Saturday 17 March 2018

Mrs Simpson a 'miserable American'

King Edward VIII and his lover, Wallis Simpson
King Edward VIII and his lover, Wallis Simpson

An eyewitness account of the Edward VIII abdication crisis by the BBC's then director general reveals how the executive believed a "miserable, second-rate American woman" was behind the events.

The Corporation's founder Sir John Reith made the comment minutes after the royal gave his historic radio address on December 11, 1936 saying he would give up the throne for the woman he loved, divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Sir John was at Windsor Castle for the broadcast and introduced the former King saying: "This is Windsor Castle. His Royal Highness Prince Edward".

He wrote a diary account of the events surrounding the address and extracts are featured in a collection of radio broadcasts, and television footage telling the Abdication story on the webpages of BBC Archive.

The material goes online today to commemorate the anniversary of the broadcast and to mark a new three-part BBC period drama, Upstairs Downstairs, which is set against the backdrop of the crisis and will be launched over the festive period.

The webpages also feature an internal BBC memo from 1936 where the director of the empire service writes to the controller of programmes stating the need for a special news broadcast to counter the rumours circulating about the King's affair with Mrs Simpson.

Reith's diary extract recounts a meeting with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin's adviser Horace J Wilson and how there were concerns about inflaming anti-monarchy sentiment in Ireland.

He wrote: "Also to be very careful not to get any confusion between the old king and new, & not to play the National Anthem at all.

"Also to go slow on Irish Free state news as there was a fear of a republic being proclaimed there."

Reith's diary entry is believed to have been published before but not widely reported on.

Press Association

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