IPSWICH, England, Oct. 27, 1936 (UP) - Mrs. Ernest Simpson, American friend of King Edward VIII, obtained a swift divorce in the small, dingy Ipswich Court today. The public was barred from the courtroom at the last minute.
Mrs. Simpson accused her husband of infidelity. She appeared with witnesses and eminent lawyers before Mr. Justice Sir Anthony Hawke, presented the brief evidence necessary and a decree nisi was handed down immediately.
It can be made absolute in six months, or even sooner in exceptional circumstances.
Mrs. Simpson then will be free to marry. The vivacious American's friendship with the King has caused endless talk of the possibility that she might become his bride.
The divorce was granted at 2:38 P. M. (9:38 A. M. N. Y. time), scarcely twenty minutes after court opened.
Norman Birkett, attorney for Mrs. Simpson, asked the Court if it was a decree nisi with costs against Simpson, and Justice Hawke replied: --
"I suppose so."
The petition named a "Miss Kennedy" as co-respondent. Her address was not revealed.
The charge presented by counsel for Mrs. Simpson said that: --"Ernest Simpson stayed with a woman at the Hotel de Paris, at Bray, in Berkshire, on the night of July 21, 1936."
Evidence was given by two waiters, who testified that they took breakfast to the bedroom of Mr. Simpson and the woman on the mornings of July 22 and 23, 1936, where they saw Ernest Simpson and a woman in one double bed.
The decree gave Mrs. Simpson's address as the Beach Hotel, Felixstowe. As she emerged from the court, she hastened away in her car and it was not known whether she was returning to Felixstowe.
She drove fast. A photographer, who tried to follow her previously on her way from Felixstowe to the court, a trip of eleven miles, drove at 65 to 70 miles but could not catch up.
Shortly before the hearing, King Edward held a meeting of the Privy Council at Buckingham Palace. If the King decided to marry, he would notify the council.
However, today's proceedings were routine, including a discussion of the King's speech at the opening of Parliament and the coronation ceremony next year.
It has been assumed that Mrs. Simpson will occupy a seat in the distinguished visitor's gallery at the opening at Parliament.
Granting of her divorce may be expected to increase speculations over the possibility of a marriage to the King.
The general public, however, is not aware of the gossip, as the papers have imposed a rigid censorship on themselves.
However, if the talk does become general knowledge, there may be much resentment over the possibility of the King marrying a twice divorced woman. Mrs. Simpson previously had won a divorce from Lieutenant Wingfield Spencer, Jr., at Warrenton, Va. In December, 1927, charging her husband with desertion and non-support.
While today's proceedings were in progress a crowd of about 150 to 200, in addition to reporters and photographers, gathered in front of the court. Most of them were unaware of what was going on or its importance, being merely attracted by the unusual activity.
The Simpson case had been prepared carefully by some of the ablest lawyers of the country, and the proceedings were amazingly swift.
A fanfare of trumpets announcing the approach of Mr. Justice Hawke sounded at 2:16 P. M. The Justice took his seat at 2:17 P. M. Mrs. Simpson went to the stand at 2:18 and left at 2:28. The two waiters gave evidence for four minutes and the Justice granted the divorce at 2:28 P. M.
Only the Judge, court, officials, the principals, counsel, witnesses and the press were present.
The lean, brown-faced, tall Mr. Birkett sat at the corner of a big table with Mrs. Simpson at his left, and his assistant, Walter Frampton, on his right. Their backs were toward the press.
The sun disappeared as the Judge entered, throwing the dingy courtroom into semi-gloom. The whole court, including Mrs. Simpson, rose. Mr. Justice Hawke bowed and took his seat. He wore black robes.
The clerk announced: --"Simpson vs. Simpson."
Mr. Birkett arose and opened the proceedings. He immediately sent Mrs. Simpson to the stand.
She wore a trim, dark-blue rough serge costume with short fashionable coat, white blouse with collar peeking over the coat collar and a dark blue, round sailor hat perched at a pert angle over her dark hair.
She wore no gloves and her tinted nails were noticeable. She seemed nervous and shifted her feet as she answered questions. Sometimes she jerked her head and twisted her shoulders, keeping her hands motionless on the ledge in front of her.
She spoke in a soft voice, with a distinct and rather hard American accent. She took the oath clearly, but her subsequent answers were almost inaudible.
Mrs. Simpson gave quick answers, sometimes almost before Mr. Birkett finished asking questions. She would turn slightly toward Mr. Birkett to listen to the question and then back toward the bench to give the answer.
The press caught only occasional glimpses of her profile as she turned her head. She has a rather long and pointed nose and sharp features. She is small but shapely.
When Mr. Birkett asked her what prompted her to bring action, she spoke rapidly, as if reciting. Mr. Birkett handed her letters and photographs for identification, asking her to hand them to the judge. She was too short to reach the bench and gave the letters to an under-sheriff sitting on the judge's right.
Justice Hawke seemed dissatisfied with the letters, two of which were not read to the court. He rebuked Mr. Birkett, pointing out they were not sufficient evidence for divorce.
One of the letters, Mrs. Simpson said, she found on a dressing table. The other was addressed to Ernest Simpson, but was mistakenly addressed to her. Then she went to her solicitors, she said, and wrote to her husband, saying that as he had been staying at a hotel with another woman she was instituting proceedings.
Her evidence finished she returned to her seat in the well of the court, chatted animatedly with Mr. Birkett, patted her hair and fidgeted while Mr. Frampton examined other witnesses.
Mr. Frampton seemed not too well prepared. After reeling off a succession of questions to the first waiter he had to call him back to identify the woman he had seen in Ernest Simpson's bed as someone other than Mrs. Simpson.
Similarly with the second waiter, Mr. Birkett had to prompt Mr. Frampton to ask the witness whether the couple he saw in bed was the same couple (Mr. and Mrs. Simpson) he saw later in the solicitor's office when the divorce proceedings were filed.
The two witnesses were slick, small and pale-faced. One spoke with a marked Scottish accent. The other, apparently Italian, spoke English well. They gave evidence as though reciting.
There was a spat between Mr. Frampton and Justice Hawke when the first waiter was recalled to pick Mr. Simpson out from the photographs as the man he saw in bed. Mr. Frampton asked the witness: --
"Do you recognize the figure in the left photograph?"
Justice Hawke interposed in a hurt voice: --
"No, no, Mr. Frampton. You know better than that. Now you have gone and identified the man for him."
Mr. Frampton, reddening indignantly, replied: --
"If My Lord please, I think the next question will meet Your Lordship's wishes."
Justice Hawke, also red-faced, dabbed at his mouth with his handkerchief and subsided.
The third witness was a hotel porter who had registered the couple. When Mr. Frampton wanted the porter to look at the page from the register it was on the Judge's desk, but the Judge said he didn't have it. He found it almost immediately, however, and handed it to the porter, apologizing to Mr. Frampton.
Mr. Birkett then said briefly: --
"That is my client's petition."
Justice Hawke, settling himself in his seat and tucking his robes around him, began: --
"Well, Mr. Birkett, you know what is on my mind."
Mr. Birkett replied he assumed His Lordship was referring to the identity of the co-respondent, but although her name was not offered in court it was in the petition, which he hoped would suffice.
"That is just what is on my mind," Justice Hawke replied, but added that if the name were it in the petition it would suffice. Mr. Birkett then said formally: --
"We ask you for a decree nisi with costs."
Justice Hawke, wearily replied: --
"Yes, I suppose so."
Mrs. Simpson and her counsel were ushered at once from court, heavily guarded, as a second divorce case, Byford vs. Byford, was called. The press started to leave the court noisily, causing the bailiff to shout, "Silence, silence." The reporters had to halt anyway, because all doors were locked until Mrs. Simpson's car had gone.
At this moment the counsel of the second divorce case called his client but had to send an usher to look for him. Even the usher was unable to leave, causing counsel to remark: --
"There seems to be a little trouble going on, me lud."
Justice Hawke nodded and started a whispered conversation with the Sheriff, glancing at the press and obviously referring to the Simpson case.
Immediately the reporters were released they swept into the street, bowling through the staring crowd.
The United Press correspondent dashed into a store next door where a colleague was holding an open telephone line to New York in a privately reserved room and began dictating his story.
Meanwhile Mrs. Simpson had been hurried to her automobile waiting behind the Shire Hall. The car speeded out a roadway at the other end into Bond St., where a police car blocked the entrance.
As the car emerged police rushed two photographers and smashed their cameras. They cleared the street and halted cars of photographers trying to follow Mrs. Simpson.
(Copyright 1936 by the United Press)