Bernard Ingham: Eighty years after Edward VIII abdicated, Prince Charles deserves loyalty, not hate of the hypocrites

EIGHTY years ago come Sunday, Edward VIII abdicated. He preferred the company of the divorced American socialite, Wallis Simpson, who had two husbands still alive, to the throne.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall listen to a rehearsal by King's College Choir during a visit to the college chapel at King's College Cambridge.

This was altogether too much for the straightlaced Establishment – and perhaps Edward recognised that he was not cut out for the constraints of a constitutional monarchy.

I have no recollection of the abdication since I was only four. But I recall two years later marching – perhaps trotting might be more accurate – with other youngsters before the Boy Scouts with their huge flags in Hebden Bridge’s parade on the coronation of Edward’s brother, George VI.

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I mention all this because, if the past is any guide, the Charles-haters will be out in full force this coming weekend to renew their attempt to block his succession to the Queen.

I regard this nasty-minded lot with cold, withering contempt.

It may well be that the Prince of Wales is difficult to live with but I am pretty sure Princess Diana was nigh-on impossible. If ever there was a marriage of incompatibles this was perhaps it – the serious-minded Charles and the near vacant Diana who became the celebrity of celebrities.

But the least that can be said of them is that they produced two splendid sons – William, who is assiduously pursuing his parental responsibilities and apprenticeship for the throne; and Harry, who is God’s gift to cheerful diplomacy, spreading happiness all around and especially to children on his walkabouts and visits.

Moreover, they continue to honour the memory of their mother, Diana.

I do not pretend to agree with Charles on everything and certainly not on his conviction that global warming is out of control. He is a touch too messianic on that for my reading of the evidence.

But I think it is to the nation’s credit to have an heir to the throne, like both his sons, who is deeply concerned about the environment and its flora and fauna and our architectural heritage after the concrete atrocities of the 1960s and 1970s.

Charles does not simply wring his hands. He has built a new town and, through the Prince’s Trust, has helped untold youngsters to get ahead and into business.

So what do people have against Charles as the next monarch? Is it simply that Diana claimed that her marriage had a third person in it – presumably Camilla Parker-Bowles – who seems to have made a great success of Charles in marrying him.

If so, it is no ground for denying Charles the throne or, for that matter, Camilla the title of Queen.

Have they not noticed the nation’s high divorce rate, the fact that millions of children are now born out of wedlock and that, if the current allegations of wholesale child sexual abuse in soccer are any guide, the nation is rather depraved. How do they justify their hypocrisy?

They may argue that the Royal Family must set an example to the nation. But we are not living in the 1930s when people were condemned to a hopeless marriage for the sake of appearances.

Since then, we have been through the 1960s’ social and sexual revolution which has ravaged families and led directly to the sexual excesses we see all around us with the aid of television, magazines, the advertising industry and now the internet.

It has not left the Royal Family untouched. Three of the Queen’s four children have been through the divorce courts. But I think it reasonable to say that, in spite of these marital tragedies, it is as good as it has been, not ignoring the glories of Victoria’s long reign.

What we need now is a Government determined to rescue us from this decay and corruption. Theresa May is acquiring more stones than Sisyphus.

But we also need constitutional stability. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh have given us this in marriage and reign for approaching 70 years. They have been one quiet, reliable constant in our lives.

They have certainly done their duty by the nation and the last thing a grateful Britain should do is to rob them of the satisfaction of knowing that their eldest son will succeed them.

I think there is every reason to suppose that Prince Charles would make a diligent king, would recognise the need for discretion and political neutrality, would honour the constitution and would work to preserve the Commonwealth.

After all, there are few people who have had as long an apprenticeship.