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Saturday, 10 December 2016

Edward VIII Decided to Abdicate but Baldwin Soothed the Nation's Hurt

Wednesday 10th December 1936


The nation woke to the knowledge that the King was to send a message to Parliament announcing his decision on the question which had dominated affairs for the past week.. It would not be delivered until about 3pm so there were still a few hours of uncertainty, or even hope, remaining, but the fact that a Cabinet committee was known to be preparing for eventualities that might arise, gave a firm hint that his decision was to be abdication.

When the King's message was read out many in the House were nearly in tears as chose Mrs. Simpson over the throne. Baldwin faced one of the greatest challenges that has faced a Prime Minister when he spoke afterwards. He had to begin the task of repairing the public psyche after the traumatic decision by its head of state, the incarnation of national identity to abandon his duty in favour of his private happiness. Baldwin succeeded magnificently in a speech of apparent openness and simplicity, which set out a narrative of frank dialogue to resolve a conflict between two impulses of the human heart. He heaped praise on the departing sovereign.

Baldwin's speech was immediately recognized as one of the great triumphs of Parliamentary oratory. It was also a wild distortion of true events which had been anything but calm and dignified. For the tale that Baldwin's speech masked, read The King Who Had To Go by me Adrian Phillips.


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