From the moment of her arrival in Cannes, Wallis did everything she could think of to prevent the King’s abdication. On 6 December, she had written to him, “I am so anxious for you not to abdicate and I think the fact that you do is going to put me in the wrong light to the entire world because they will say that I could have prevented it.”1
The King had tried to get permission to make a speech to the country, appealing for their support, but the Prime Minister told him that the idea of a broadcast was unconstitutional. David then asked him, “You want me to go, don’t you?” Stanley Baldwin replied, “What I want, Sir, is what you told me you wanted: to go with dignity, not dividing the country, and making things as smooth as possible for your successor. To broadcast would go over the heads of your Ministers and speak to the people.”2
The abdication came closer and closer.
Wallis was cut off from the King, and all she could do was repeatedly call him on the telephone, urging him not to abdicate. The connection was often bad, and they were shouting down the receiver at each other. It was Lord Brownlow who told her that she had to renounce the King once and for all. Wallis realised that this would hurt the King very much, but she saw no other way anymore. She drafted the statement and read it to him on the telephone. As expected, he was hurt, but he also realised that this would divert some of the public blame from Wallis.
On the evening of 7 December, the statement was released to the press. “Mrs Simpson throughout the last few weeks has invariably wished to avoid any action or proposal which would hurt or damage His Majesty or the Throne. Today her attitude is unchanged, and she is willing, if such action would solve the problem, to withdraw forthwith from a situation that has been rendered both unhappy and untenable.”3
The Prime Minister had hoped for something a bit more final, and he dispatched her lawyer to Cannes to find out more. He arrived two days later and urged her to withdraw her divorce petition so that there would be no question of the King marrying her, and then the crisis would be averted. Wallis duly declared, “I will do anything within my power to keep the King on the Throne.”4 Lord Brownlow was less convinced by the solution and said, “If the King does abdicate his object, as we all know, will be marriage and for you to scrap your divorce will produce a hopeless anticlimax and an all-round tragedy.”5 Instead, he advised her to leave Europe.
When this plan was presented to the King later that day, it became clear that it was already too late. He told her, “I can’t seem to make you understand the position. It’s all over. The Instrument of Abdication is already prepared.”6 Wallis was stunned into silence, hung up the phone and collapsed into tears. Katherine Rogers told her, “You have done everything that could be expected of a woman in this situation. No one will blame you.”7
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