Edward's abdication stuns the empire

By WEBB MILLER, United Press Staff Correspondent
Edward Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, tips his hat to the crowd upon arriving in Sydney, Australia, ca. 1920. File Photo courtesy State Library of New South Wales
Edward Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, tips his hat to the crowd upon arriving in Sydney, Australia, ca. 1920. File Photo courtesy State Library of New South Wales

LONDON, Dec. 10, 1936 (UP) - Edward VIII, thirty-eighth King of England, abdicated today for love of an American woman.

He informed a stunned Parliament that he preferred to abandon his crown rather than give up Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, twice-divorced American, whom he intends to marry.


His formal message of abdication, with its plea for understanding, was unofficially accepted by Commons through statements of party leaders.

Prime Minister Baldwin, who submitted the document to the Commons, this evening introduced a bill of abdication, which undoubtedly will be passed by Commons and Lords by tomorrow night.

The King will sign it and the Duke of York, his brother, will become King - Albert I, probably, -- with his daughter, Princess Elizabeth, the heir to the throne.

After Mr. Baldwin introduced the bill of abdication, Commons adopted a motion that the King's message be considered, and adjourned until 11 a.m. tomorrow.


Lord Halifax, in the House of Lords, announced that Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa had already assented in legislation legalizing the transition of the throne.

He said that Mr. Baldwin also had received assurances from President Eamon De Valera of the Irish Free State that an effort would be made to assemble the Irish Parliament tomorrow to act favorably on the change.

The King probably will sign his abdication tomorrow night and leave then or early Saturday morning for exile, perhaps never setting foot on British Empire soil again out of consideration for his successor.

The King's exile will be voluntary and there is nothing in British law to prevent him visiting England or any part of the empire whenever he chooses, but it was generally believed he would prefer to remain away to avoid any embarrassment.

He may broadcast a farewell to his people before leaving.

His abdication was the blackest day in England's modern history; paralleled only perhaps by March 21, 1918, when Germany broke through on the western front.

The country and the empire was profoundly shocked. Public sentiment had not yet time to crystallize, but there was a growing feeling of resentment that a much-loved monarch should desert his post.


The scene in Commons was one of the most solemn in England's history. Never before has a King voluntarily given up that throne.

But His Majesty's government was determined not to permit a divorcee and commoner to share it with Edward of the House of Windsor.

The King was equally determined to make her Queen or marry her in any case. He, therefore, decided against fighting his ministers and the constitution, a losing struggle.

The historic occasion came at 3:42 p.m. on Thursday, December 10, 1936, after Edward had been on the throne 324 days.

Just before Big Ben chimed the three-quarter hour the Speaker called on Mr. Baldwin, who arose from his seat and walked to the bar of the House.

In a voice which by a mighty effort of will he kept steady, the stocky country squire, the very epitome of conservative England, said: --

"A message from His Majesty the King, sir, signed by His Majesty's own hand."

The silence was uncanny, painful. The throng which filled the small, gloomy chamber, where centuries of history has been made, emitted not even the sound of loud breathing.

The speaker read the King's message.

The emotions of the assembly can only be imagined when he came to the words of renunciation.


Said the King: --

"I am most anxious that there should be no delay ... that all necessary steps should be taken immediately to secure that my lawful successor, my brother, His Royal Highness the Duke of York, should ascend the throne.

(Signed) "Edward, R.I."

Only once more, in all probability, will he write that signature. That will be when he signs the Act of Abdication, which will be enacted by Parliament probably early this evening.

The King signed the fateful abdication papers this morning at Fort Belvedere in the presence of his brothers. At that moment the flag of the Duchy of Cornwall was dipped over the castle.

Then it was raised again to the masthead. Edward, for a few hours, was still King and Duke of Cornwall. His reign ends the second he finishes signing the Act of Abdication passed by Parliament.

It is possible that, with the consent of the new King and Parliament, he will retain the Duchy and its revenues. With his other resources he thus will go into exile with an annual income of perhaps about $500,000.

There is little likelihood that the King, once he leaves England, will ever again set foot on British Empire soil. After his final farewell to his mother, Queen Mary, he may never see her again.


Neither is he likely to see his sister Mary, the Princess Royal, nor his successor. It is possible that his favorite brother, the Duke of Kent, or the other brother, the Duke of Gloucester, could visit him in exile and maintain a semblance of family ties.

In the House today Mr. Baldwin revealed the historic events of the last month leading up to the decision to abdicate.

He disclosed that the King first announced his determination to marry Mrs. Simpson in a conversation at Fort Belvedere on November 16.

"The King said he wanted to tell me something he had long wanted to tell me," Baldwin said.

"'I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson and I am prepared to go.'"

The Prime Minister said he had replied:--

"Sir, it is most grievous news and it is impossible for me to make any comment today."

The King, Mr. Baldwin added, told his mother the news that night and his brothers the next day.

Then followed the constitutional crisis. Day and night there were conferences which led nowhere.

The King clung to a forlorn hope that he could keep his throne and marry Mrs. Simpson morganatically. The cabinet vetoed it emphatically.

There was nothing left for the King to do but quit. All this time, the public was totally unaware of what was going on. Not a word appeared in the press.


Then a week ago, the Bishop of Bradford made a speech which let loose the flood and a stunned public learned the truth. Demonstrations for the King and against Mr. Baldwin were futile. The mass of the British people put the constitution and the rights of Parliament above the King.

Today came the climax. Commons, which over the course of centuries has wrung power from the kings, met in its paneled chamber. The gilt mace, symbol of Parliament's authority, lay on the Speaker's table.

This morning, between visits from Ministers, Mr. Baldwin paid a brief visit to Queen Mary at Marlborough House. Her distress was quite obvious. But her regal bearing, her steel nerve, was never more in evidence, it was learned, as she rose early and breakfasted with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, her son and daughter-in-law, and Princess Mary, the Princess Royal, her only daughter.

There was an atmosphere of mourning over all of Britain. The twentieth century King, whom one and all fiercely defended against critics of his willful ways, was quitting his post for a woman, an American, and twice divorced at that.

After April 27, theoretically, Edward then would be free to marry Mrs. Simpson when her divorce decree became final - and if he obtained the new King's approval under the Royal Marriage Act of 1772. But before he may wed her the new Sovereign must approve.


It was even possible that the rigid British legal authorities might make Mr. Baldwin's statement in Commons the basis for intervention against the decree on the ground that Mrs. Simpson was not free to marry when the King courted her.

Some persons close to the King and Mrs. Simpson doubted that they would marry. Others wondered whether after the ordeal they have been through they would find happiness together for long.

It was a fit day for an abdication. A penetrating damp cold pierced London. The skies were overcast and fog crept along the streets shroud-like. River craft on the Thames whistled dolefully and mist hid the turrets of Fort Belvedere.

The House took a brief recess before it got down to work. Mr. Baldwin said everything would be completed by tomorrow night. Then the King will sign the abdication bill and leave the country.

After the abdication the Privy Council will meet for an Accession Council. The Privy Councillors will be joined by other officials such as the Lord Mayor of London. The new King will be presented, make a short speech and take the oath.

Royal Heralds, as in the case of the death of a King, will proclaim the ascension, probably Monday, at St. James' Palace, Charing Cross, Temple Bar and the Royal Exchange.


Where Edward will go is a mystery, probably to the continent, but not Cannes, where Mrs. Simpson is in retirement.

Her divorce decree nisi has not yet been made final, and it would be regarded as improper for him to join her now. There were indications that "special considerations" would be urged on the divorce court to act sooner, which it is legally entitled to do. If it refuses her decree is due April 27, 1937.

If it consents, the early marriage of Edward and Mrs. Simpson is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Where they will live is conjectural. The Riviera is a possibility, and it also has been suggested that he might choose Argentina.

His brother probably will be crowned on May 12, the original date set for Edward's coronation.

Court circles believe Edward may relinquish all his old titles, but may be given a new dukedom. In any event the government will see that he is well provided for financially.

As soon as Commons suspended, Clement Atlee, Labor leader, summoned his followers to consider their position.

York, who had gone to the royal lodge at Windsor, returned to Fort Belvedere at 5:50 p.m. and was understood to be dining with Edward.


Queen Mary left the residence of the Duke of York in Piccadilly shortly after 4:30 p.m. after a visit of about an hour and a half, so that she was there during the reading of the King's message to Parliament and Mr. Baldwin's statement.

Crowds cheered her departure.

In the brief evening session of Commons, Major Clement R. Atlee, Labor leader, was loudly cheered when he paid tribute to Edward's "deep human interest in the unemployed and the people of the distressed areas."

Major Atlee announced that the Laborites accepted Edward's "irrevocable decision."

Winston Churchill, who had set himself up as the King's champion in Parliament, announced his whole-hearted acceptance of the fact that Edward's decision "was taken freely, voluntarily and spontaneously."

He thus retracted his previous suggestions that it was due to pressure from the Cabinet.

Members shouted dissent when James Maxon, Independent Laborite, said:--

"The lesson of the past few days, especially today, is that the monarchal institution has outlived its usefulness."

Sir Archibald Sinclair, Liberal leader, announced that his party accepted the situation with deep regret.

The Commons chamber was packed to the walls for the abdication.

Outside 5,000 people crowded Parliament Square. Mounted and foot police controlled the throng. At intervals people could be seen running toward the main gate, attempting to glimpse the occupants of arriving cars.


A Fascist blackshirt strolled around selling copies of the party organ, Action. Police did not molest him.

Among the spectators in the diplomatic gallery were Ambassador Robert Worth Bingham of the United States, and the French and Argentine Ambassadors.

A United Press correspondent circulating through the crowd heard an elderly woman say:--

"The King well deserves all that he gets. If he were a boy of 23 we wouldn't think anything about it. But he is 42 and a man of the world who should know better."

News photographers climbed statues in Parliament Square and even telephone poles to obtain crowd scene photographs.

Mr. Baldwin entered the chamber at 3:35 p.m. He was greeted with loud cheering, which was regarded as a renewed approval of his course. At this moment he appeared at the zenith of his popularity.

(Copyright 1936, the United Press)

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