Tuesday, 14 February 2017

The Great Constitutional Crisis - and the Press

A notorious "gentlemen's agreement", brokered by Lord Beaverbrook, kept the news of the King's relationship with the twice married Wallis Simpson out of the British press until extremely late in the timeline, i.e. 3rd/4th December 1936. The Continental and American press had displayed no such reticence ("King Will Wed Wally!" predicted The New York Journal on the eve of the Simpson divorce in October 1936; "King's Moll Reno'd in Wolsey's home town!" read another American publication immediately after the event). A sermon on 3rd December 1936 by the Bishop of Bradford (aptly named Blunt) broke the dam of self-imposed censorship, and Fleet Street and the provincial press quickly took up their positions:

"The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Daily Herald (after some equivocation) and The Manchester Guardian all proclaimed for the 'constitutional solution' : that the King had either to renounce Mrs Simpson...or abdicate, as did the entire provincial press, with the exception of The Western Mail, and The Spectator. The Daily Mail (whose lead story was headlined "The People Want Their King"), the Daily Express, the Daily Mirror and, rather surprisingly, the non-conformist News Chronicle plumped for a morgantic marriage, as did the New Statesman, with a difficult to follow argument about Mrs Simpson not being Mrs Simpson at all, since her first husband was still alive, so did The Tablet and the Catholic Herald."
                                                          The Thirties-An Intimate History, Juliet Gardiner

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