This month’s Buchan of the Month is The King’s Grace. It seems appropriate to be reading one of John Buchan’s works of nonfiction to coincide with Nonfiction November but also because we have recently marked the 100th anniversary of the interment of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, a ceremony attended by King George V.
The King’s Grace was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 4th April 1935 and in the US by Houghton Mifflin (with the title The People’s King) on 1st May 1935. It was published in Canada by The Musson Book Company, bound up from sheets imported from England. A signed limited edition of 500 copies was also produced.
The King’s Grace was commissioned by Hodder & Stoughton to celebrate the 25th anniversary of King George V’s accession to the throne. Buchan’s first biographer, Janet Adam Smith, is anxious to point out the book is not a piece of “royal tushery” but a history of the events of the reign. She also quotes John Attenborough of Hodder & Stoughton, who worked with Buchan on the book, and recalls “He wrote the book at great speed, and we made great demands upon him as an author, for different versions of it were produced at different times, including special editions for school authorities, who wanted to give it away to their pupils as a memento of the anniversary.”
My own copy (complete with bookplate) is one of those school editions, in this case published by University of London Press. The frontispiece states “In accordance with the wishes of Mr. John Buchan, this School Edition of The King’s Grace has been specially prepared and edited by Dr. F. H. Spencer”. (Although he was still Mr. John Buchan at the time of publication of the book he would shortly become Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, in preparation for taking up the post of Governor-General of Canada.)
Look out for my review of The King’s Grace later this month.
Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (OUP, 1985 )
Kenneth Hillier and Michael Ross, The First Editions of John Buchan: A Collector’s Illustrated Biography (Avonworld, 2008)