Recollections of Three Reigns

By Colin Welch; Frederick Ponsonby | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
The King's illness and death -- Character of King Edward VII -- A lovable, wayward and human Monarch -- Cenerosity -- Interest in foreign affairs

THE year 1910 opened with the King at Sandringham as usual, and the old routine of visits to various country houses followed. Parliament was opened in State on February 2.2nd--three weeks later than usual owing to the preceding general election--and for several weeks the King remained in London with the political temperature still at boiling point. But in March he left for Biarritz, spending a few days at Paris en route. I did not accompany the King on this journey, and read with some concern the guarded statements in the Press that the King had been 'indisposed' while at Biarritz. A fortnight later, early in April, I went out to Biarritz to relieve Arthur Davidson, and I found to my surprise that the King had been very much worse than the Press said. While it was known that he had been confined to his room with a cold, the Press, guided by Mr. Grey of the Daily Mail, had decided that it would not be right to frighten people with the details of the illness. They agreed to suppress an references to his illness on the condition that they were kept fully informed of the true state of affairs so that they might judge if it was serious enough to tell the British public. I had therefore to see Mr. Grey every day and tell him the true facts, but by the time I arrived at Biarritz the King was very much better. The curious part of all this was that none of the visitors in the hotel had given away the true facts. They knew he never went out and kept to his own room, but they never bothered their heads about his illness. Apparently he had nearly had pneumonia, but as he had not had it there seemed no reason why the public should be frightened. Personally I have always been in favour of telling the true facts to the public. Once you conceal the truth the public have no more faith in official bulletins.

The King got so much better that we returned to England, and during the crossing I had quite an interesting conversation with him as to how far the Sovereign could rightly go in settling the differences between the two Houses of Parliament. Three days later, April 30th, we went down to Sandringham, but instructions were sent down not to open any of the drawing-rooms as Queen Alexandra was abroad. The King, Johnny Ward and I went off to Liverpool Street Station, where we found Sir Dighton Probyn, Gavin Hamilton,1 Archie Edmonstone and Stanley Clarke. We had breakfast in the train and arrived at Wolferton at noon, where there

____________________
1
Lord Hamilton of Dalzell.

-267-

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