Echoes of the Future

George VI was crowned as King of Great Britain in an atmosphere of public contentment and happiness. After its worst year in a long while Britain's Royal house was showing that things were back firmly on an even keel though an orgy of the glorious pageantry it did so well. The existence of the King's elder brother, which might have been a potent spectre at the feast, was entirely ignored. Almost to the last moment, the politicians had feared that he might somehow contrive to spoil the day. The ceremony passed off very smoothly and the small wrinkles which caused the King agonies – a red thread used to mark the correct way round to place the crown on his head had vanished, prompting some small jiggling at the crucial moment. For the first time ever the ceremony was filmed (this will be shown on BBC Parliament tonight, Friday) although proposals to broadcast it on television did not lead anywhere, prefiguring the might battle fought over televising his daughter’s coronation in 1953.

In his last substantial contribution to Parliament before his long announced departure as Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin appealed for reason and agreement in an unusually bitter coal strike. In a phrase that excited no particular comment at the time and which appears to have been quite forgotten, he called for “Peace in our time”, little knowing that his successor would (inaccurately) go down in history for having claimed to have achieved this two years later at the moment of what seemed his greatest triumph, but soon turned to his moment of greatest ignominy. In reality Chamberlain said he had brought “Peace for our time” back from Munich.

At the end of his visit to Germany Baron von Neurath, the German Foreign Minister, made a statement declaring the aims of Italo-German collaboration in Spain to be inspired only by peaceful ideas and a spirit of understanding of the vital rights of the various European countries, Baron von Neurath asserted Italy and Germany were seeking only to safeguard the benefits of civilization and European history and to allow the Spanish people to exert its right to self-determination. They nurtured no hidden and selfish schemes. Even by the standards of Fascist propaganda this was an epic illustration of Goebbels’s dictum that once the big lie has been swallowed, the rest comes easily. The capture of a strategic town by Italian “volunteers” had just been announced with much fanfare.


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