King considered cancelling tour of Commonwealth

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The Independent Online
FEARS OF political unrest and instability in post-war Britain have been revealed in letters between King George VI and Clement Attlee, the prime minister. As royal correspondence, the letters were not due to be opened for 100 years but under the new policy of accelerated release they have been opened early by the Public Record Office in Kew.

In a letter dated 1 September 1951 the king writes from Balmoral Castle of his concern about a planned Commonwealth tour. "As I said at one of our talks in the summer (and you agreed with me), it would be very difficult indeed for me to go away for five or six months unless it was reasonably certain political stability would prevail during my absence." It is signed "I am, Yours very sincerely, George R."

In mid-1951 Attlee faced mounting industrial unrest. Engineers, railwaymen, miners, agricultural workers and builders were among those demanding higher pay. The King was also concerned about the actions of Mohammed Mussadeq, prime minister of Iran, which had nationalised the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company.

And there had been tension between Britain and Egypt over the Suez Canal. The king was worried about sailing through it. "Our unhappy relations with Egypt may, if they persist, oblige me to adopt an alternative."

In the event, Labour's troubles were such that an election was called on 19 September and Churchill and the Conservatives were elected in October.

King George was already ill and tells Attlee: "There are plenty of worries at present to prevent one enjoying anything. I am better for my time up here, though the weather is cold."

In a letter dated 6 September, he writes: "I am going to London, for the doctors want me to take more X-ray photographs that they cannot take elsewhere."

King George never made the tour: his health declined and he died on 6 February 1952.

Another file released yesterday, dated 1963, shows that the Duke of Edinburgh had already started his habit of annoying people with off-the- cuff remarks, having claimed that exporters were being put off by the inordinate amount of paperwork involved.

In internal prime minister's correspondence, Harold Macmillan showed that he was irritated about Prince Philip's "inaccurate remarks", which he had made at a luncheon over what he described as a tangle of controls concerning export trade.

Macmillan had a briefing sent to Prince Philip with the accurate facts and figures regarding export controls, showing that 80 per cent of exports required only one form to be completed, and that the prime minister was anxious to demonstrate that exporters were not being put off by excessive paperwork.

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