The BBC Story

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Former king Edward VIII spoke to a stunned nation announcing that he had abdicated the throne in favour of his brother, George, so as to be free to marry divorcee Mrs Wallis Simpson. The historic broadcast and climax of the constitutional crisis was heard by the whole country, most of whom had been unaware of the royal love affair only a week earlier.

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As the crisis developed Edward was keen to put his side of the story to the country. The speech he wrote, however, in which he argued the case for a morganatic marriage – that he could marry Wallis without her ever becoming queen – was vetoed by the cabinet.

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When Edward did eventually broadcast, George VI was the new king, and Edward was preparing to go into exile. His speech survives, as it was recorded by BBC engineers in defiance of orders; its existence was denied by archivists for many years.

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