Post Regional News Revealed: Wirral woman's secret tryst with prince
28 2002 By Stuart Dye Daily Post Staff
amazing discovery of a giant film archive has revealed how the life and loves
of a Wirral family could have changed the face of the monarchy and altered
the course of 20th-century history. For nearly 40 years, reams of cine film
sat in a dusty attic, in dated and labelled Kodak boxes, accompanied by their
original projector and case.
in 1996, it was discovered, the reels totalling 29,000ft attracted an array
of fascinated film experts and historians. And, after six years of work, the
archive, recorded on 16mm film, will be released as a video in the summer.
The film diary that has emerged charts the lives of an upper-class family
growing up in Wirral and North Wales. It provides one family's personal history
against a backdrop of some of the most important events of the 20th century.
And it offers a suggestion that the monarchy could have been a very different
one today as it reveals the young love between the man who was to become King
Edward VIII and a fellow Oxford student.
archive, shot with painstaking dedication for 44 years, has been hailed as
one of the most important and rare finds in the film world.
camerawoman, Marjorie Alexander, was a noted personality in Wirral. In 1946,
she became the first woman councillor for Heswall and the first female chairman
of Wirral Urban District Council. Miss Alexander, who was in her 80s when
she died in 1983, had a local community hall built for elderly people which
was named after her and still stands in the town today. A keen traveller,
Miss Alexander recorded specific world events she attended such as Hitler
and the Nazis at Nuremberg in 1934, the film set for Ingrid Bergman's movie,
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, in Wales, George V's Jubilee in the 1930s
and Queen Elizabeth's visit to New Zealand in the 1950s.
Bate, producer from Valley-Stream, the company behind the video, said: "The
Alexander Archive is a fascinating 44-year film diary. "Miss Alexander filmed
extensively from 1919 up to 1963. "It has been a huge project to restore this
unique collection. "After being hidden and unseen for nearly 40 years, it's
a miracle that the collection still exists today - it was at one time only
days away from being sold at a car boot sale for 50p a can."
camera, projector and films were discovered in the attic of Miss Alexander's
home in Heswall after her death. The house was cleared by her nephew Gemmell
Alexander, then aged 67, and her effects came up for sale in a local auction.
An unknown Chester man bought the projector and film footage. When he died,
his daughter in Ruthin inherited them. On little more than a whim and to raise
money for home improvements, she contacted ValleyStream, specialists in archive
film footage, and the company began to research the film's origin.
media developments, a film production studios based in the Conwy Valley, North
Wales, produce a wide arrange of special interest media and possess several
large image archives. Researchers from the company traced the Alexanders'
ancestors across the globe to New Zealand, and were put in touch with Gemmell
Alexander, the last member of the family still alive who features in the video.
Now living in Cumbria, Gemmell, now aged 83, has been working on the Archive
He was brought up by Miss Alexander after his mother Winifred's death. Winifred,
who lived in Hooton, Wirral, met the Duke of Windsor while she studied at
Oxford University. They formed a close relationship and were officially "courting" for two years from around 1914. As a couple, they often attended student parties
and university functions together, with Edward driving. The Duke gave Winifred
a signed photograph of himself as a keepsake and a sign of his affection,
and Gemmell still has the original picture.
It is not known why the relationship ended, but circumstantial evidence suggests
the couple could have been separated when Edward went to serve as a staff
officer in the Grenadier Guards during the Great War. By the time the war
ended and he would have returned, Winifred was married and had her first child,
Gemmell. Historians believe that the few details of the relationship thrown
up by the discovery of the film suggest that 20th-century history could have
been very different. Winifred died of Hodgkinson's disease in 1930. Four years
later, Edward considered himself "deeply in love" with divorcee Wallis Simpson
and two years on he abdicated for her after just 11 months.
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