The European royal dynasties during the first half of the 20th century are traced through footage from episodes of the 1950s newsreel series Time to Remember.
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In the 1950s, the famous newsreel company, Pathe,
produced a major historical documentary series for British television.
Made by the award-winning producer Peter Baylis
and narrated by an illustrious line-up of celebrated actors,
Time to Remember chronicled the social, cultural and political forces
that shaped the first half of the 20th century.
The series covered the activities of a variety of Royal figures.
The fortunes and fates of the European monarchies during that period
provide a compelling perspective on a turbulent time.
# Life is fair
# Gloom and misery everywhere
# Stormy weather... #
Things and faces, friends and places,
years and moments half forgotten.
Laughs, fears, songs, tears,
memories are made of this.
During the first half of the 20th century,
Europe's royal family's would change forever.
They witnessed two World Wars and experienced numerous dissolutions,
assassinations and abdications, many of which were captured on film
and provide some of the most significant pieces of news reel in history.
In the early 1900s, Europe's monarchies still held strong.
With only three republics, Europe was a land of dynasties and Empires.
The sturdiest of them all, Britain, ruled by Victoria,
Her Imperial Majesty, the Queen Empress.
A flickering, jumpy scene.
Their carriage arriving at the Garden Party.
An old, old lady being assisted from it.
"The Queen, the Queen."
From the snows of Kilimanjaro round the globe to Hong Kong,
the wealth of Africa was the Queen's.
The wool of her shawl came from Australia or New Zealand,
for her men rode from Darwin to Sydney,
Wallaroo to, yes, Queen Victoria Springs.
For Victoria, they felled the timber of British Columbia and Saskatchewan.
And woe betide any who broke her laws in the great North West.
For there, her Mounties always got their man.
For her, men dodged bullets high in the Kyber pass,
defending the ramparts of Victoria, Empress of India.
Their princes, rich enough to buy all England,
still bowed their heads to the little lady across the seas.
There in the great sub-continent and in neighbouring Ceylon and Burma,
men and beasts toiled to grow the tea for Victoria's drawing room and the
teak for her Royal Train, the cotton for her throbbing Lancashire mills.
Rubber and tin, copper, diamonds, gold and silver,
Victoria's empire produce them all.
A way of life, a state of mind,
and, whatever one thought of it, a mighty powerful,
impressive structure. Millions upon millions,
all together under the flag upon which the sun never sets.
So when Victoria, the widow of Windsor, rode past in her carriage
and celebrated her Diamond Jubilee,
the whole world, friend and foe, lifted its cap.
Yes, a powerful thing, this Empire.
And powerful this grip of an old lady upon the world's affairs.
And not only within her own realm, at that.
The German navy might to all appearance
challenge Britain's rule of the seas, but in truth,
one false step and the Kaiser would earn a personal dressing down
from his British grandmother.
Closely entwined into Victoria's family tree
were most of Europe's crowned heads.
And any of them at any time were liable to be pruned down to size.
Nicholas, Tsar of all the Russias, ruled over every kulak and Muzhik
from St Petersburg to Vladivostok.
Yet even Nicholas was not immune from a scathing letter
bearing the postmark "Windsor Castle."
But then, one day in 1901...
..they were soldiers of the Queen no longer.
Even a century must reach its end,
even a queen who had reigned for 63 years.
Don the black and beat the drums,
for the Queen was dead.
The Queen, who had been on the throne for so long
that England could hardly credit her dead.
England wouldn't be the same without the Queen.
Behind the gun carriage rode her son, Edward,
and representatives of every kingdom in Europe.
Europe wouldn't be the same without Victoria.
And as, at Windsor, they bore the widow to her last resting place.
There were many who wondered, fearful of change,
unsure of the future, unsure of themselves.
Yet, paradoxically enough, the reign of Victoria had
known greater change in the world than any other 60 years in history.
Goodbye, Victoria. Farewell a way of life, a state of mind.
The Queen is dead. Long live the king.
Thus, late in his life, the throne passed to Edward, Prince of Wales.
So, Britain made ready for a coronation,
a ceremony that had last happened so many years back
that most people had forgotten how to crown a monarch.
That was the coronation that began the era
that the world now calls Edwardian.
And that, too, was a time to be remembered.
For as everybody knows, the Edwardian keynote was gaiety.
A reaction against the stern, maybe.
Or was it just a part of the inevitable progress?
A change of social order a little delayed
by a greatly loved, but rather formidable old lady.
Fond of sports and a familiar face at international parties,
Edward became the living symbol of the new, less inhibited age.
Edward the peacemaker.
Apart from a fondness of shooting game out of the skies,
Edward VII of England was a man of peace.
10 years of rule only before the crown was to pass to his son.
Yet, though no time can be termed perfect, to many,
in retrospect, those 10 years are among the sunniest.
Edwardian summer in Europe.
The last great sunny parade of Kings
in kingdoms so soon to be kingdoms no longer.
Following the priests and the nobles,
Tsar Nicholas of Imperial Russia with his wife and children,
one day all to find death in the bullet swept cellar.
Or did the little Anastasia survive?
Under the warm sun of the South, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy,
a king, even though not up to his stately wife's shoulder.
And his was a dynasty to last the longest.
At least until the Second World War.
Then the imperial warlord, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, launching
another ship in his country's drive to capture command of the oceans.
Commercial command and the other kind.
King Edward never quite saw eye-to-eye with his nephew,
Kaiser Wilhelm, and presciently suspected he would start a war.
But the king did not live to see the conflict that would plunge
his dominions into the bloodiest fighting the world had ever seen.
Already an old man when he ascended the throne,
he died on May 6th, 1910, after a reign of only nine years.
The end of the Edwardian era.
Behind the dead king, the last great parade of the regal.
The Kaiser of Germany,
the boy one day to be Edward VIII,
Alfonso of Spain,
heads and representatives from every state in the world.
Pick them out for yourselves.
You'll never see such a concourse again.
French, Italian, Austrian, Chinese, Indian.
Positively the last appearance of the greatest show on earth.
And behind the procession, the coach of Alexander,
the Queen, the widow.
And so Britain has a new king and queen.
George V and Mary.
But though George has all the intention
of following the peacemaking
and maintaining the world of his father,
already events are moving too fast for him.
Meanwhile, Emperor Franz Josef of Austria pays a visit to Bosnia,
to that very Sarajevo where soon the assassination of his son
would spark off the First World War.
Signs and portents, but never mind the portents,
let's celebrate a coronation.
With full ceremony, King George rides to Westminster Abbey
for his crowning. But even in the midst of rejoicing, fire engines?
Was it an omen?
At the unveiling in London of the memorial to Queen Victoria,
Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany walked together
with King George V to attend the ceremony.
For both were Victoria's grandson's.
And yet only three more years.
But who in 1911 would have imagined war?
In 1913, King George visits Berlin
and rides through the streets with his cousin.
The Kaiser's speech is tinged with peaceful platitudes.
But behind the scenes, Germany presents a different picture.
Of course, Europe would feel better
if those Germans drum beat a little less.
Queen Victoria was always putting her German grandson into his place,
but now Victoria was dead.
And Wilhelm, the All Highest, was as ambitious as ever.
But then, these foreign monarchs always were show-offs.
Proud, proud Hapsburgs of Austria and all those other crowned heads
in Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, not to mention Spain and Portugal.
Europe was thick with them and the pomp and exhibitionism of it all.
Perhaps the most proud was he who held sway
over so many millions of miles of the Earth's surface.
Nicholas, Tsar of All the Russias.
Nicholas, proud, vain and not very bright.
But all the same, to British eyes a gentleman.
For how like their own King George he looked.
But it was the fate of a prominent figure in another European
imperial family that would change the destiny of Europe.
On 28th June 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand,
heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated alongside his wife.
The attack polarised countries across Europe
and was the catalyst to start the First World War just a month later.
Germans marching, Austrians marching, onward Christian soldiers.
Different uniforms, different flags, but the same purpose.
To fight for civilisation as each saw it.
Oh, dear. The Kaiser's marched into Belgium.
That's done it.
King Albert and his army are putting up a good show.
Brave little Belgium.
We've got to stand by them.
Britain did stand by Belgium and declared war on August 3rd, 1914,
after Germany failed to give a satisfactory response
to Britain's ultimatum to keep Belgian neutral.
And so the kingdoms and empires of Europe mobilised their armies
and marched them into war.
The allied and central powers fought for four long years until finally,
on 11th November 1918, a ceasefire was called.
The war was over.
But it was not without its Royal casualties.
The Russian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian and German empires
were swept away during or soon after the war.
But even for the Royal families of the victorious nations,
things would never be the same again.
Britain's Royal House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
was renamed Windsor, to rid itself of its German associations.
Now the pomp and circumstance, the parades and decorations
were not only for the Monarchs
but to celebrate the victory of the common man,
who had fought so hard for king and country.
The official end of the First World War,
the official pretty bubbles of world peace.
But depressingly, the peace was short-lived.
In 1919, the Crown's horses were dispatched to Ireland
to fight nationalists waging a war of independence.
After years of bloodshed, a treaty was signed and in Dublin,
a new flag replaced the Union Jack.
Ireland, save the six counties of Ulster,
had become the Irish Free State.
Down came the barriers and barbed wire so long associated
with British rule and the crown's forces marched out for good.
After such years of tension and being sniped at,
the lads were glad to go.
And, let's face it,
Ireland, too, was glad.
But Ireland was across the sea and far away
from Britain's social gatherings.
And although the secession of Ireland was a crack,
the tiniest crack in the structure of the British Empire,
you wouldn't have noticed it in London that season.
In the limelight were three generations of British royalty.
That of the day was King George V and Queen Mary, as much in public
life as they had been during the long, dark days of the war.
Then, representing pre-war Britain was Queen Alexandra,
widow of King Edward VII.
But the star of the moment, newly returned from a brilliant
world tour, was the heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales.
He had conquered the Empire and shot his first Indian tiger.
He had walked in Tokyo with the heir to Japan's crown, Prince Hirohito.
Back home at last, he was the lion of house parties,
the hunt and the polo field.
Not to mention the best man at a wedding,
the marriage of Lord Louis Mountbatten.
But even the most cavalier of Europe's playboy Princes
couldn't ignore the shifting attitudes towards hereditary rule
and the increasing fragility of their hold on power.
Mr Ramsay MacDonald formed the first Labour government
in Britain's history.
This, many assured my friend, was it.
Now that they were in, postage stamps would be issued from the Kremlin.
There'd be a selling up of the empire, liquidation of
the armed forces, the marriage ties would no longer be sacred
and free love would be made official.
But the scaremongering proved unfounded.
Ramsey MacDonald didn't even last a year.
A minority socialist government made little impact on a society
so entrenched in an age old class system.
So Britain wouldn't be selling up the Empire just yet.
In the Thirties, there were indeed many to sport the purple, the gold and the plumes.
But how many continue to support them? Ah, that's another matter.
Assassination, abdication, revolution,
the causes of disruption are many.
I remember, in 1934,
the arrival of a king in the harbour of Marseilles.
Not a French king. They haven't had one for centuries.
But a King of Yugoslavia,
where they haven't had one for a much shorter time.
This royal guest of France, King Alexander,
sat in an open car with the French foreign minister, Monsieur Barthou.
And though they weren't to realise it,
this was to be their last ride alive on this earth.
Slowly, they drive through the welcoming crowds of Marseilles.
Then, in seconds, all is violence and fearful confusion.
Under the feet of a mob, a man is torn to pieces.
A man who had shot at a King and a minister.
Alexander is already dead.
Barthou lives on for only a few more minutes.
A King dies by violence
and his kingdom, like so many in Europe,
is destined to survive him by only a few years.
And what other monarchs were there in the Balkans during the Thirties?
King Carol of Romania,
a ruler forced eventually to yield his throne to his son,
the boy prince, Michael.
And Carol's mother, Queen Marie,
what did she think of her son's entanglement
with the glamorous Madame Lupescu?
King Boris of Bulgaria,
rather dull, really, by modern journalistic standards.
Not a breath of scandal, at least nothing that anyone seems able to recall.
Further north in the Netherlands, the House of Orange.
Still with us because it lies close to the people.
In Britain, there was no Dutch-style bicycling monarchy,
yet the House of Windsor still enjoyed loyal public support.
Thousands watched the pomp and pageantry of King George V's Silver Jubilee in 1935.
The celebration of the 25 years reign of a king
who had seen his people through the greatest war in history
and the discouraging peace that followed.
King George V and Queen Mary's Jubilee.
A flag time, a bunting time that, alas,
was to prove but the beginning of a much sadder story.
This is London.
The following bulletin was issued at 9:25.
The King's life is moving peacefully towards its close.
It has pleased Almighty God
to call to his mercy
our late sovereign, Lord King George V.
Of blessed and glorious memory, that the high and mighty Prince
Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David...
..is now become our only lawful king.
By the grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland
and the British dominion beyond the seas...
..defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
So the dyes were changed and a new head appeared on the letters.
And the spring and summer saw Edward VIII of England
making his Royal calls up and down the country.
The figure of a monarch as yet uncrowned.
Long live the king.
So Edward took the throne as the country mourned, but for how long?
His father, George V, once quite ominously predicted -
"After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months."
King Edward VIII, the world's most famous bachelor,
has often been a best man, but never a bridegroom.
At the wedding of the Duke of Kent, King Edwards seemed pleased to see
his youngest brother march to the altar,
but his own wedding march has yet to be written.
Today, the American press is filled with rumours of royal romance,
of the possibility of King Edward marrying Mrs Wallis Simpson,
the former Baltimore belle.
Yesterday, as a girl,
she lived in Maryland in this quiet and humble Baltimore home.
Tomorrow, she may dwell in Buckingham Palace.
King Edward and Mrs Simpson have been pictured together on many occasions.
And in this topsy-turvy world,
it may be time for an American woman to marry a British king.
American reporters celebrated,
but to most members of the British establishment,
the prospect of a divorcee from Baltimore becoming the consort
of the British king was totally unacceptable.
Britain had found herself faced by a constitutional dilemma
unprecedented even in her long and eventful history.
The nation looked to the king and to Stanley Baldwin's government.
And so the crisis dragged its length, until at last, over the radio,
a King made a statement telling of an issue already decided.
At long last
I am able to say a few words of my own.
I have never wanted
to withhold anything, but until now,
it has not been constitutionally possible
for me to speak.
You all know the reasons
which have impelled me to renounce the throne.
But you must believe me when I tell you
that I have found it impossible
to carry the heavy burden of responsibility
and to discharge my duties as King
as I would wish to do,
without the help and support
of the woman I love.
And now we all have a new king.
I wish him and you good people happiness
and prosperity with all my heart.
God bless you all.
God save the King.
The abdication crisis had done little to dampen
the public's appetite for royal spectaculars.
Huge crowds lined the route of King George VI's
coronation procession on 12th May 1937.
A coronation in Britain.
Its procedure, its regalia, its ceremony the same as always.
Only the figures change with each occasion.
But is it just a question of the retention of things past?
assisted by the other bishops,
moves down from the altar.
The Dean of Westminster brings the crown.
The Archbishop takes it from him
and lays it reverently on the King's head.
And his Majesty, King George VI, is the king.
And so Britain celebrated another coronation, the third in 40 years.
The new king didn't know it, but he was about to
occupy the throne at a time when the nation he ruled
would be confronted by forces that threatened its survival.
An extraordinary meeting of the Cabinet at Number 10 Downing Street.
Extraordinary, too, that only very rarely
does the reigning monarch attend at that address.
An ultimatum to the Third Reich,
"Evacuate Poland or else his Majesty's government..."
But as the ministers left, some by car,
some to walk home across the park, they knew it wasn't any use.
The King and his Queen would help keep morale high during the war,
a war that would shake the royal houses of Europe but which the
British monarchy would survive in a show of great fortitude and spirit.
# Run rabbit run rabbit, run, run, run
# Run rabbit run rabbit, run, run, run
# Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer's gun
# So run rabbit run rabbit, run, run, run. #
The first half of the 20th century changed continental royalty forever.
By the end of World War Two,
Britain was one of only 10 remaining hereditary monarchies in Europe.
Amid the trembling thrones, one that endures because somehow it captures
the imagination of millions, binding together a Commonwealth of Nations.
And this in a world where thrones count for less and less.
Withstanding war, death, abdication,
the British Crown appears the hardiest of all.
# Run rabbit, run rabbit run, run, run
# Run rabbit, run rabbit run, run, run
# Bang, bang, bang, bang goes the farmer's gun
# So run rabbit run rabbit run, run, run. #
The fortunes and fates of the European royal dynasties during the first half of the 20th century are traced through footage from a variety of episodes of the 1950s newsreel series Time to Remember. Narrator Lesley Sharp links sequences showing an era of war, revolution, assassination and abdication.
Includes footage of Queen Victoria at her diamond jubilee celebrations; Victoria's funeral; Edward VII out hunting; Tsar Nicholas II of Russia; Victor Emmanuel of Italy; Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany; Franz Josef of Austria in Sarajevo; George V's coronation, silver jubilee and funeral; King Albert of Belgium; the future Edward VIII walking in Tokyo with the future Emperor Hirohito; King Alexander of Yugoslavia being assassinated in Marseilles in 1934; King Boris of Bulgaria; Edward VIII's 1936 abdication statement; George VI's coronation; and Queen Elizabeth II as a child.