The Prince of Wales in Manila, 1922
You can only take so much of Netflix.
After binge-watching all available seasons of “Casa de Papel/Money Heist,” “Designated Survivor,” and “The Crown,” I now shun TV series and limit myself to movies that run for about two hours.
But “The Crown” was particularly engaging, if only to remind us that fairy-tale princes do not exist or that princesses don’t necessarily “live happily ever after.”
What a maladjusted family it is that bears the weight of a crown. Poor Edward VIII, who abdicated to marry for love, spent the rest of his life in exile as the Duke of Windsor. He visited Manila for three days in 1922.
After World War I, the United Kingdom sent the dashing prince on goodwill tours, one of them through Asia from October 1921 to June 1922. His “Oriental Grand Tour” reminded me of my thesis adviser at the University of London, who said that “oriental” is only used to describe carpets, never people.
HRH The Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, arrived in Manila on board the HMS Renown on Saturday, May 13, 1922, to much fanfare, the guns of the Renown reciprocating the booming cannons in Fort Santiago. After being formally received in Malacañang by the governor-general who hosted lunch, the Prince went straight away for a round of polo in Pasay.
A thumbnail photograph of the Prince’s arrival in Malacañang can be viewed online at the Library of Congress. Another of him riding a horse appropriately named “Carnage” is in Lou Gopal’s Manila Nostalgia FB Page.
On May 14, 1922, the New York Times carried a front-page story with the heading: “PRINCE OF WALES HIT IN HEAD BY POLO BALL ON FIELD AT MANILA; Blow Over Right Eye Cuts Gash an Inch Long and Knocks Him Out of the Line-Up. RIDES GAMELY OFF FIELD. With Wound Treated, He Pleads to Play, but Doctor Forbids—Evening Fete Canceled. STRUCK BY AN AMERICAN. Captain R.L. Hammond, Teammate in Game, Is Upset at Mishap—General Wood at the Scene.”
Unfortunately, one needs a subscription to read the reportage in both the New York Times and the Times of London, leaving me with a dry notice of his departure from Manila in the Singapore Straits Times of May 15, 1922, available for free online at the National Library of Singapore: “The Prince of Wales landed at midday at Manila and motored over to the naval establishment at Cavite, lunching with the senior naval officer of the islands.
The bruise over his eye is healing very satisfactorily. He visited the polo ground in the afternoon and witnessed several games but did not play, less on account of Saturday’s mishap than owing to the excessive heat.
He received a great send off when he embarked at Legaspi Pier to finally return to Renown, which sailed at 9 p.m. for Labuan where the Prince is due on Wednesday morning.”
A short passage about this short trip is also found in “A King’s Story: the Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor” (1951): “The homeward voyage was not without incident or interest. We stopped three days in Manila, capital of the Philippines, then a dependency of the United States.
I was the guest of the Governor, the famous General Leonard Wood, an able, highly respected, and likeable man who was to some extent in political exile. I still carry a scar from Manila.
In a polo game between my team from the Renown and a U.S. cavalry regiment, my right eyebrow was laid bare by a hard-struck ball—an injury that necessitated three surgical stitches and a shot of tetanus antitoxin.
The cure, from my point of view, was worse than the wound: it produced a burning rash, a sleepless night, and marred to some extent an otherwise enjoyable stay.”
It is said that the Prince wanted to resume the match after he was stitched up, but the doctors, including Governor Wood who was a physician, advised against it.
So the Prince skipped the Malacañang dinner in his honor that night and rested on the Renown. There must be more details to this story, but since the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases considers visits to museums, libraries, and archives as “nonessential,” I can’t seek these out till they reopen.
People aren’t breaking down doors to stampede into cultural institutions as they would into malls and cinemas. Someone should remind the IATF that visits to museums, libraries, and archives are not “leisure” activities, but activities that contribute to education, knowledge, and the development of a well-informed citizenry.
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