, but Baldwin heard me to the end and after a pause said he agreed with every word I said.
I continued, “You know, sometimes when I'm sitting at York House waiting to get the result of a point-to-point race, I think the best thing that can happen to him is in the country it for him to break his neck. & # 39;
"God forgive me," said S.B. "I have often thought the same thing."
Then he undertook to speak directly to the prince at an early opportunity; but he never did it until October 1936 – too late, too late.
Before the Canada tour ended, I was strongly inclined to leave his job; one cannot serve loyally to a man who has been considered vulgar and selfish – least of all as a prince. But for domestic reasons I postponed it.
Then came the trip to Kenya and Uganda in 1928, which was the last straw on my camel's back. It was finally broken by his incredibly numb behavior when we received news of his father's serious illness.
I remember sitting on a hot night when our train stopped at Dodoma station and deciphered the last and most urgent of several Baldwin cables to ask the prince to come home immediately.
The prince came in and I read it to him. "I don't believe a word of it," he said. “It's just an old Baldwin campaign. It means nothing. & # 39;
Then for the first and only time in our association I lost control of him. "Sir," I said, "the King of England is dying; If that means nothing to you, it means a lot to me. & # 39;
He looked at me, went out without a word, and spent the rest of the evening successfully seducing a woman, Barnes, the wife of the local commissioner. He told me himself the next morning.
When we got home around mid-December, the King (George V) was still very ill; Indeed, when Stanley Baldwin met us at Folkestone, he told us that HM might not survive the night. (The king managed to get through.)
Before January 1929 was over, life was normal again, and one evening I sent a message to the prince that I wanted to resign.
Within six weeks of the appointment, George V was dead and Edward VIII was king. Pictured: King Edward VIII trained on a cruise in 1934
The next morning, he (his assistant) sent Gerald Trotter to argue with me, but I refused to discuss it. That or the next evening the prince himself sent for me. The resulting interview was the most exhausting experience I have ever had.
When he asked me why I wanted to go, I paced around his room for almost an hour, telling him how I could have told a younger brother, what I thought of him and his whole life plan, and what I predicted an accuracy who might have surprised me at the time that he would lose the throne of England.
He barely heard me interrupted, and when we parted, he said, "Good night, Tommy, and thank you for the interview. I suppose the fact is that I am a completely wrong person to be Prince of Wales – which was so pitifully true that it almost melted me.
The next morning, he sent me a message saying that he would accept my resignation and give me a car to prove that we had split up with friends. So I retired to the wild at the age of 42 (minus my wages of £ 1,000 a year).
He bore no malice at all; While I was in Canada from March 1931 to October 1935 when I was Secretary General of the Governor General, he sent two messages to me saying that he would like to take me back whenever I wanted to come. And when I returned to England, he sent for me and spoke away as if nothing had happened.
Finally, of course, I found myself in his service again through a strange turning of the wheel.
Sir Alan Lascelles and King Edward VIII were pictured together in Vancouver in October 1924
In October 1935, immediately after my arrival from Canada, Clive Wigram, then private secretary to King George V, approached me to become one of the King's private secretaries.
I refused; I indicated that I should be in a strange position if the king dies and the prince of Wales succeeds. Clive, always an indifferent seer, assured me that I need not be afraid in this regard. "The old king," he said, "has never been better in his life than now. It is good for at least seven more years. & # 39;
So I gave in. Within six weeks of the appointment, George V was dead and Edward VIII was king.
Looking back, I don't think I could have done anything other than what I did – waiting for events.
At such a time, junior members of the household cannot leave a new king for disapproving of the Prince of Wales. I had not been to England for five years and during this time I had heard little about the Prince of Wales and less about Mrs. (Wallis) Simpson and her immediate predecessors.
But it soon turned out that the leopard, far from changing places, acquired more sinister faces from the leopard every day.
As early as February 1936, I remember Joey Legh (later King George VI), who warned me that plans were already underway to liquidate Simpson (maritally spoken) (Wallis & # 39; second husband Ernest) and crown up to put the head of the leopard.
I think Simpson, who was nothing but a fool, was aware of this conspiracy and, for some reason that he knew best, felt it appropriate to send the details of it privately (a Masonic colleague) to the Lord Mayor of London all people – an uncomfortable secret that the good man could of course not keep to himself.
My impression is that the Prince of Wales was caught napping after his father's death; he expected the old man to survive for a few more years, and in all likelihood he had already decided to waive his right to the throne and marry Ms. S.
The comparatively sudden death of George V. disrupted such plans. But I think that even then he would have clung to her (he always hated changing a scheme he had developed himself) without the provisions of his father's will.
The will was read to the assembled family in the hall in Sandringham. I was of course not present; But when I came out of my office, I met him with a face that was blacker than any thunderstorm. He went straight to his room and was stuck on the phone for a long time.
Each of his brothers had a very large sum left under the will – about three quarters of a million in cash; He had nothing left and was not allowed to convert anything (such as the stamp collection, racehorses, etc.) into finished money.
It was undoubtedly a well-intentioned will; but as such wills often do, it provoked an unpredictable catastrophe; indeed, it was directly responsible for the first voluntary abdication of an English king.
Money and the things that money buys were the most important desiderata in Ms. Simpson's philosophy, if not his, and when they found that they had left the crown without cash, I am convinced that they agreed in this endless phone conversation, to abandon their plans for a coexistence as private individuals and see what they could do with the kingship with the subsidiary prospect of queenship for them later.
The events of the next ten months confirm this assumption; for all this time he devoted two hours of plans, big and small, to make money for everyone he dedicated to the business of the state.
Indeed, his passion for "economy" became very close to mania, even though his personal fortune, which he had amassed as Prince of Wales, was already close to a million – of course he took that amount with him when he finally left the country .
It was significantly increased by the considerable amounts his brother paid him for his life interest in the Sandringham and Balmoral estates, so that at the time he got married, he had no expenses, no overhead, and no taxes to be paid, one of them was the richest men in Europe – if not the richest.
When the (abdication) storm broke out in December, he visited his mother at Marlborough House one evening. She asked him to consider the effects of his proposed action on his family, the throne, and the British Empire.
His only answer was, as I was best told: "Can't you understand that nothing is important – nothing – except yours and my happiness?"
That was the motto that I had replaced Dien (I serve) for several years – and that was essentially the basic principle of his short reign.
I will never forget to see Clive Wigram come down the King's stairs at Buckingham Palace as he calls out in his never well modulated voice: “He is crazy – he is crazy. We have to lock him up. & # 39;
The same thought, if we don't put it quite so openly, came to mind many of us in those dark months.
Ulick Alexander (Keeper of the Secret Pocket 1936–52) told me that in May of this year he finally got Edward VIII to walk around his huge vegetable garden and greenhouses in Windsor. The old pride of the Scottish gardener was particularly proud of the peach house, then a flower mass that promised a record harvest.
The king made no comment until his sightseeing tour was over; Then he turned to the gardener and asked him to cut the entire flower the next day and send it to Ms. Simpson and one or two other ladies to beautify their salons in London.
Caligula itself can never be more wanton.
Many people asked me: "Could nobody have averted the ultimate catastrophe of abdication?" My answer was and is always "nobody". Given his and her character, the climax was as inevitable as that of a Greek tragedy.
In my opinion and in my experience, he had no understanding of the usual axioms of rational or ethical behavior. Basic ideas of duty, dignity and self-sacrifice were of no importance to him; and if he ever looked like he was going to find a friend, he never managed to keep him for a long time.
Consequently, when he came to the parting of the ways, he was tragically and pitifully alone. It was an isolation of his own manufacture. For some inherited or physiological reason, his normal mental development stopped when he reached puberty.
In the body, he could have been a model of a sculptor; but his intellectual, moral, and aesthetic development remained broadly that of a boy of 17.
There was a strange external symptom of it. I've seen him all the time, day and night, but I've never seen the slightest hint of the bristles on his face that usually appear, even in men who are as beautiful as him after spending many hours without shaving .
Years ago I mentioned this peculiarity to (Baron) Dawson of Penn (the king's doctor) who immediately said that this was a common phenomenon in developmental stalls.
If this theory is true, it would surely explain the fact that it was completely useless to expect him to recognize general rules of behavior. His only yardstick when measuring the usefulness or non-recommendability of a particular measure was: "Can I get away with it?" – an attitude typical of youth.
In fact, he usually "got away with it"; his only conspicuous failure, however, cost him his throne. (He also had) astonishing ignorance of English literature. I remember (when he was) the Prince of Wales years ago and said to me, “Look at this extraordinary little book that Lady Desborough says I should read. Have you ever heard of that? & # 39;
The extraordinary little book was Jane Eyre.
Then there is the famous story of how he had lunch with Thomas Hardy and his wife on a tour of the Duchy of Cornwall.
The conversation was interrupted, and to resuscitate the Prince of Wales said brightly, "You can fix it now, Mr. Hardy. I had an argument with my mom the other day. She said you once wrote a book called Tess Of The d & # 39; Urbervilles, and I said I was sure it was someone else's. «
Thomas Hardy replied, like the perfect gentleman, without blinking an eyelid: "Yes sir, that was the name of one of my earlier novels."
(The Prince's ignorance of literature) is irrelevant to any picture of him, since much of his nervous restlessness and the resulting imbalance may be due to his total inability to find a safety valve in a book (even a Schilling shocker), like ordinary men do when they're overwhelmed or tired.
Reading meant nothing more to him than music for the deaf.
Richard Shaw (who wrote an obituary for Edward for future use, whom he asked Tommy to comment on) tactfully introduces Ms. Simpson by saying, "He fell deeply in love with a woman who had two husbands . "
That misses the main point; What shocked public opinion throughout the British Empire was that two husbands were still alive.
Furthermore, this implies that, for the first time in his life, he, a lonely bachelor, was deeply in love with the soul mate he had been waiting for. That is the romantic view that sentimental biographers will no doubt take in the future.
It is moonlight. From the time he fell in love with Mrs. Dudley Ward in 1918 (God knows, as deep as any poor lovelorn young man can fall), he had never been under the spell of one woman after another.
There was always a big affair and, as I know at my expense, an uninterrupted series of small affairs that were pulled together and carried out on all the highways and back roads of the Empire he was crossing; for example the Ms. Barnes from Tanganyika mentioned above.
Its entire existence had already been designed to correspond to what HG Wells calls "the urgency of gender", and Ms. Simpson was not an isolated phenomenon, but merely the current number in an arithmetic fashion that has been robustly maintained for almost 20 years has been.
I reread everything I wrote about him, probably the most spectacular and most debated personality I will ever be in close contact with. I can honestly say that I have not put anything in malice; Indeed, when I know everything I do, I am amazed at my own moderation.
There is also no reason why everything I write about him should be malicious. Although I have wasted the best years of my life in the service of the Prince of Wales, I personally do not feel bitterness towards him, because during the whole time of our union he never said an unfriendly word to me.
If I am in any way inclined to judge him harshly, it is only because he has wronged England and herself.
(Tommy Lascelles died on August 10, 1981 at the age of 94.)
Extract from King & # 39; s Counselor: abdication and war, Sir Alan Lascelles' diaries, published by Weidenfeld & Nicholson on August 6 for £ 13.99. © Sir Alan Lascelles 2020.
. (tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) messages