British Royals

Letters reveal Edward VIII felt he did not earn his Military Cross

The Imperial War Museum is putting letters from two future kings on display for first time, one of which describes how the future Edward VIII felt he had not earned his military cross.

King Edward VIII, then the Prince of Wales was award the gallantry medal in 1916 for his frequent morale-boosting trips to the trenches. The medal is intended for “acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy, on land to all members, of any rank in Our Armed Forces”, a qualification which Edward did not appear to have met. He wrote to Captain Bryan Godfrey-Fausset, aide-de-camp to his father, George V, “My best thanks to you and Mrs F for your kind congratulations; no, I can’t say I feel I have earned the MC at all, but that’s nothing to do with me!” King George V awarded over 40,000 military crosses during his reign. Of his brother he wrote, “I’m so glad old Bertie was in the fight, as it will buck him up a lot; and it seems to have cured him of the slight return of his old complaint which was a d-d bore as I really hoped he was cured once and for all!!”

The other letter, written by his brother, the future George VI, was also written to Captain Bryan Godfrey-Fausset. The two letters will form part of an exhibition marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the defining Naval battle of the First World War. It saw the loss of 6,094 Royal Navy seamen and 2,551 Germans. The exhibition will have over 80 items from the period.

The future King George VI was on the HMS Collingwood and wrote:  “I am quite all right and feel very different now that I have seen a German ship filled with Germans and have seen it fired at with our guns. It was a great experience to have gone through and one not easily forgotten. How and why we were not hit or damaged beats me, as we were being fired at a good part of the time. The ship ahead of us was hit but it did not do any damage. We had torpedoes fired at us which we got out of the way of luckily. It seems to have resulted in a victory for us…the Germans must have suffered very severely as our ships were hitting very nearly all the time.”

Special effort was made to keep the future Edward VIII out of the firing line, as he was the heir to the throne. For the future George VI no such effort was apparently made. King Edward VIII abdicated in favour of his brother on 11 December 1936 to marry American divorcee, Wallis Simpson.