Friday, July 28, 2006
The man who wanted to be king
The British royal family in the early 20th-century sought advice on whether a former policeman who claimed to be the true heir to the throne could be declared insane, according to government documents released Friday.
The records, released by the National Archive, show royal annoyance with Anthony Hall, who claimed during the 1920s and 1930s to be a direct descendant of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
Hall made repeated public speeches setting out his claim to the throne, challenging the then-monarch, King George V, to fight him in court for the right to the crown with the loser to have "his head lopped off."
In a July 1931 letter to the Home Office, the king's private secretary, Sir Clive Wigram, suggested Hall should be institutionalized.
"His Majesty quite agrees that a stop should be put to his effusions but feels that it might not look very well for a man who is obviously demented to get six months' imprisonment," the letter said. "Would it not be possible to keep him under observation with a view to his final detention in an Institution, without actually putting him in prison?"
Home Office official Sir John Anderson replied that while Hall was "eccentric and wrong-headed, he is not so obviously demented or insane that he could be dealt with without recourse to court proceedings."
Palace hopes were dealt a further blow when Hall was examined by doctors, including Dr. Walter R. Jordan, an "expert in lunacy."
Jordan concluded that Hall's actions, "though he should be able to recognize their futility and impropriety, are not absolute proof of unsoundness of mind."
Hall was a thorn in the monarchy's side for years. Repeatedly arrested and fined for using "scandalous language," he persisted in his claim.
In 1931, he published a pamphlet, "Open Letter to King George V," which said that as king he would abolish government and taxes, write off the national debt, create full employment and ensure free health care for all.
Hall eventually stopped making public speeches during World War II, and died in 1947.