No. 29 NAI 2006/39

Confidential report from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No. 17) (Secret)

London, 6 March 1937

  1. As the Department is aware the British King on his accession sees as a matter of courtesy the whole of the Diplomatic Corps and the High Commissioners. On receiving his invitation and after communicating with Dublin I called on King George VI at Buckingham Palace on the 4th March last.
  2. He began the conversation on purely personal points such for example as his enquiry about my having been in commercial life etc. He talked about one of my sons whom he had seen riding in a point-to-point race and then went on to talk about his own children and the pains that he and the Queen took to prevent their eldest child being spoilt through the attention, unavoidably excessive, which was paid to her.
  3. The late King George, he said, had always had a quiet but real admiration for Mr. de Valera because the news which reached his father from various sources about the President went to show that however you may differ politically you had to admire the President's rare gift of natural good manners. Both in Geneva and in London he said the President had widely established this reputation.
  4. For some time his talk was a lamentation on the decay of good manners. He could think of certain people in the public life of this country about whose great ability there could be no doubt. He had not met them and he did not want to meet them because from all he had heard they were utterly devoid of good manners. He had sometimes thought after talking with an agricultural labourer that the labourer was superior in manners to many of the people in modern society. He was ready to acquit most people of the charge of intentional mannerlessness because he supposed the rush, the hurry, and the worry of modern life gave people no time to think, so that this deplorable absence of manners might well be due more to the lack of thought than to the lack of goodwill. It was odd too, he reflected, that outstanding ability often went with a complete lack of the team spirit, 'For example,' he said, 'look at Mr. Churchill, one of the ablest men in this country, but he is like the cat that walks alone; he must go off and do things on his own without any real attempt at co-operation with his fellows'.
  5. The King said that he was very glad to hear that the President had had some conversations with Mr. Malcolm MacDonald. The latter had given him an account of these conversations and he greatly hoped that the difficulties between the two peoples might soon be cleared away.
  6. The conversation turned then on the subject of the Coronation and the King expressed his regret that the President would not in present circumstances be able to attend. Without embarking on any contentious talk I thought it well to say that until recently in Ireland the King and nearly all associated with the monarchy had been a kind of stage property of the old Unionist political party - to which observation he gave surprisingly quick and ready assent. It was indisputable that the history of the two peoples consisted almost entirely of one story - the story of the attempt by the British, sustained unbroken through the centuries, to subdue and to possess Ireland. It was similarly an accepted historical fact to say that an equally unbroken resistance by us had defeated that attempt. How could it be thought then that our people could in the nature of things have the same feeling for the King that the English had. Their attitude was of course not towards the King personally but towards his office of the titular head and front of a foreign system which they had only lately broken down. Here again the King made no demur or contested in any way what I had said. He remarked that he quite understood the present position but he would like to know whether the relations between the two peoples need always be as they were now. I answered that both in private and in public the President had consistently expressed his wish and the wish of the nation to live on terms that should exist between good neighbours, but that our people must be entirely free and unfettered in their choice of what those relations should be. We, no less than any other self-respecting people, must be the masters of our own destiny.
  7. He told me that he had read with interest the two Constitutional Acts passed by the Dáil just before Christmas. The only comment he said he wished to make was that he did not like being called an 'organ'. It was bad enough to be called an 'instrument' but he would prefer being called an 'instrument' because 'organ' seemed to him not altogether a happy description. This was said laughingly.
  8. Reverting to the Coronation the King gave an amusing account of his rather exhausting part in it. 'How would you like' he said, 'to pass through throngs of people for four and a half hours and to know that all the time thousands and thousands of people were staring at you. Hang it, you can't keep smiling all the time. It is fatiguing too because, as I said to my wife, all that is to happen throughout this long ceremony happens to me - everybody else gets off scot free. I have to dress and undress three times and I have to be not only word perfect but I have also to be foot perfect because if I turn to the left instead of the right the whole show will get hopelessly tangled up.'
  9. I enquired about the health of the Queen and the Princesses. He said they were well, but in a jocular manner observed that according to the newspapers he himself was rather ill and had only two years to live. 'According to some of them I am consumptive, I stammer incessantly, I am a dull dog, and in short a complete wreck.' All this was said with a humorous light in his eye and was no more than pleasant raillery against the newspaper gossip. In the 40 minutes conversation he stammered three times - one being barely noticeable and the others... 1
  10. He asked to be remembered to the President whom he hoped some time he might meet and I was to say that if at any time he could be of help to An Saorstát he was at our service.
  11. Whereas the late King George was inclined to be rather brusque, the Duke of Windsor to be slightly over-anxious to please, the present King seemed to me to be simple, frank, free from affectation, and to have neither the brusqueness of his father nor the touch of the cinema star that marked his brother. The view is generally held by those who have knowledge of and contact with the Court that of the late King George's sons the present King, although in no way brilliant, is from the point of view of character and a sense of duty the best of the lot.

[copy letter unsigned]
High Commissioner

1 This sentence is handwritten and the final six words are indecipherable.

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