Nancy L. Meek

IF THE CROWN FITS

Edward, Prince of Wales by Howard Chandler Christy
Portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales
by Howard Chandler Christy ~ 1923, Oil on Canvas
All the world felt saddened
when King Edward gave up his throne,
from busy streets to quiet deserts,
the news touched close to home.

Some merchants closed their shops
as an anxious hush fell over town,
and in every church and school
they talked about the crown.

“What of the king?” they asked
as they passed along the street,
this king attune to their needs
and made their country complete.

His thoughtfulness for others,
for the poor and common folk,
how he thought of them as brothers
made them wish the news a joke.

“Remember that lovely day
when Queen Mary was on the Clyde,
the way, before she was launched,
how he instilled in us such pride…

how he walked some seven miles
admiring that ship we built,
then rushed into our homes,
to applaud us to the hilt?”

“If it is right to visit the Queen Mary”,
Edward VIII said to the crowd,
“it is surely right to visit those who made her.”
And across the land, his people felt proud!

They recalled a former gracious act,
when he was the Prince of Wales,
when he visited the crippled soldiers,
a favorite story of all their tales.

He arrived on the appointed day
and went from one bed to the other,
encouraging each suffering man
like one would cheer on a brother.

When ready to leave, he paused,
then asked if he’d seen them all.
“No,” was the reply, “There’s more…
seven, so disfigured they will appall.”

“I must see them,” said the prince;
thus, he was ushered to every one;
then, going quietly from bed to bed,
thanked each for all they had done.

Turning to leave, he said to his guide,
“You said there were seven men…
I’ve seen only six. Where’s the other?”
to which his guide warned him:

“Your Highness,” nobody can see;
this man, he is so terribly maimed…
so out of the likeness of humanity.”
But, said the prince, with finger aimed:

“I must see this man, also.”
and the guide gently replied,
“Better not, Sir; it is terrible.”
But, the prince wouldn’t be defied,

“Still, I wish to see him.” he said.
So the two, without another word,
walked together to see the man:
their footfalls all that could be heard.

The prince, though growing pale,
walked firmly toward the bed,
and looking down upon the man,
slowly bowed his youthful head.

This poor wreck of humanity
could neither hear nor see:
a suffering subject of England
who fought to keep them free.

Then the prince, reverently and slowly,
with the highest homage he could pay,
stooped and kissed the soldier’s face;
then a king turned and walked away.

1923 Portrait of Edward, Prince of Wales by Howard Chandler Christy

The most distinguished of the medal ribbons is the Military Cross (MC) which is the white and purple ribbon in the middle of the top row. This medal normally awarded for “gallantry in the field”, was given to the Prince June 3, 1916. Edward bitterly regretted that he was never allowed near enough to the fighting in the Great War to be in any danger – although on one occasion his chauffeur was killed by friendly (French) fire – and he had earlier remarked in a letter to his father “I feel so ashamed to wear medals which I only have because of my position.” (See Duke of Windsor, A King’s Story. Memoirs of HRH The Duke of Windsor KG, New York, 1951, p. 118). His desire to see real action on the Western Front was quite genuine. The medals that initially shamed him in his letter to his father were the French Legion of Honour and a Russian order, neither of which he appears to be wearing in this portrait.

Information with thanks to the Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts Website