Jonathan Trembley: Tiger Woods and King Edward VIII: When a Personal Problem Becomes a National Dilemma

For two months now, golf superstar Tiger Woods has had to contend with a media whirlwind surrounding his alleged multiples infidelities and possible spousal abuse by his wife. These highly personal problems are probably difficult enough to deal with without the constant hounding of paparazzi and continuous coverage by a media world that seems stuck in a perpetual ‘slow news day’. That being said, no one could tell the media and the celebrity-idolizing populations of the world to ‘mind their own business’ simply because that is exactly what they are doing. It has been revealed that, beginning with Mr. Woods troubles and compounded by both his hiatus from professional golf and by the withdrawal of several of his important sponsors, the Tiger Woods Affair has officially cost the American economy over $12 billion dollars.

The alleged sleeping around and battering of the highly public figure have indeed become the problem of every American; and by extension, it has become the problem of everyone on earth. With only thirteen years of professional sport under his belt, Tiger Woods has become one of the most legendary golf and dare I say sports stars of all time. It is understandable that he must deal with the unwanted attention that comes as a side-effect of wealth and power. This, however, is something public figures do not understand and indeed refuse to accept. Such is the case now with an athlete that may cause the need for other governmental bailout and such was the case in 1930s England.

The Reluctant King

George V was King of England from 1910 to 1936 and like all good things, his reign came to an abrupt end in 1936 (due to lung disease). His successor would of course be his eldest son (King Edward VIII), a man whom, we assume, had all the time in the world to prepare for this day and the incredible burdens and responsibilities that came with it. People envied his position of power and everyone saw the new monarch as one the most important and influential men in the world, that is, everyone but Edward.

On the 20th of January 1936, Edward became King of the United Kingdom and of the British Dominions as well as Emperor of India, a hefty title indeed. He was immediately an able administrator and a dignified head of state although his public persona remained wanting. Unwilling to sacrifice personal ambition and whims, Edward was never very intimate with the media of the time and indeed took decisions that pushed newspapers into the realm of destructive gossip and wild speculation. He was declared “pro-Nazi’, secretly at first and eventually, it was shouted from the rooftops. Edward seemingly did not care what his people thought of him and didn’t even care to refute the accusation. Furthermore, he continued his preoccupation with exclusively personal affairs so far as to propose marriage to a woman named Wallis Simpson. This woman had been unknown to the public yet would become Queen of England. As if the English (and everyone under British dominion) weren’t irked enough, Mrs. Simpsons was not only divorced (twice) but was also an American! The British Prime Minister (Baldwin) simply refused and condoned the marriage, a union unfit of such an important public figure.

What happened next was unassumingly as selfish as Tiger Woods retreating from public life and making the economy nosedive a little more…King Edward VIII abdicated as Crown of England. After 10 months on the most important and far-reaching throne on earth, he stepped down in order to be with Mrs. Simpson and in order to live in peace. A part of us may think he is a human being with a full right to happiness; in December 1936 however, the British peoples did not see it this way. The following days, months and years after saw an intense constitutional crisis that very nearly abolished British monarchy (a 1000 year-old institution) altogether. The people eventually got through it, but it is amazing to see the decision of one (very public) man could plunge millions of people so deep into national dilemma.

In conclusion, Tiger Woods, much like King Edward VIII, must always think of the larger ramifications of his actions. By signing that first million dollar contract, there is an invisible clause that condemns all singers, actors, sports stars, politicians, etc. to a life of constant scrutiny along with an unfaltering responsibility to live in a way that is least harmful to society. That being said, I reiterate my statement that these public figures rarely understand this responsibility and, as we have seen, seldom accept its inevitability.

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