Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wally gets her divorce, but not much attention from the British press

October 27, 1936

The British press today "finally took notice of the Simpson divorce case, reports the New York Times.   It was "the first time the newspaper-reading public" in Britain  had been made aware that Mrs. Simpson 'was seeking freedom from her husband."  But the news coverage was seen to be perfunctory, "so brief and buried so inconspicuously on back pages that not one reader in a thousand would have guessed that there was anything unusual about the case."
British law allows newspapers to print only the bare facts of a divorce case.  There has also been a gentlemens' agreement between the editors of the Newspaper Proprietors Association regarding publication  of "gossip, no speculation even remotely suggesting that Mrs. Simpson has long been the most-discussed woman in the highest society of Britain."
Only one afternoon newspaper, The Star,  provided readers with a prominent headline: "Society Woman's Divorce."  The newspaper reported a brief account of the case, and stated: "Mrs. 'Wally' Simpson has been well-known in London social circles for the past eight years as a brilliant American hostess."  The newspaper's report also included information about her first marriage to Earl Winfield Spencer, as well as her marriage to Simpson and his career.
But most newspapers, including The Times,  tucked the report in the back pages,  providing readers with few details "of the scene at Ipswich, no account of how Mrs. Simpson looked in court or how she behaved while testifying."
British editors would "explain their restraint by quoting Winston Churchill," who said last night that Britain's press "has freedom plus responsibility."
"There are two great features which I trust the British press will always preserve.  There is no press in the world in which the invasion of private life is more condemned and more sedulously avoided.
"People can live their private lives here with a greater measure of freedom and respect for their feelings by their neighbors than is the case in any other society in the world.  And our British press has played a great part in that."
King Edward VIII was very busy today.  He met with the Privy Council in the morning, which was "notable for the presence" of Canadian Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King, who is on his way home from Geneva.  In the afternoon, the King's mother, Queen Mary, came for a visit. She was followed by the Sultan of Selangor in the Malay States who was invested with the insignia of the Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.
The King also discussed plans for his Coronation, which will take place in May, and he will be opening Parliament  "for the first time in his reign next Tuesday."

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