Waiting For The King’s Speech – Dec. 9, 1936 – Past Daily Weekend Reference Room

King Edward VIII - Wallace Simpson
King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson – an unprecedented alliance.

December 9, 1936 – BBC/NBC – Alistair Cooke and Bulletins from London – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Ironically, it was this day (December 11) eighty years ago, that King Edward VIII of England abdicated the throne to marry Wallace Simpson, an American divorcée and a “commoner”. The move was unprecedented, and it threw the British Monarchy and constitution into a state of chaos. At the time of this broadcast however, it was December 9th and speculation was rife as to what the King was going to do.

As with every event in history, at the time it was unfolding, no one knew how it would end up, and no one knew for sure if the King was going to abdicate to marry Simpson, or follow the dictates of the Monarchy and break off the intended wedding or marry Simpson and stay on the Throne.

Speculation had been going on for some time – and even though it had reached the crisis stage, and was being covered extensively in the U.S., many in the British press were growing tired of the endless reporting. After some two weeks since the initial story broke, it began to slip in importance, in favor of the situation in Spain and the Civil War unfolding in that country.

But on this day there was considerable movement and a barrage of meetings between Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street. Word was spreading that the King had made his decision but had not yet gone public with it, that the Cabinet, Ministers and the Royal Family all knew and were attempting to deal with the situation and the ramifications it presented.

As most everyone is familiar with the eventual address King Edward gave on this day, listening to the events leading up to that speech are fascinating, especially since no one knew outside government circles at the time how the story would turn out. And so Alistair Cooke, whom we mostly know as the presenter of the PBS series Masterpiece Theatre from the 1970s, was breathlessly reporting the events as they were happening, just as unclear of the outcome as everyone else was on this day, 80 years ago.

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