Letters have revealed that Edward VIII did not feel he had deserved the Military Cross he was awarded during the First World War.
It was in 1916 that Edward, then Prince of Wales, was awarded the medal for frequent trips to the trenches, in the hope of boosting morale.
A letter to his father’s aide de camp, Capt Bryan Godfrey-Faussett, in June of the same year, the Prince wrote: “My best thanks to you and Mrs F for your kind congratulations; no, I can’t say I feel I have earned the MC [Military Cross] at all, but that’s nothing to do with me!”
The award has always been controversial, as the medal is intended for “acts of exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy”, something the Prince did not fulfil as he wasn’t on the battlefield. As heir to the throne, David – as he was known to his family – would never have been allowed to fight, or serve as other commissioned officers.
In later life, Edward was reluctant to wear the medal. After 11 months on the throne, Edward abdicated as King in 1936 in order to marry his love, Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American.
The letter, together with one written to Faussett by his brother, Prince Albert (future George VI), will go on display for the first time at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. The two will be part of an exhibition marking the centenary of the Battle of Jutland, the defining Naval battle of the First World War.
The Queen’s father, George VI, was on the battleship HMS Collingwood during his wartime action. He wrote to Capt Faussett’s wife: “I am quite all right and feel very different now that I have seen a German ship filled with Germans and have seen it fired at with our guns.
“It was a great experience to have gone through and one not easily forgotten. How and why we were not hit or damaged beats me, as we were being fired at a good part of the time.
“The ship ahead of us was hit but it did not do any damage. We had torpedoes fired at us which we got out of the way of luckily. It seems to have resulted in a victory for us…the Germans must have suffered very severely as our ships were hitting very nearly all the time.”