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King's secret was the worst-kept in history; Time to remember : Edward's love dominated the Echo's pages.

Byline: Dan O'Neill

IT WAS, the press barons and politicians fondly believed, a secret known only to them.

Newspapers and magazines from abroad were snipped and censored for fear that the common herd might discover the awful truth.

But the collaborators who had contrived an unofficial secrets act should have come to Cardiff in the winter of 1936.

There the smallest urchins gleefully chanted a ditty that summed it all up:

"Look who's coming down the street, Mrs Simpson, ain't she sweet. She's been married twice before, now she's knocking on Eddie's door."

The Cardiff kids' version of what would be described by the sob sisters as "the Love Story of the Century".

God knows how they knew. But then, outside stodgy Britain the whole world was aware that "Edward the Eighth of Great Britain, Ireland, the British Dominions beyond the seas, King Emperor" and a whole lot more, was besotted by a twice-married American divorcee and that a profound constitutional crisis was in the offing.

For H L Mencken, America's most celebrated journalist, it was quite simply "the greatest story since the Crucifixion". Now, 65 years on, we can see what a lucky escape we had.

But in December 1936, though no longer the golden youth who had once captivated the Principality, Edward still held a special place in Welsh hearts. On November 19 while in Blaenavon, he uttered the words, trumpeted across the Echo's front page, for which he is still remembered: SOMETHING WILL BE DONE FOR SOUTH WALES.

The King promised: "And you may be sure that all I can do for you I will."

No chance! He'd already told his family he was about to abdicate. And just before identifying with the poverty-stricken Welsh, he'd given his mistress an emerald and diamond engagement ring costing pounds 30,000 plus fur coats at pounds 10,000 - when a Welsh labourer was earning little more than a pound a week. But for most South Walians the King was "one of us".

Until December 3 when our headline trumpeted GRAVE CRISIS ARISES OVER THE KING'S DESIRE TO MARRY AMERICAN WOMAN.

The secret might have been kept but for the Bishop of Bradford who, in a sermon, hoped His Majesty was aware of what his duties were, adding: "Some of us wish that he gave more sign of such awareness."

For the press, till then bound by "a conspiracy of silence", it seemed the Bishop was warning Edward off Mrs Simpson. He hadn't the faintest idea that she existed, but on December 5 the Echo revealed "The King Has Decided". We would know his intentions inside 48 hours.

Why the delay? Edward was hoping for a compromise allowing him to hang on to the throne and Mrs Simpson.

And 65 years ago today we printed perhaps the most sensational headline of the century: KING EDWARD ABDICATES Stanley Baldwin had "lifted the veil on ex-King Edward's proposal to marry Mrs Simpson. . ."

Ex-King Edward? No more needed to be said. And next to the story was a photograph making that Echo of December 10, 1936, a collector's item.

The caption read: "King Albert". He would choose, of course, to be known as George VI.

We heard one last message from the ex-King when he broadcast at 10pm on December 11.

"I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and discharge my duties as King without the help and support of the woman I love."

Winston Churchill, who helped compose the farewell speech, had tearfully echoed lines written on the beheading of Charles I: "He nothing common did or mean, upon that memorable scene." We know now how stupendously wrong Winston was.

From then on the ex-King lived a life of pampered indolence. When forced to flee France in 1940 he emerged from his bathroom complaining his toothbrush was empty. He didn't realise his departed valet had always squeezed the paste on for him. He was also accused of Nazi sympathies, hoping to be reinstated as puppet King if Hitler won the war.

He died in 1972. His pledge that Something Would Be Done was never fulfilled - much like his own life.

CAPTION(S):

LOVE STORY Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Dec 10, 2001
Words:702
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