Monday, June 09, 2008

Sorry, Wally.

In my peregrinations around the streets of London, a city of endless fascination for me in spite of its present troubles, I take a keen interest in the little blue plaques affixed to houses indicating that they were, in the past, the place of residence of some person of note.
Most of the names I recognise, but some, such as ‘The Honourable Twistleton ‘Thumper’ Cholmondley lived here, 1779- 1801’ are beyond me. And I suggest that most people feel the same way, possibly other than descendants of the aforesaid Thumper.
Thus it seems strange that the group who allocate such things – I assume The Committee for the Sticking Up of Blue Plaques on the Houses of Notables – have rejected a request to place one on the former residence of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, in Bryanston Square.
The house in Bryanston Square played a pivotal role in the future of Britain and, love her or hate her, Wallis Simpson may well have proved a bigger blessing to Britain than the Lend-Lease programme by removing a rather vacillating although likeable King from the chessboard.
A popular ditty of London kids at the time ran:
“Hark, the Herald Angels sing,
Mrs. Simpson’s pinched our King.”
The reasons touted for the rejection are specious and based upon the idle gossip and speculation surrounding the Duke and Duchess.
As were many others, they were initially in thrall to the apparent successes of the Nazi regime.
The committee cite the rumour that Wallis was not only the lover of the German Foreign Minister, Ribbentrop, but that she was also guilty of passing along state secrets as reasons for the rejection.
There is not a shred of reliable evidence to support either supposition.
Wallis had little love for the Royal family from which she was so rigorously excluded and, for their part, the Royal family returned the compliment with knobs on.
But once war had broken out, both Duke and Duchess forsook all connections with the Nazi regime and David ranged himself wholeheartedly alongside his brother, if not without maintaining a constant bleating over the refusal to call Wallis Her Highness.
For their part, the Germans occasionally fantasised about restoring the Duke to the throne once they had subjugated Britain but there is not the slightest indication that Wallis was ever considered in the Mata Hari role.
In fact, she worked remarkably hard in The Bahamas providing much needed recreational facilities for the airmen stationed there by running a canteen and social centre.
That most diligent researcher of Wallis, her biographer Michael Bloch, although admittedly an ardent Duchessophile, had unrestricted access to her documents whilst he was working as the amanuensis of her attorney, the formidable Maitre Suzanne Blum. He found nothing that would give any credibility to any such stories of treachery.
The Blue Plaque Committee might do well to consult historians rather than tabloid newspapers when making their decisions.
However, I can relieve them of one decision for the future.
The flat I occupied as a student in Brook Mews North, Lancaster Gate, is no more. I suppose they could stick a plaque on the pub on the corner, however.


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