Evil Portents for Europe and Windsor Family Harmony

The bombing of the Basque market town Guernica by the German Condor Legion operating in support of General Franco’s Nationalist forces is arguably the best known event in the Spanish Civil War. It held far wider significance and has deservedly gone down in history. There was no military justification for the murderous attack on a defenceless town on market, which killed a large proportion of the inhabitants. It displayed Franco’s ruthless methods and gave the world a foretaste of the horrors of aerial warfare. Despite feeble denials, Guernica proved the extent of German involvement in the war. It was commemorated in a surge of artistic work, most famously Picasso’s huge painting.

The meeting between Mussolini and the Austrian Chancellor Schuschnigg at Venice produced an unpleasant surprise for the Austrians. The reception was superficially amicable with the Duce accompanying Schuschnigg personally on a motor launch trip to the Lido where the Austrian leader was able to indulge his passion for sea bathing. The sting in the tail came in the Italian communiqué afterwards. It conspicuously failed to mention Italian commitment to the independence of Austrian as it had been customary to do. The status of Austria was the one material potential bone of contention between Germany and Italy; much idle diplomatic strategy in Britain had been posited on exploiting this rivalry to neutralize the two Fascist dictatorships. The evidence that Italy was starting to disinterest herself in the question was bad omen for independent Austria as well as a portent of what now seems as the inevitable alliance of the Führer and the Duce.

Sir Edwin Lutyens’s memorial to George V was inaugurated in Windsor. It was dedicated by the Archbishop of Canterbury and unveiled by George VI in the presence of the late King’s widow and his other children, with the inevitable exception of his eldest son, now the Duke of Windsor. It was the occasion for another noticeable step in the worsening of relations between the Duke and his family. He had contributed to the cost of the memorial and was decidedly put out when this was not mentioned publicly. Intentional or otherwise, this served to reinforce the process of expunging him from consciousness and history.


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