Friday 11 Jul 2014
BBC Archive is releasing a collection of national radio broadcasts by Prince of Wales and shortest-reigning monarch in British Commonwealth history, Edward VIII.
The intriguing collection – which includes the abdication speech – reveals the uncrowned king's remarkable broadcasting abilities, showcases interviews with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor plus those that knew them, and recalls debates on how the abdication changed the course of British monarchy. The launch of the collection coincides with the 11 December anniversary of the abdication, and BBC One and BBC One HD's upcoming revival of Upstairs Downstairs, a lavish drama set against the backdrop of impending war and the announcement of a new king.
Radio items in the collection provide a unique insight into the immense charm and charisma of the short-term sovereign. The collection contains an extract from a speech given by Edward as Prince of Wales at the opening ceremony of the British Empire Exhibition. An estimated 10 million people heard the transmission and many events around the country were suspended so that the public could listen.
The collection includes a talk delivered by Edward as Prince of Wales via BBC radio on the subject of Voluntary Service, set up after the economic crisis of the early Thirties to help those affected by unemployment. The speech is recognised in a Radio Times article about the "acknowledged master of the microphone" – also in the collection – as evidence of "...the spell of his magnetic personality".
The BBC Archive collection invites users to explore ways in which early royal broadcasting contributed to the image of monarchy and helped to unite the nation in moments of national importance. It was via radio that King Edward VIII's accession was proclaimed, that the monarch gave his first address as King to the Empire, and by which he delivered to the nation his farewell speech and intention to give up the throne for the woman he loved. Introduced by Lord Reith, the abdication speech is lent richer context by Reith's diary entry which provides an eyewitness account of the day including conversations with the outgoing king.
The collection also provides insight into media handling of the crisis. In an urgent-marked internal BBC memo, the Director of the Empire Service urges the Controller of Programmes to broadcast a special news item to counter rumours circulating around the Empire about the affair. In an Eighties radio programme we hear from the journalist who first broke the story about Kind Edward VIII's affair with Wallis Simpson, in which he talks about the event that prompted his decision to file the scandalous scoop that ended Fleet Street's "conspiracy of silence".
BBC Archive executive producer Julie Rowbotham says: "The oldest item we are releasing in this collection dates from 1924. It is great to be able to release material from so far back and which still has such an interest for the public. We are particularly excited to be able to make the famous abdication speech available so that everyone can listen to the sound of history being made."
The fascinating collection of broadcasts, programmes, and documents is available now at: BBC Archive: Edward VIII.
About BBC Archive
The BBC Archive is one of the largest multimedia archives in the world, held in 27 locations across the UK. As well as close to a million hours of TV and radio programmes it also holds six million still photographs, over four million items of sheet music, and over half-a-million documents and records. BBC Archive collections allow you to explore over 80 years of UK and BBC history. Programmes, documents, and images bring the past to life and enable content discovery within a rich interactive resource, available to UK audiences.
About Upstairs Downstairs
This Christmas BBC One invites viewers old and new across the threshold of one of television's most famous addresses – 165 Eaton Place. Set in 1936, this lavish three-part serial sees diplomat Sir Hallam Holland move into the iconic townhouse along with his wife, Lady Agnes. With the help of former parlourmaid Rose Buck, they launch a new whole new era for the sumptuous home at the heart of Upstairs Downstairs. But storm clouds are gathering in Europe – the drama that results sets exquisite domestic detail against a sweeping historical backdrop of impending war and the announcement of a new king.