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Battle of the Royal Brothers: King Edward VIII, King George VI, and the Rift That Changed History

It was a cold winter’s day at the Royal Lodge Windsor on December 11, 1936. Two brothers — one former king, one new king — parted ways with each other and the roles they had assumed all their lives. The former king, Edward, Duke of Windsor, is divorced from American Wallis Simpson, to whom he gave up his birthright. Based on biographer Sarah Bradford, Edward kisses the hand of his brother Bertie – now King George VI.

“Thank you, for all your kindness to me,” Edward said. When George VI protested, his brother placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “That’s right, old man, I had to step on my right foot the first time.”

Despite the harsh breakup, this will be the start of a new, strained relationship between the two brothers, which has led to decades of trauma, recidivism, and intrigue. “The dynamic between the two of them [is] extremely attractive — the betrayal, the attempts to behave in a civilized manner on the rare occasions after the abdication where they see each other, and of course, the influence both men’s wives have on their thoughts,” said the biographer Alexander Larman, The author of Crown in crisis: Countdown to the day of abdication.

Parallel to the current feud between Prince William and Prince Harry are prominent. But for George VI and the Duke of Windsor, the stakes are much higher — with the world in turmoil due to World War II, their private family feud has the potential to change the course of history.

From the outset, the two seem to be born for their respective roles, heir and spare. Edward (known as David), born in 1894, was blonde and charismatic, while Bertie, born the following year, was quiet and clumsy. The comparison is not pleasant. “It’s like comparing an ugly duckling to a pheasant,” an acquaintance said, according to Bradford.

The two brothers endured abusive nannies and brutal tutors. Their father, future King George V, is harsh and cold, while their mother, Mary, is distant and preoccupied. Their father was especially cruel to his eldest son. According to Bradford, Bertie would later recall that “he really went for David.”

Despite being constantly vandalized, Edward naturally assumed a leadership role over his five younger brothers, acting, by Reginald Brett, Lord Esher, as a “kind of head nurse.”

“I can always manage Bertie,” Duke of Windsor then wrote. This natural dominance is not always obvious. As boys enter their teens, their fights often break out in the classroom. “It’s extraordinary that the presence of one acts as a sort of ‘red rag’ for the other,” Their tutor noted.

In the 1920s, the two brothers’ paths were completely different. Edward, now the Prince of Wales, is known as the international, photogenic sex symbol with common features. “Edward is a brilliant performer whose charm, charisma and good looks cannot fill the void in his core,” says Larman. “He was never particularly bothered by the idea of ​​patriotism… and would rather pursue his own life than be bothered by any sense of responsibility.”

His industrious, sober brother, now the Duke of York, retired, became a professional naval officer, and married the gentle but tough Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon in 1923 “He is a man less demonstrative than his brother, and Larman said they often seek advice and advice from fathers rather than trusting their own judgment. “The importance of Elizabeth in his life cannot be overstated.”

According to Larman, Bertie was happy to let her brother get the attention. He said: “I think George, or ‘Bertie’ as it is known, is relieved not to be under the same pressure as the Prince of Wales. “While Edward was an excellent public speaker who seemed to really enjoy the acclaim of crowds and masses, Bertie did not enjoy appearing in public and finding any kind of speech. in public is somewhere between errands and trials, thanks to his debilitating stutter.”

Indeed, the two brothers have a good relationship. Retired Yorks often visit the Prince of Wales at his toy castle at Fort Belvedere, and are very close to his twice-married mistress Thelma, Viscountess Furness. There are ice skating excursions, cocktail hours and swimming parties. Bradford wrote in George VI:

On one occasion, the Prince of Wales received a shipment of phonographs from the United States. Check them out, Prince Albert [Bertie] said, “Come on David, let’s see if they’re really as unbreakable as the label says.” The brothers walked up to the rooftop like schoolboys, lifting records into the air and watching them fall onto the target, until Prince Albert discovered how to throw them so they curled up like boomerangs. “While the brothers laughed, the Duke told us to swoop down and dodge like rabbits,” Thelma recalled.

Everything changed with the arrival of fashionable and attractive Wallis Simpson. According to Bradford, in the summer of 1934, Bertie learned of the affair and believed her brother was being dominated by Mrs. Simpson, who had been married twice. Their father was also wary of his eldest son’s condition. “When I die,” he was reported to say, “The boy will destroy himself in 12 months.”

His prediction will soon come true. On January 20, 1936, King George V died at his Sandringham Mansion. The Prince of Wales is now King Edward VIII. But there’s a problem – Wallis Simpson. Due to his status as a divorcee, the new king, now head of the Anglican Church, was forbidden to marry his beloved and made her queen.

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/07/king-edward-king-george-and-the-rift-that-changed-history | Battle of the Royal Brothers: King Edward VIII, King George VI, and the Rift That Changed History

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