Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Edward VIII - and the conservation value of wildlife film

13 January, 2015 - 13:00 -- John Burton

Last night I watched a documentary made by Channel 4 about Edward VIII, which focused on his campaigning work to protect Africa’s wildlife.

Before the programme I knew that Edward had become Patron of the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire (which in due course became Fauna and Flora International). However it was only after watching Edward VIII: The Lion King, that I realised the historic importance of his role in conservation.

When he was Prince of Wales, Edward was instrumental in banning hunting from moving vehicles in the Serengeti. He was a powerful advocate of using a camera instead of a gun and the programme included some wonderful footage of wildlife, some of it taken by HRH I believe.

Early films of wildlife are scarce and important documentary evidence of the former abundance of wildlife often comes from travel films and cine films taken by holiday makers in Africa and elsewhere, even as recently as the 1960s.

Historic wildlife film and photography has a major role to play in the study and ongoing practice of wildlife conservation, which makes the Bristol-based project WildFilmHistory all the more relevant.

A multi-media guide to the history and heritage of wildlife filmmaking, WildFilmHistory provides a focal point for the collection, preservation and study of important historical material relating to wildlife film and photography.

Launched in 2008, WildFilmHistory has common ancestry with ARKive, the digital website of films, photographs and audio recordings of the world’s species. Both are offspring of Wildscreen, a charity founded in Bristol in 1987 by Sir Peter Scott and Christopher Parsons after the success of the Wildscreen Film Festivals during the 1980s. 

I have a real interest in seeing projects such as these develop, having been closely involved with the creation of ARKive in the late 1980s. In 1989 I carried out the initial feasibility study for ARKive and the project was finally launched by Wildscreen in 2003 (delays being due, inevitably, to funding). In 2010 Wildscreen became an IUCN Red List Partner and, now profiling 10,000 species, ARKive celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013.

I am a sincere believer in the importance of archives, and historical knowledge in general, so if you know anyone who has old films of wildlife, make sure they are preserved, let me know about them and I will pass them to WildFilmHistory.


Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

Edward 8th may well have been well disposed towards wild animals in Africa, fine - pleased to hear it. But...

It's equally important not to forget that he was a raving fascist. Back in the 1930's, he and Wallace had a personal chinwag with Hitler, and was insistent on speaking fluent German during the meeting. Apparently Hitler not so keen, but it didn't stop Edward and Wal having a grand old day in Dachau Concentration Camp just outside of Munich in 1936 where they viewed the thoroughly admirable regime and were most enthused with it all, and although it was yet to start actively killing people, it was definitely no holiday camp.

Had he ascended to the throne, there is no doubt Edward would have sold Britain down the river to the Third Reich lock, stock and barrel. He also acted traitorously to Britain in foreign currency deals when in exile in the Bermuda during the war.

Wallace Simpson was clearly a gift direct from God for the British political establishment. Her being a divorcee saved the monarchy's face in the light of him being a paid up fascist sympathiser and German enthusiast (by no means the only one in the Upper classes).

One day someone in the Royals will have to come clean, but until then we all should be careful how fully we swallow the "renounced the throne for love" story. There's a lot more to Edward than we have been led to believe.

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

P.S. A further note....

Just because my credibility with you folkes matters to me - and because I wouldn't want you thinking I was some sad Internet angry-man sitting posting stuff into the wee small hours of the night clad only in underpants [WAY too much information - Ed.] ....

The famed 'Royal' biographer Andrew Morton (Princess Diana shocker) has a new thumper out rejoicing in the title "17 carnations". The front cover will tell you pretty all you'll need to know, but, he covers just this story.

And equally just for accuracy's sake - they were bundled off to the Bahamas (not as I said Bermuda) during the war proper.

Submitted by John on

Dominic need not worry about me thinking of him as an internet saddo; he is a great supporter of WLT, and I am very happy to have him highlight the flip side. Hitler was a vegetarian, I believe, but I doubt he was that keen on animal rights! More importantly since I wrote the above, efforts are moving ahead to make sure historic wildlife films are not lost. Anyone interested should email me and I will pass on their details to the folks in Bristol who are taking the lead.

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