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Royalty and Australian Society: Records relating to the British Monarchy held in Canberra


4 King Edward VIII (1936)

Image 12: Edward, Prince of Wales in 1920.

Image 12: Edward, Prince of Wales in 1920.
NAA: A1861, 4504
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Edward VIII was born on 23 June 1894. He served with the Commonwealth Forces in World War I and later visited Australia as the Prince of Wales in 1920. His was one of the most popular of royal visits to Australia. Journeying on the royal yacht Renown, he visited all Australian states in addition to Barbados, California, Honolulu, Fiji, New Zealand, Samoa, Acapulco, the West Indies and Bermuda. The Prince arrived in Australia in Melbourne on 27 May and departed from the country on 18 August 1920.

Edward ascended the throne on 20 January 1936 after the death of his father, George V. Before the end of the year, however, he took the unprecedented step of abdicating so that he could marry a twice divorced American woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson. On 10 December 1936 he made the following broadcast to the Empire:

After long and anxious consideration, I have determined to renounce the Throne to which I succeeded on the death of my father and I am now communicating this my final and irrevocable decision. Realising as I do the gravity of this step, I can only hope that I shall have the understanding of my people in the decision I have taken, and the reasons which have led me to take it.

I will not enter now into my private feelings, but I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden which constantly rests up on the shoulders of the Sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I now find myself.

I conceive that I am not overlooking the duties of a Sovereign that rest upon me to place in the forefront public interests, when I declare that I am conscious that I can no longer discharge this heavy task with efficiency or with satisfaction to myself.

I have accordingly, this morning, executed an instrument of abdication…1

Royal Visit 1920

The Prince of Wales' royal visit of 1920 was extraordinarily popular. The extent of public support for the visit is illustrated by the following story told in Edward's autobiography, A King's Story: The Memoirs of HRH the Duke of Windsor:

The unofficial diary kept by my staff… recorded in Melbourne: 'Confetti is appearing in great and unpleasant quantities, and the touching mania has started, only owing to the heartening disposition of the Australians the touches are more like blows and HRH arrived half blinded and black and blue.

The 'touching mania', one of the most remarkable phenomena connected with my travels, took the form of a mass impulse to prod some part of the Prince of Wales. Whenever I entered a crowd, it closed around me like an octopus. I can still hear the shrill, excited cry, 'I touched him!' If I were out of reach, then a blow to my head with a folded newspaper appeared to satisfy the impulse.2

The organisation responsible for the 1920 visit by Edward, Prince of Wales was the Commonwealth Organizer, Royal Visit. This agency is registered within the Archives as CA 1051.

It was arranged that the Prince should spend nine days in Victoria, eleven days in New South Wales, fours days in Tasmania, eleven days in Western Australia, six days in South.

Australia and eight days in Queensland. The overland journey from South Australia to Queensland via inland New South Wales towns was scheduled to take ten days. Any remaining days were allotted as free days for the Prince.3

The Commonwealth Organizer, Royal Visit was located at Victoria Barracks, Melbourne, but responsible to the Prime Minister's Department. It generated a number of record series which deal specifically with the visit. These are included amongst the record series listed below:

PAPERS RELATING TO ROYAL VISIT TO QUEENSLAND, 1920
Canberra
Series: A6454
Quantity: 0.09 metres
Recorded by: 1920 Department of Works and Railways (CA 14)
A654
MAIN SERIES OF CORRESPONDENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'R' (ROYAL) PREFIX, 1920–1922
Canberra
Series: A6678
Quantity: 1.62 metres
Recorded by: 1920–1922 Commonwealth Organizer, Royal Visit (CA 1051); 1920–1922 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
MAIN SERIES OF CORRESPONDENCE AND ADMINISTRATIVE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'R' (ROYAL) PREFIX, 1920–1922

This is the principal record series of the Commonwealth Organizer, containing correspondence and administrative files relating to the visit to Australia of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales in 1920.

The files document the work of the Commonwealth Organizer and staff, covering various subjects, eg invitations, suggestions, accounts, accommodation, transport, appointment of organisations and staff, programs, His Majesty's Ship Renown, naval arrangements, presentations and commemorations, gratuities, press matters, addresses of welcome, military arrangements, visits, etiquette, dress and precedence. There is one file on expenditure and accounts matters; however, a separate series (CRS A6679 Expenditure files, Royal Visit, 1920–1922), contains most of the accounts matters and statements of expenditure, etc.

The files in this series were perused in 1926 by the Staff of the 1927 Royal Visit Organisation. Some material was at that time destroyed but notes were also added to some files. A few files also contain single folios added after the closure of the agency. (In one case, later action was recorded on a 'Royal Visit' file in 1936 by the Prime Minister's Department regarding the sale of film footage of the 1920 visit to cinema companies). In such cases explanatory notes have been included in the inventory of items.

A6678
EXPENDITURE FILES, ROYAL VISIT, 1920–1922
Canberra
Series: A6679
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1920–1922 Commonwealth Organizer, Royal Visit (CA 1051 ); 1920–1922 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
EXPENDITURE FILES, ROYAL VISIT, 1920–1922

Files detailing the expenditure on the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales in 1920. The files contain itemised statements of expenditure, warrant authorities, contingencies, correspondence on financial matters, accounts and requests for reimbursements. The files were accumulated for individual states, organisations, and departments. The series includes files created by the District Finance Officer in each state and files detailing the expenditure incurred by numerous Government departments such as Prime Minister's, Defence, Home and Territories, and the Department of Works and Railways in the various states.

A6679
UNREGISTERED CORRESPONDENCE FILES RELATING TO THE 1920 ROYAL VISIT, 1920–1924
Canberra

This series consists of correspondence to and from the Governor-General's Office in connection with the visit to Australia of the Prince of Wales in 1920.

The files are unregistered and deal with the liaison with the Secretary of State for the Colonies, other Governors-General, State Governors, the Personal Secretary to the Prince of Wales, the Prime Minister, and the Commonwealth Organizer on matters of entertainment, itineraries, etiquette, patronage and precedence.

Series: A6690
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1920–1924 Governor-General (CA 1)
Derailment of Royal Train in Western Australia, 1920 A6690, 8
Returned soldiers' functions in Australia, 1920 A6990, 10
Governor-General's levee, 1920 A6990, 14
MATERIAL RELATED TO ROYAL VISIT OF HRH, EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES TO AUSTRALIA IN 1920
Canberra
Series: A9291
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1920 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
MATERIAL RELATED TO ROYAL VISIT OF HRH, EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES TO AUSTRALIA IN 1920

Contains a great deal of ephemera concerned with the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales to Australia in 1920. The type of material includes menus, timetables for the Royal Train, ball invitations, speeches and commemorative prints etc. These examples came from all the states the Prince visited and illustrate the hundreds of events organised in honour of his visit.

A9291

Examples of records concerning the Royal Visit of 1920

Image 13: At the Anzac Hotel, Launceston, 21 July 1920.

Image 13: At the Anzac Hotel, Launceston, 21 July 1920.
NAA: A1861, 4538
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Coming as recently as it did after the conclusion of World War I, the Prince's tour was massive in its scope and intention:

Between 26 May and 19 August he visited 110 cities and towns across Australia. He had undertaken a similar tour through Canada the previous year. His father, King George V, described these tours as an opportunity for his son and heir to become better acquainted with the peoples of the Empire. The visits were also regarded as a royal thank you for the service and the sacrifice given by the Dominions in the war. But the tours were also designed to secure another function entirely – that was, to maintain the spirit of Empire.4

A feature of the Prince's tour were the 'democratic levees' that were held in a number of the cities he visited. At a levee, lines of people would file past the Prince, allowing themselves a view of the Prince, and he a view of his people. The levee held at the Sydney Town Hall on 18 June 1920 was described as follows by the Sydney Morning Herald:

It was the meeting between the prince and the great democracy. For hours the people filed past His Royal Highness. Many of them waited for hours in the queue for the opportunity. The queue, in which the people stood about twelve deep, was the longest ever seen in Sydney...The Prince stood for an hour on the dais in the Town Hall, while the people passed at an average rate estimated by the Town Hall Clerk (Mr Nesbitt) at 170 per minute… It is estimated that about 50 000 walked past the Prince and that about 100 000 people were in the streets outside the Hall.

It was almost impossible for the Prince to notice people individually, and some of the crowd who were not as tall as those in front had difficulty in seeing the Prince at all.

The only definite thing that one can say about the people who passed before His Royal Highness is that they were representative of the whole community – clergy, accountants, journalists and professional men of all descriptions, manual workers, and women and children filed passed.

That the Prince should have gone through the ordeal unaffected was not to be expected. He was raising his hat continually for nearly two and a half hours.5

Series: A2
Recorded by: 1904–1911 Prime Minister's Office (CA 588)
Holidays – Holiday on visit of Prince Wales, 1920 – Recorded by: 1904–1911 Prime Minister's Office (CA 588) A2, 1920/782
Prince of Wales Visit. Initial Arrangements. Appointment of Sir CBB White as Organiser, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 1
Prince of Wales Visit – Expenditure, 1920–1921
Series A6679, described previously, contains the bulk of the information about expenditure in connection with this royal visit.
A2, 1920/1113 parts 2, 3
Prince of Wales Visit Organizers' File, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 4
Prince of Wales Visit Expenses, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 5
Prince of Wales Visit Advances to General White, 1920–1921 A2, 1920/1113 part 6
Prince of Wales Visit Itinerary, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 7
Prince of Wales Itinerary, 1920

This file, and the one above, detail negotiations for the visit and requests for the Prince's time whilst he was in Australia.

The file also contains a clipping from the Melbourne Age which shows the Government was keen on exposing the Prince to real 'Australian experiences':

The Commonwealth Organizer for the Prince of Wales' tour, Sir Brudenell White, has determined that the Prince shall have a real insight into the typical outback life in the Commonwealth. According to official announcements made yesterday, a varied programme of kangaroo and emu hunting, buckjumping, with exhibitions of shearing etc, will be provided for the Prince and his entourage when on the overland journey from Adelaide to Wallangarra.

A2, 1920/1113 part 8
Examples of records concerning the royal visit of 1920
Series: A2
Prince of Wales – Motor Cars for, 1920–1921 A2, 1920/1113 part 9
Prince of Wales Visit – Congratulations, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 10
Prince of Wales – Mails for, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 11
Prince of Wales' visit – Message to School children, 1920

This file contains an open letter from the Prince of Wales to the schoolchildren of Australia. The letter, dated 16 August 1920 reads in part as follows:

Girls and boys

My wonderful first visit to Australia is nearly over and I want to tell you before I sail how sorry I am to be going and to give you all my best wishes…

I should like you all to remember my first visit, which I have enjoyed so much myself, and so I have asked that as a special favour to me you may have an extra week's holiday some time this year.

Australia is a magnificent country and I think you very fortunate to have it for your own. Make up your minds to serve Australia well, for the future of every country depends before all things on the spirit of its girls and boys…

A2, 1920/1113 part 12
Series: A2
Prince of Wales Gala Performance at Her Majesty's Theatre, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 13
Prince of Wales' Visit – Flags, 1920–1921 A2, 1920/1113 part 14
Prince of Wales' Visit – Ministerial Accompaniment, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 15
Prince of Wales' Invitations to State Ministers travelling on Trans-Continental Line, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 16
Prince of Wales – Newspaper Correspondents, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 17
Prince of Wales' Visit – Naval Arrangements, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 18
Prince of Wales' Visit – Loan of blankets for NSW police A2, 1920/1113 part 19
Prince of Wales' Visit – Arrangements for viewing foundation stone ceremony, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 20
Prince of Wales' Visit – Arrangements for foundation stone Ceremony – Canberra, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 21
Prince of Wales – Appointment as Captain [of] Australian Navy, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 23
Prince of Wales – Closing of Hotels, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 24
Prince of Wales' Visit. Bands of HMAS Renown and HMAS Australia, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 25
Prince of Wales' Visit Miscellaneous, 1920 A2, 1920/1113 part 26
Prince of Wales' Visit – Ferry Steamer Bingarra, 1920 A2, 1920/1356
Public Service Salaries – Requests for increased pay during Prince of Wales' visit, 1920 A2, 1920/3353
Series: A6678
Recorded by: 1920–1922 Commonwealth Organizer, Royal Visit (CA 1051); 1920–1922 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Material borrowed re Royal Visit arrangements, 1901–1920

The visit of the Prince of Wales was the first royal tour since 1901. To draw on knowledge and precedents set by this tour, information was taken from files compiled in 1901 to create this file to assist with 1920 arrangements.

A6678, R5/5/3
Visit of Prince of Wales to Victoria, 1920 A6678, R11/1
Visit of Prince of Wales to NSW, 1920
Visit of Prince of Wales. South Australian Programme
Visit of Prince of Wales. Western Australian Programme A6678, R11/5
Visit of Prince of Wales. Tasmanian Programme, 1920 A6678, R11/6
Visit of Prince of Wales. Police file, 1920 A6678, R17
Visit of Prince of Wales – Official report

This report by the Commonwealth Organizer Brudenell White is divided into four sections: a general report, 'suggestions for future control and organisation of similar events', a financial statement, and a list of programme and invitations etc for the official record.

A6678, R96
Series: CP103/11
Recorded by: 1921–1932 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Arrangements re royal visit, 1920 CP103/11, 883
Expenses re royal visit, 1921 CP103/11, 884

As a part of his tour of regional New South Wales, the Prince travelled to Canberra where he laid the Foundation stone in the centre of Canberra for what was to be the Capitol Building. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote the following about the Prince's visit to the future capital:

The Prince of Wales, on his first country tour of New South Wales, was accorded everywhere magnificent receptions by cheering crowds right along the (rail) line and at the towns visited.

With the journey will always be associated an epoch making ceremony – the laying by the Prince of a commemoration stone – the first stone – of the Capitol at Canberra. In this building will be enshrined the records of Australian achievement and the archives of the nation.

'I think,' said the Prince in performing the ceremony, 'that at the present moment Canberra consists chiefly of foundation stones'. His Royal Highness added when the laughter had subsided, 'That is the fault of the war and I know you are going to build a very fine city here.'6

The Capitol building was never constructed, but the commemorative stone laid by the Prince is now located at the new Parliament House in Canberra. Listed below are four souvenir items connected with the Prince's visit to Canberra located within the personal papers of Percy Sheaffe, the first surveyor of Canberra.

Also listed is an invitation to a Melbourne based royal visit function, issued to former Prime Minister of Australia Sir Joseph Cook.

Sydney
Series: M3610
Recorded by: 1918–1940 Sir Joseph Cook (CP 611)
Invitations, 1920 – Royal progress at the Commonwealth Bank, Parliament House (Melbourne) to meet and welcome the Prince of Wales, 1920 M3610, 3
Series: M4071
Recorded by: 1902–1963 Percy Lampriere Sheaffe (CP 53)
Sheaffe Papers. An invitation from the Ministers of State to Mr and Mrs Sheaffe 'to be present at Canberra on Monday 14th day of June 1920 to witness the laying of a Foundation Stone of the Capitol by HRH the Prince of Wales'. M4071, 53
Sheaffe Papers. Seven 'Entree Cards' (one personalised to Mr Sheaffe, the others blank) to the trains and luncheon, for Foundation Stone ceremony, 1920 M4071, 54
Sheaffe Papers. 'Itinerary. Ceremony of laying a Commemoration Stone (the First Stone) of the Capitol, Canberra, by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Monday, 21st June 1920'. M4071, 55
Sheaffe Papers. 'Menus for Luncheon. Given by Ministers of State for the Commonwealth on the occasion of the Laying of a Commemoration Stone of the Capitol, Canberra by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, KG, 21st June 1920'. M4071, 56
Image 14: A postcard souvenir of the Prince of Wales’ 1920 visit.

Image 14: A postcard souvenir of the Prince of Wales’ 1920 visit.
NAA: A1861, 4514
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Image 15: Another souvenir of the Prince’s 1920 visit.

Image 15: Another souvenir of the Prince’s 1920 visit.
NAA: A1861, 4582
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Items submitted for copyright in response to the Prince's visit

The popularity of this visit is perhaps evidenced by the large number of items submitted for copyright registration at the time of the Prince's tour. The Prince of Wales had served in World War I, and this can help account for some of the public support shown for his visit which took place two years after the conclusion of the war. Shouts of 'Digger' accompanied him throughout his visit.

The visit was also designed as a means of thanking the Commonwealth nations for their contribution to the British war effort. At a State Banquet in Sydney, the Prince said:

I particularly want...to congratulate all the people of the State on their magnificent effort in the Great War. You contributed in proportion to your very large population to the fine Australian Corps, and I know that there were no better troops than New South Welshmen in that splendid body of men.7

Such sentiments were repeated at public occasions across the country and helped to cement his popularity and perceived identification with his people.

Items held within the copyright collections
Series: A1861
Recorded by: 1907–1913 Australian Industrial Property Organisation (AIPO), Central Office (CA 555)
Photograph, 'HRH Prince of Wales', 1920 A1861, 4490
Photograph of Card. Souvenir of the Prince of Wales Visit. 'Chip of [sic] the Old Block'. Registration and Exhibit, 1920 A1861, 4514
Photograph. Unveiling Ceremony of Statue of King Edward VII by Edward, Prince of Wales. Registration and Exhibit, 1920 A1861, 4523
Photograph. Adelaide Illuminated in Honour of the Visit of the Prince of Wales. Registration and Exhibit, 1920 A1861, 4524
Photograph. Royal Visit. Australia. 1920. Welcome HRH the Prince of Wales. Registration and Exhibit A1861, 4526
Photographs. HRH Prince of Wales at Cataract Gorge, Launceston. Registration and Exhibit, 1920 A1861, 4548
Photograph. Souvenir of Visit of HRH Prince of Wales. 1920 A1861, 4582

Examples of general records associated with Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII and the Duke of Windsor

Records in this section relate to the accession of Edward VIII, include references to an attempted assassination of the King in 1936, birthday and general greetings from his Australian subjects and reports of his alleged allegiance to the Nazi party.

Examples of general records associated with Edward
Series: A461
Recorded by: 1934–1950 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Royal Family. The Prince of Wales, 1935 A461, B396/1/4
King Edward VIII General, 1936

This file discusses an assassination attempt made on the life of the King on 16 July 1936. It contains letters of thanks for the safety of the King from many Australians as well as letters and telegrams documenting rumours of the abdication.

A461, I396/1/2
HM King Edward VIII – Birthday, 1936 A461, R396/1/12
Accession to the throne – Edward VIII, 1936 A461, J396/1/2
Series: A5954
Recorded by: 1937–1971 Sir Frederick Geoffrey Shedden KCMG, OBE (CP 320)
Press cuttings – Edward VIII and Germany, 1962–1963

Contains copies of news reports alleging Edward's allegiance to Nazi Germany.

A5954, 1131/9
Sydney
Series: C102
Recorded by: Australian Broadcasting Commission (CA 251)
Wales, His Royal Highness Prince of – Talk – 'Sportsmanship' (audio tape), 1927 C102, RO1
Wales, His Royal Highness Prince of – Speech on Armistice Night (audio tape), 1927 C102, RO2
His Majesty Edward VIII. Proclamation of the accession of (audio tape), 1936 C102, RO18
Melbourne
Series: M4063
Recorded by: 1918 The Hon Edward John Russell (CP 679)
Photograph depicting Henry Duke of Gloucester, Joseph Cook, William Hughes, Edward Prince of Wales, George Duke of Kent, Andrew Fisher and Sir George Pearce outside Australia House, London, on Armistice Day M4063, 1
Series: CP103/11
Recorded by: 1921–1932 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
King Edward VIII. Accession. Spare copies of cables, proclamation etc, 1936 CP103/11, 438
Image 16: Telegrams from London in the days leading up to the King’s abdication.

Image 16: Telegrams from London in the days leading up to the King’s abdication.
NAA: SP286/16, Box 1
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The abdication of Edward VIII

The abdication of Edward VIII was an unparalleled event. No monarch had abdicated since Richard II in 1399. Edward VIII had been astoundingly popular and had been on the throne for less than one year when he made the irrevocable decision.

The decision, however, was not taken lightly. Edward was reluctant to relinquish his position and suggested that he engage in a morganatic marriage whereby Mrs Simpson be recognised as his consort, but she would be deprived of the 'status, rights and privileges' of a Queen.8

However, according to British constitutional rule, in any conflict of power, the Parliament has authority over the monarch and ultimately the monarch must accept the advice of Parliament on everything that affects public policy and the public interest.9 The British Cabinet could not prevent the King from marrying, but Prime Minister Baldwin made it clear to the King that Cabinet could not approve a marriage in which Mrs Simpson, 'necessarily becomes Queen [and therefore] enjoys all the status, rights and privileges… (that are attached) to that position'.10

Because the Statute of Westminster (written in 1931) declared that 'Any alteration in the law touching the Succession of the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom', Australia was involved in the international discussions that ensued after news of the proposed marriage spread.11

The Dominions Office in London asked the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, South Africa, India and New Zealand to nominate which of the following options they favoured:

  • a marriage in which Mrs Simpson would become Queen
  • a morganatic marriage
  • the abdication of the King

According to Alistair Cooke's Six Men, India and New Zealand had no firm views about which of the positions they preferred. However, the governments of Australia, Canada and South Africa were adamant in their opinion that they would not have Mrs Simpson as Queen, and nor would they allow a morganatic marriage.

The issues at stake were summarised most accurately in an article by Harold Laski printed in the New York Times on 7 December 1936, three days before the abdication. Laski wrote:

This issue is independent of the personality of the King. It is independent of the personality of the Prime Minister. It does not touch on the wisdom or unwisdom of the marriage the King has proposed. It is not concerned with the pressure, whether of the churches or the aristocracy, that is hostile to this marriage. It is the principle that out of this issue no precedent must be created that makes the Royal authority once more a source of independent political power in the State.12

Ultimately, the views of the Australian, Canadian and South African governments were in keeping with the opinion of the British government and the combined pressure of his various political representatives lead to the King's abdication on 10 December 1936.

Prime Minister Lyons announced in a public broadcast on 10 December:

I feel sure that I am voicing the sentiments of every Australian when I express the most profound regret at the step which His Majesty King Edward has taken. We must all wish most heartily that he had acted otherwise.

It is sad that a reign begun in such auspicious circumstances should end so soon in such a manner… It was against the expressed wish of the representatives of his people that he took this course. When the Commonwealth Government urged him to reconsider his decision, I spoke, I knew, for every Australian.13

Cooke concludes, however, by saying:

All in all, few disasters in the history of the English kings were more fortunate than the appearance in the Prince's social set of the divorcee from Baltimore. When the war came, and the social tone of royal life had hardly recovered from popular suspicion, Britain found herself with a modest and dutiful King, a devoted Queen, and two bright children – a microcosm of middle class dependability that saw the country through when the going was bad. The most damning epitaph you can compose about Edward – as a prince, as a king and as a man – is one that… he was at his best only when the going was good.14

Examples of records associated with the abdication of Edward VII

Please note that not all of the records described in the section below are entirely open for public access. The British Government has requested that some records relating to the abdication remain closed for one hundred years after the event, that is, until 2037. The records that have had closures imposed on them are referred to below as being 'open with exception'.

Series: A425
Recorded by: 1935–1956 Department of Trade and Customs, Central Office (CA 10)
Films – Newsreel. Duke of Windsor's Wedding – Action taken to withhold release, 1936–1937 A425, 1937/4095
Image 17: The abdication notice published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 11 December 1936.

Image 17: The abdication notice published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette of 11 December 1936.
NAA: A3522, File 1
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The Department of Trade and Customs was of the opinion that:

Taking all things into consideration, the possible ill-effects (of releasing the footage of the Duke's wedding) are more apparent than the advantages which are likely to accrue if films of the nature mentioned are shown publicly, and it is suggested that the exhibition thereof is undesirable in the public interest.

This official attitude, which made the display of film of the Duke and Duchess illegal, met largely with public disapproval. The Labour Daily accused the Government of bowing to British pressure. The Daily Telegraph's editorial on 8 June 1937 stated:

England's ban on films of the Duke of Windsor's wedding is a foolish piece of timidity… The nation's loyalty to the present King cannot be questioned. Surely it would not be imperilled by the screening of a few 100 feet of film… To ban anything is the best way of exciting interest in it.
Recorded by: 1934–1950 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Royalty Abdication of King Edward VIII General, 1936–1937

This file is open with exception under s.33(1)(a)(b) of the Archives Act 1983.

A461, V396/1/1
Series: A981
Recorded by: 1927–1942 Department of External Affairs (CA 18)
Imperial. Proposed Marriage of King Edward VIII & Accession of George VI, 1936–1937 A981, Imp 23
Series: A3522
Recorded by: 1935–1953 Governor-General (CA 1)
Abdication of King Edward VIII, 1936–1937

This file is open with exception under s.33(1)(a)(b) of the Archives Act 1983.

The open portions of this file contain Australian government correspondence regarding the abdication and includes a 20 page cablegram from London detailing Baldwin's speech to the English Parliament.

A3522, File 1
Series: A5954
Recorded by: 1937–1971 Sir Frederick Geoffrey Shedden KCMG, OBE (CP 320)
Press cuttings. Special. Box file No.3. 'The Windsor Story' by the Duke of Windsor, 1967

A collection of newscuttings compiled by Sir Frederick Shedden giving the Duke of Windsor's perspective on the events that led to his abdication.

A5954, 1131/2
Edward VIII and his abdication

Newspaper clippings of the story as told by Lord Beaverbrook, advisor to the King during this period.

A5954, 1131/8
Series: A5954
Recorded by: Recorded by: 1931–1939 The Rt Hon Joseph Aloysius Lyons PC, CH (CP 254)
Edward VIII and his abdication

Newspaper clippings of the story as told by Lord Beaverbrook, advisor to the King during this period.

A5954, 1131/8
Speech notes of Prime Minister Joseph Lyons. According to his notes, the Prime Minister, who was very much opposed to the abdication, intended to tell the Parliament the following:

Of his own will, he steps down from the throne of this mighty empire. I say of his own will, because it was against the expressed wish of the representatives of his people that he took this course…

With the deepest sadness in our hearts, we bid King Edward the Eighth farewell…

Series: CP4/10
Recorded by: 1936 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Main file – Abdication [of King Edward VIII], 1936

This file is open with exception under s.33(1)(a)(b) of the Archives Act 1983.

The open portions of this file contain correspondence from the Australian government to Britain expressing the nation's support for the new King. It also contains a copy of British Prime Minister Baldwin's speech regarding the abdication, made in the House of Commons.

Included on the file is a copy of the Gazette Extraordinary issued on 14 December 1936 on behalf of the new King:

I meet you today in circumstances which are without parallel in the history of our country. Now that the duties of sovereignty have fallen to me, I declare to you my adherence to the strict principles of constitutional government and my resolve to work before all else for the welfare of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

With my wife as helpmeet by my side, I take up the heavy task which lies before me. In it I look for the support of all my peoples.

CP4/10, 1
Series: CP4/10
Recorded by: 1936 Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Constitutional – [Abdication of King Edward VIII], 1936

This file is open with exception under s.33(1)(a)(b) of the Archives Act 1983.

CP4/10, 3
Series: MP1/1
Recorded by: 1941–1945 Department of War Organisation of Industry (Central Office) (CA 45)
Expenditure on printing of Edward VIII stamps, 1937

Due to the abdication of the King, newly printed stamps bearing his image had to be replaced. Held in the Melbourne office of the National Archives.

MP1/1, 1937/6923
Series: MP341/1
Recorded by: 1901–1939 Postmaster-General's Department, Central Administration (CA 9)
Edward VIII stamps and coins, 1936 MP341/1, 1936/2240
Series: SP6/1
Recorded by: 1929–1940 Film Censorship Board II (CA 144)
King Edward Abdicates, 1936

Paramount Films submitted a newsreel entitled 'King Edward's Abdication' for registration in late 1936. For the film to be registered it had to be passed by the Censorship Board. Before it could be distributed, the Board said that distributors had to 'delete portions directly dealing with the ex-King and Mrs Simpson'. As a result, 185 of the film's 385 feet had to be deleted. Held in the Sydney office of the National Archives.

SP6/1, A1936/1994
Fox News Items, 1936

This record shows that on 30 December 1936 Fox Film Corporation was ordered to delete the 6 feet of their news footage which showed a sign reading 'Stand by the King'. Held in the Sydney office of the National Archives.

SP6/1, A1936/2001
Fox News Items, 1936

This record shows that on 30 December 1936 Fox Film Corporation was ordered to delete the 6 feet of their news footage which showed a sign reading 'Stand by the King'. Held in the Sydney office of the National Archives.

SP6/1, A1936/2003
The King and the Chorus Girl

After considering this Warner Bros film for registration, the Censorship Board decided on 23 April 1937 that 'total rejection (was) considered necessary'

Specifically, the Board was of the opinion that:

…this film would be offensive to British people. Deliberately, or by unusual coincidence, the ex-King of the film bears a striking resemblance to the Duke of Windsor, and this is emphasised by mannerisms and dress to such an extent that it is hard to believe that it has not been done deliberately. In morning dress and in naval uniform, even the angle at which the bowler and cap are worn emphasises the likeness, and the introduction of the American element would also appear to be with intent.

A reference to abdication, the line of British portraits, reproductions of postage stamps and coins, the yacht in the Mediterranean, Gibraltar, in fact the whole atmosphere and its suggestiveness, can leave an audience with but one impression, and the Board is unanimous in the belief that the release of such a film in Australia would be both offensive and dangerous.

The distributors appealed against the Board's decision, but the appeal was turned down by the Board on 17 December 1937. This was despite the film's release in England, subject to some minor restrictions.

The file contains a still from the film, some pages of dialogue, newsclippings and correspondence between the Board and the distributors. Held in the Sydney office of the National Archives.

SP6/1, A1937/665

Notes

Chapter notes | All notes

1 Commonwealth Gazette Extraordinary, 11 December 1936

2 Langford (ed), p.447

3 NAA: SP1008/1, 447/11/4 part 12

4 Kevin Fewster, 'Politics, Pageantry and Purpose: The 1920 tour of Australia by the Prince of Wales', Labour History, No 38, May 1980, p.59

5 The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June 1920, p.13

6 The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 June 1920, p.9

7 The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 June 1920, p.13

8 Alistair Cooke, Six Men, Penguin, London, 1978, p.79

9 Alistair Cooke, p.75

10 Alistair Cooke, p.79

11 Alistair Cooke, p.79

12 Alistair Cooke, p.81

13 The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 December 1936, p.15

14 Alistair Cooke, p.82


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