Strange story of the king and hypnotist doctorBy Ben Fenton
Dec. 03, 2006
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In the months immediately before his abdication, Edward VIII was hypnotised by a doctor who was fascinated by the occult and counted fascists among his patients, it was claimed last night.
A report from a country vicar that Dr Alexander Cannon, a qualified psychiatrist who used spirit mediums to "advise" hypnotised patients on how to counter alcoholism and other problems of addiction, reached the Archbishop of Canterbury on Dec 4, 1936.
So seriously did the archbishop, Dr Cosmo Lang, take the information that he immediately questioned a Harley Street doctor to find out about Dr Cannon and later informed Downing Street of the news.
According to a BBC documentary broadcast last night, the news reached Lambeth Palace when a parishioner in Eye, Suffolk, told her vicar she had heard Dr Cannon boasting that he was treating the king for alcoholism.
Dr Cannon's other patients included George Drummond, a banker who subsidised Oswald Mosley, the fascist leader, and his British Union movement.
The timing of the information was critical.
Two days earlier, a speech by the Bishop of Bradford had brought into the open what everyone "in the know" in Britain had been gossiping about for months: the affair that the king had been conducting with Mrs Wallis Simpson, a divorced Roman Catholic American.
Both Church and State were in a fevered state of uncertainty as to how the King would act and whether his mental frailties would cause an implosion of the royal dignity.
It was in this context that the vicar contacted the archbishop to tell him about the King's hypnosis treatment, the programme claimed. Dr Lang's chaplain immediately replied asking for further details.
Tellingly, the chaplain wrote: "He regards the information which you have supplied as worthy of consideration as it appears to offer a possible explanation of certain things which are known to His Grace.
"You will of course treat this as strictly confidential."
By then, Dr Lang had already contacted Dr William Brown, an eminent Harley Street psychiatrist, for his opinion of the eccentric doctor.
Dr Brown replied that one of his own patients had consulted Dr Cannon and described how he "put a medium into a trance and invited her to ask questions of the medium".
It was not a procedure he himself would use.
By the time his information reached the archbishop, on Dec 10, the King had just been persuaded to abdicate, but it seems likely that this information would have been used as part of the effort by Dr Lang and Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, to achieve exactly that end.
Philip Ziegler, official biographer of the Duke of Windsor, as the King became, said last night: "I find this very intriguing.
"I very much doubt that Edward would have consulted this man for alcoholism: it was the one thing his critics never accused him of and although, of course, he did drink, it did not become a problem."
He agreed it was possible that the King was being treated for a sexual problem and perhaps even Dr Cannon, a profound bragger, stopped short of committing that degree of indiscretion against his royal subject.
The second part of the report on the King and the hypnotist is on BBC Look North at 6.30pm tonight.