Competitive Modernity



The latest announcements of plans for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and related festivities displayed a blend of the ancient and modern. The old custom of progressing down the Thames by a Royal Barge was to be revived. The Royal couple would travel from Westminster to Greenwich on the Thames accompanied by the professional and political heads of the Royal Navy to open the National Maritime Museum. The boat itself was a newly built, entirely modern craft on the pattern of admirals' barges in the Royal Navy. As a complete innovation, the BBC said it would broadcast the coronation on television. Less radically, but still significantly the King would also make a radio broadcast to the Empire on the day of the ceremony. He had not resumed his father's practice of Christmas Day broadcasts, partly because of his stammer. As his elder brother had broadcast early in his brief reign, it might have been seen as telling if he had completely abstained from broadcasting. A Royal Visit to Wales in the summer was also announced. It was not expected that he would repeat Edward VIII's call of "something must be done" and the programme featured none of the distressed areas.

India's Congress Party renewed its attacks on the regional governments formed under the very limited measures for Indian autonomy introduced after years of political infighting in Britain. They focused on the veto powers held by the State Governors appointed by the British authorities over legislation passed by the assemblies. These had been a concession to the Tory right in the prolonged and tortuous battle to get the India Act through Parliament in the teeth of opposition that included Winston Churchill. The whole scheme was certainly too little and, probably, too late to keep the the British Empire in India alive, but just as with Home Rule in Ireland, a world war intervened before the new arrangements had a chance to prove themselves, making a more radical solution practically inevitable once peace came.

After their failure to capture Madrid, General Franco's forces turned their attention to a major offensive under General Mola, their leading battlefield commander, against the Basque country, still a Republican stronghold in Spain. To relieve pressure in the north, the Republicans launched a futile and costly attack near Brunete. In an unreported foretaste of horrors to come, Mola ordered the bombing of Durango, an undefended town, by the German Condor Legion.

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