King Edward VIII was many things to many people. His abdication in December 1936 came just 326 days after his coronation, forcing his brother, George VI, to take on the responsibility of the Crown and forever alienating the former king from his family and from society. Whatever his other qualities, his reputation is forever tarnished by the act of abdication, which many saw as a betrayal.
Edward (known as David by his family) appears to have been a philandering, shallowly racist, rather spoiled young man, used to getting his way and becoming sulky and difficult when not accommodated. He loathed pomp and royal duties and really preferred the life of a playboy to his responsibilities as a future monarch.
He had serial affairs with married women and, while interested in science and politics, failed to graduate from Oxford. After his abdication, his ill-advised trip to visit Hitler in Germany and his enthusiastic nazi salutes provide a poor legacy of his social contribution in the years leading up to World War Two.
Yet, as is so often the case, people prove to be multi dimensional. Edward visited India and Nepal in 1921 and hunted tiger, rhinoceros and other big game. During a trip to Africa in 1928 he befriended the famous British professional hunter Denys Finch-Hatton. He also met Bror Blixen and the real-life cast of the film Out of Africa.
While on safari in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, he shot several species of dangerous game and enjoyed the looser moral code of the Happy Valley set in Kenya but he also developed an understanding of the need to preserve areas of Africa in order to create a home for the rapidly disappearing native fauna. The advent of the motor car led to ‘motor safaris’ by wealthy Americans, who dd not adhere to the code of ethics and sportsmanship that Edward and Finch-Hatton had hitherto taken for granted. They both saw the demise of Africa’s game if action was not taken.
Edward reluctantly returned to England because of his father’s illness and thereafter championed hunting with a camera rather than a rifle and advocated African conservation initiatives, making public speeches and becoming patron of animal conservation charities.
This film is a fascinating insight into a side of Edward of which few are aware today. Featuring much original footage filmed by Edward himself and interviews with those who remember his visit, it paints a portrait of a conservationist hunter that belies the reputation of the playboy prince.
Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )