Prince of Wales: A greeting

Janus looks at the brief visit to Cranbrook of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David

Top: The Prince of Wales

Top: The Prince of Wales

Jim Cameron

“Hello, David. Hello, hello. Welcome to our humble little city of Cranbrook, David, Prince of Wales. Not the mighty mammal but the place in England of which you are prince. Prince David. Hello. Look at our town, David, Prince of Wales. Glance to your right and say ‘Hello’ to our Mayor, Mr. Thomas Roberts. Nod benignly. Well done. Heaven’s, you’ve had some practice, haven’t you?

“Now David, look back and to the left, past the railcars and the once grand Moir Park hill. There is our graveyard. Do you see it? People of our little town are buried there. It’s a little rundown. No matter. There were wild circus elephants trampling about that graveyard just last year. Don’t look for them now, they are gone. Look, look to the north. It is a man with a camera. Pause — smile. Wait! Don’t smile. Look somewhat … somewhat … look somewhat the way you do. Excellent. Yes, perfectly lovely.

“Now, look to the east. Beyond the many townsfolk gathered in the parking lot hoping for a mere glimpse of you. Look across the dusty, rutted road, to the left of the weather beaten buildings of Chinatown, past the rooming house, even farther to the left, on this side of the Cranbrook Hotel. Look to where that other fellow to your right is looking. Not the man standing at attention with the other men standing at attention for they are looking at you. They are soldiers, you can bet. And you do like the occasional wager, hey. Those men fought for your father although, sadly, some of them are dead. Not the ones standing at attention, of course, but the ones that are not here. They are mostly in other graveyards that are probably in better shape than ours but those are graveyards that have not been desecrated by rogue elephants. That is our cross to bear.

“Do you see the building on the corner marked ‘Zenith Café?’ In fifteen years from now the amazing psychic Madame Jeannette will sit in that little café and read fortunes. She will not read yours because you will not be here and she cannot be here now but if she could, oh David, what a story. What a story, indeed.

“Madame Jeanette would sit you down over a cup of tea and perhaps an additional drop of something more to fortify because you enjoy a little dram now and again, eh, David. She would grasp your palm and study the lines and proclaim that you will one day be King of all the English Empire but she will frown because she will also see you falling in love with the American divorcee Wallis Simpson and that will definitely be a problem. A big problem. An insurmountable problem. You cannot marry a divorcee – American or otherwise — and still be King David, the church won’t allow it nor will the people much care for it. You will give up the throne. Abdicate in the name of love. Pass it all onto the reluctant shoulders of your brother Albert, who will not only lead us through another war and sire our present Queen Elizabeth but will have a speech impediment that will allow Colin Firth to star in a bio-pic that will do very good business at the box office. A hallmark, to be sure.

“You will become the Duke of Windsor, so Madame Jeanette would accurately predict. You will marry Mrs. Simpson and travel around a great deal and become perhaps too friendly with the Nazis during their rise to power and thus require a little change of scene. You will be appointed Governor of the Bahamas. Governor, David. Rather colonial and not quite the profile of a King but certainly worth a mention. So, too, there was that nasty business of the murder of rich Bahaman resident Harry Oakes in 1943 and the accusations that you may have been involved in a cover-up.

“Sadly, David, if life was a copy-book yours would contain a few blots, eh? And then David, then all those years of retirement in France with your wife and those sweet little dogs. And then, to top it all off, in 1972, you will die, David, fourteen years before your wife, although quite possibly outliving the mysterious Madame Jeanette, of whose later years we know little.

“Now, David, this next bit is a little tricky. Look over beyond the photograph that you are in and all the way over to the other photograph on this page. Do you see it, David? That is a photo of where you once stood. That is what it looks like now. The platform is gone, the old station is gone, the people are gone, and you, David, Prince of Wales, you are gone too. As if you never stood there.

“And all those things will happen, Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, Duke of Windsor, former King of England. But for now, for just this one moment you are frozen in time, frozen in a beam of light passing through a lens. You are looking dapper and princely and visiting our town and taking one more important step into history. And David, if the foot with which you step looks rather large, fear not, it is undoubtedly a trick of the camera.”