Obscure Shaw play used by the King as a blueprint for abdication





An obscure short play by George Bernard Shaw directly influenced the handling of Britain's abdication crisis, research shows.

The playlet, written 70 years ago, is said to have been brought to the attention of Edward VIII by Winston Churchill who suggested the King emulate the actions of the Shaw's fictitious monarch.

In Shaw's drama The King, the Constitution and the Lady, a king takes on the twin establishments of church and polity to marry his twice-divorced American mistress Daisy Bell.

The playlet is based on The Apple Cart, an earlier Shaw comedy, in which King Magnus is pressured by his mistress to marry her but faces opposition from his prime minister on constitutional grounds.

Magnus wins the battle by agreeing to abdicate in favour of his son, but with the caveat that he then intends to enter the political process and run for election. Recognising the king's popularity with the public, the prime minister caves in.

Writing in the magazine History Today, the biographer Stanley Weintraub describes how Edward Grigg, a Tory MP and a supporter of Edward, asked the King to follow Magnus's example. If he adopted the domestic politics of Lloyd George and Churchill's foreign policies, said Grigg, the King would be irresistible at the polls.


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