On that day, Mr. Boyd, an ardent Anglophile, called a special assembly in the school auditorium so that all of us could listen to the live, trans-Atlantic broadcast of King Edward VHIs abdication.
For weeks, the drama of a king forced to choose between his kingdom and the woman he loved had been a sensational topic of conversation in our current events class—and in the tabloids across America. They called it “the century’s No. 1 celebrity love affair.”
The fact that the king was the popular, former Prince of Wales, now Edward VIII of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions Beyond the Seas—and the fact that the woman was an American, the elegant divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson of Baltimore—-further heightened the historical drama.
All through the summer and fall of 1936, while Roosevelt and Landon had been stumping the U.S., the American press had buzzed over the royal romance.
On the day that Britain’s Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin reported to the House of Commons on his successful negotiations as the sovereign match-breaker, the afternoon headline on the Oregon Journal screamed, “THE KING QUITS.” Millions of Americans, including our entire high school student-body, gathered around radios that afternoon to hear, above the crackle of static, the slow, measured words of Edward, himself.
We listened intently. Many of the girls sniffled and quietly sobbed, as Edward spoke.
“At long last, I am able to say a few words of my own. I never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak … (static, faded in and out) … I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I should wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love … (more crackling static) … and now we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all, God save the King!”
In those days, before cheap long distance phone lines, faxes and piles of e-mail, the telegram was the ultimate form for an urgent message—ten words or less, regular rate. Every word counted.