Page last updated at 00:25 GMT, Saturday, 6 December 2008

Edward VIII's links to a mystic

Edward VIII pictured in November 1936
Edward VIII pictured in November 1936 shortly before his abdication

Further evidence has emerged that King Edward VIII was seeing a mystic during the abdication crisis, prompting the Archbishop of Canterbury to intervene.

Previously undisclosed archives tell the story of a king in the grip of a man known as "The Yorkshire Yogi".

Dr Alexander Cannon trained as a medic, and dabbled in alternative treatments, mystic techniques and black magic.

Lambeth Palace was tipped off that the King was receiving hypnotic treatment from Dr Cannon for a drink problem.

The new archive evidence is examined by reporter Sean Stowell in BBC Radio 4's The Archive Hour.

Would you kindly tell me whether you think this Dr Cannon is a really trustworthy person?
Dr Cosmo Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury

Edward VIII reigned for only 11 months, abdicating in December 1936 so that he could marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

The marriage was opposed by politicians of the day and would have caused a constitutional crisis if he had remained on the throne.

Archbishop's concerns

The allegation about the King's contact at that time with Dr Cannon was made in a letter from a country vicar to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Cosmo Lang.

The Archbishop began an investigation into the claims and alerted the prime minister about his concerns.

In a letter dated 9 December 1936, Dr Lang wrote to William Brown, a Harley Street doctor, that he had been "informed by a credible person that a certain Dr Cannon... has been recently attending the King".

"Would you kindly tell me whether you think this Dr Cannon is a really trustworthy person? He seems from the accounts I have received to be one who encourages somewhat dangerous methods of treatment."

Dr Alexander Cannon, psychic medic with links to King Edward VIII
Dr Alexander Cannon was investigated by the security services

The Lambeth Palace documents have been studied in detail by the programme reporter, Sean Stowell, and Roger Sims, an archivist at the Manx Museum who has led the research into Cannon.

Mr Sims said: "It was believed that Cannon was having an adverse influence on the King, who was at that time under considerable pressure and who was having various treatments for various problems.

"They're very concerned about the influence Cannon is having on the King. He's an unorthodox medical practitioner and is becoming quite close to the King, a confidant."

Exotic remedies

Dr Cannon was the subject of an MI5 investigation and then an establishment cover-up before settling in virtual exile in the Isle of Man, where he put on magic shows and psychic performances.

Taped recordings of Dr Cannon reveal some of his beliefs and theories, from how to be happy to the secret behind magic-carpet journeys across Asia.

They were discovered at the home of an amateur magician on the Isle of Man and are now in the Manx Museum.

He employed two female assistants who helped with performances.

One act involved one of the women being put into a hypnotic trance to diagnose physical and psychological problems, as she glared at the patient.

The mystery was achieved against the background of exotic music and incense.

Dr Cannon was renowned for prescribing exotic remedies for stress, alcoholism, sex and confidence problems.

Treatments included electrotherapies and Tibetan hypnosis techniques, learned while Dr Cannon was a prison doctor in China.

He lived at the neo Gothic mansion, Ballamore Castle, and his flamboyant lifestyle and love of black, a flowing cape and winged collars led a judge on the island to describe him as "eccentric".

Before he moved to the Isle of Man, Dr Cannon practised in central London, with consulting rooms near Harley Street.

Further evidence of the King's links to Dr Cannon come in a recorded interview with Piers Compton, the former literary editor of The Universe Catholic newspaper.

He said he had been told that King Edward was in the grip of "the leader of black magic in England", who had been called in to treat him for drunkenness.

Mysticism was all the rage in the cocktail set of the 1930s. The rich and famous made Dr Cannon a wealthy man, spending a small fortune on treatments at his consulting rooms.

In another archived interview, a socialite of the day, John Gastor, said the King had been "entrapped and ensnared" by Dr Cannon.

Lambeth Palace was tipped off just as the news broke about the King's relationship with Mrs Simpson.

Eleven days later, the King abdicated.

His biographer Philip Ziegler, said it was probable the King did receive treatment from "the Yorkshire Yogic", but his major influence remained Mrs Simpson and not Dr Cannon.

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