EDWARD VIII: THE PLOT TO TOPPLE A KING – CHANNEL 4 TONIGHT
A revelatory film about the extraordinary archbishop, Cosmo Gordon Lang, who was at the centre of a group of establishment big-wigs and grandees who came together in 1936 to oust King Edward VIII.
The archbishop believed that Edward’s love for Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American, made a mockery of all that he stood for and threatened not just the Crown but the Church of England. Based on a large archive of unpublished diaries, personal notes and Lang’s own secret account of the abdication, the film reveals for the first time the machinations that went on behind the scenes to remove the King.
Lang worked with the editor of The Times, Geoffrey Dawson, and others to bring extreme pressure on Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to take action to ensure the departure of Edward. When the archbishop’s project to force the abdication of the King looked in doubt, as the film shows, he even resorted to smear tactics. Lang believed that by aligning the monarchy with the Church of England he could bring religion back into the heart of society but, following George V’s death in January 1936, he faced an adversary in the ‘playboy prince’ Edward, an undeclared atheist who wanted to modernise the royal family and marry a divorcee. Lang’s rigidly moralistic stance contributed to the King’s abdication and his replacement with the stammering but dutiful George VI, but it would also prove to be his undoing, as his public criticism of Edward backfired and his campaign to recall the country to religion fell on deaf ears.
Channel 4, tonight, 10pm