It happened in New Orleans in 1950. To this day, there is photographic evidence on display at Antoine’s restaurant in the heart of the French Quarter. The photo taken at the moment of the legendary yet historical event is one of many treasures now and forever in the possession of once and future kings of Rex, a Mardi Gras Krewe that is celebrating their 150th anniversary in New Orleans.
To be clear, the man who bowed before Rex, the reigning King of Carnival, was the King of England… for less than a year. Edward VIII was the king of the United Kingdom from January 20, 1936 to December 10, 1936, which is when he abdicated the throne to marry. If this sounds familiar, then it’s because Edward VIII has been prominently featured as a historical royal on Netflix in “The Crown” series, and in the Academy Award-winning movie “The King’s Speech.”
When King Edward gave up his title, his brother George took reign of England as the king with a speech impediment, for which he is the main character in the most nominated film in the history of The Academy Awards. King George bestowed the title of Duke of Windsor and his wife Duchess of Windsor, whom both attained the title as the past Prince Charles and Lady Diana in the 1980s.
Once the title had been given to him, he visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras season in 1950. It was at a location known as The Boston Club on Canal Street where the moment happened. Rex Krewe members still get giddy, and their fancy tickled when they think of it: a member of actual royalty bowing before the King and Queen of Rex! A king no less, Edward VIII did the unthinkable in giving a courtesy and a bow before a New Orleans mock-monarchy as the Mardi Gras Monarchs sat high upon their glittery, Fat Tuesday thrones.
The grace and effortless elegance for which the Duke and Duchess of Windsor might have been known for in the court of Buckingham Palace was on full display in the court of Rex on Canal Street. A camera eye clicked at that pinnacle moment, which was immortalized in the history of Rex. And the rest is history.
Some historians might argue that Edward VIII might have bowed to just about anyone, as rumors circled of capitulation with the Nazis. Allegedly, rumors of King Edward being a collaborator involved with a Nazi Germany strategy to undermine the British Empire in his capacity would lead to Edward VIII being given the moniker “the traitor king”, among other things.
Post-war New Orleans was a different time zone altogether. After joking the court of Rex, and sitting beside the King and Queen of Rex, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor accompanied Rex to the court of Comus for the meeting of the royal Mardi Gras courts and the closing procession, thus the end of Mardi Gras in 1950. No known photos of the royals attending Comus are known to exist. The Krewe of Comus is the most secretive of the Mardi Gras Krewes (and very well could be considered a ‘secret society’). However, if one were to look inside Antoine’s restaurant, the most famous of French Quarter restaurants, just outside of the Rex Room in the hallway, one might actually see proof of the historical event in a photograph that is the crown jewel in the crown of Rex.