King’s Cottage, 33 Kew Green, Richmond

From Wikipedia:

“Kew Green is a large open space in Kew in west London. Owned by the Crown Estate, it is leased to the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. It is roughly triangular in shape, and its open grassland, framed with broadleaf trees, extends to about thirty acres. Kew Green is overlooked by a mixture of period townhouses, historic buildings and commercial establishments. On the west side, Numbers 9–11, 17–25, 29–33, 49–51 and 55 Kew Green are all Grade II listed, as are Numbers 57–73, 77, and 83.”

Queen Anne subscribed to the building of the parish church on Kew Green, which was dedicated to St Anne in 1714, three months before the Queen’s death.

Paul Johnson wrote in the Spectator of 2.4.05:

“There are some mysteries about Kew church. Is it true that in 1759 the future George III, then a shy young man and not yet king, went through a form of marriage in the church with a ravishing young Quaker called Hannah Lightfoot? The record of this marriage was later stolen from the parish chest. The chest itself was discovered empty, dumped in the Thames, and if such an operation had taken place today, the secret services (rudimentary in George III’s day) would certainly have been blamed. Among those who looked into the matter, and believed the story of George’s indiscretion, was Cosmo Gordon Lang, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Abdication crisis, the ecclesiastical referee who, as it were, saw the besotted Edward VIII off the field. Lang was excoriated in his days of splendour as a prideful and over-prelatical primate, though there is a charming essay on him by A.L. Rowse which puts the record straight. In 1942 Lang resigned his archbishopric and retired to Kew, where he served as a humble assistant curate. When he died he left the church his prayer book, a much thumbed and touching relic.”

No 33 (pictured):

John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute (1713–1792), botanist and honorary director of Kew Gardens (1754–1772); adviser to Princess Augusta and botany tutor to George III; and, later, Prime Minister of Great Britain (1762–63), lived at King’s Cottage, 33 Kew Green, from 1751 to 1754.

From 1943-45, prior to the house’s occupancy by the Marquess and Marchioness Carisbrooke, Cosmo Lang lived here. Encyclopaedia Britannica describes him as an “influential and versatile Anglican priest who, as archbishop of Canterbury, was a close friend and adviser to King George VI. He also played a role in the abdication in 1936 of King Edward VIII, whose relationship with the American divorcée Wallis Simpson would, Lang feared, divide the country and diminish the British monarchy.”.

On 11.12.12., Standpoint magazine published a review by S J D Green of Robert Beaken’s biography of Lang:

“Lang’s official biographer, J.G. Lockhart, scarcely knew his subject, harboured little sympathy for his aims and trivialised a lifetime’s work in a torrent of unsubstantiated anecdote. More serious ecclesiastical historians have since found him both wanting in Church leadership between the wars (Adrian Hastings) and lacking any vision for the future after 1939 (Alan Wilkinson). The general view today is that his principal concern during those momentous years was to avoid doing or saying anything that might embarrass the government of the day (Edward Carpenter). He thereby earned the contemptuous neglect he has subsequently suffered. To the degree that scholars take any interest in his life and legacy at all, it is as a dubious exemplar of the repressed homosexual in high places, alternatively “outed” by A.L. Rowse and David Starkey.  To the extent that any public memory of the man survives, it is as the oleaginous courtier portrayed by Derek Jacobi in The King’s Speech (2010).

This is a travesty of the truth. Dr. Robert Beaken has now set about putting the record straight.  He has succeeded triumphantly. Cosmo Lang: Archbishop in War and Crisis is a major work of historical scholarship. It effects a profound revision in our understanding of a critical figure in the ecclesiastical life of early-twentieth century England. It also makes a significant contribution to the political and social history of pre-war Britain more generally. It is beautifully written. And it is a compelling read.”.

Wikipedia states: “On 5 December 1945 Lang was due to speak in a Lords debate on conditions in Central Europe. On his way to Kew Gardens station to catch the London train, he collapsed and was taken to hospital, but was found to be dead on arrival. A post-mortem attributed the death to heart failure.”.

Green closes his review: “He lived just long enough to see the defeat of the Axis powers for which he had unostentatiously striven, dropping dead on 5th December 1945, outside of Kew Gardens underground station, on his way to see Anne Todd, the unrequited love of his declining years.”.

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