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Alfred Blunt (1879-1957), second bishop of Bradford (1931 - 1955). He is best known for a speech that exacerbated the Abdication Crisis of Edward VIII.[1]

This speech was made to his Diocesan Conference on December 1, 1936. At this stage, the crisis had not come to the notice of the public and, though the press knew of it, they had not yet revealed it. For a while the speech seemed worthy but unexceptional - although with hindsight there were subtle hints of unease as Bishop Blunt discoursed on the forthcoming Coronation service, emphasising one point which he said was material for a proper understanding of the intention of the service.

"On this occasion the King holds an avowedly representative position. His personal views and opinions are his own, and as an individual he has the right of us all to be the keeper of his own private conscience. But in his public capacity at his Coronation, he stands for the English people's idea of kingship. It has for long centuries been, and I hope still is, an essential part of that idea that the King needs the grace of God for his office. In the Coronation ceremony the nation definitely acknowledges that need. Whatever it may mean, much or little, to the individual who is crowned, to the people as a whole it means their dedication of the English monarchy to the care of God, in whose rule and governance are the hearts of kings.
"Thus, in the second place, not only as important as but far more important that the King's personal feelings are to his Coronation, is the feeling with which we - the people of England - view it. Our part of the ceremony is to fill it with reality, by the sincerity of our belief in the power of God to over-rule for good our national history, and by the sincerity with which we commend the King and nation to his Providence.
"Are we going to be merely spectators or listeners-in as at any other interesting function, with a sort of passive curiosity? Or are we in some sense going to consecrate ourselves to the service of God and the welfare of mankind?"

At the end of a passage in which he continued his analysis of the benefit of the Coronation which he said depended, under God, upon two elements, he said:

"First, on the faith, prayer, and self-dedication of the King himself; and on that it would be improper for me to say anything except to commend him to God's grace, which he will so abundantly need, as we all need it - for the King is a man like ourselves - if he is to do his duty faithfully. We hope that he is aware of his need. Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of such awareness."

A Telegraph and Argus reporter Ronald Harker was present. He took his notes back to the office and, on conferring with his colleague Charles Leach, agreed that the national media might be interested and sent the story over the wire to the Press Association. Eight days later Edward abdicated. When asked about it later, Bishop Blunt revealed that the comments he made had been intended to be a lament of the King's indifference to churchgoing. Like most Britons, he had never heard of Mrs Simpson.[1]


  1. ^ Alistair Cooke's Six Men, page 72

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