14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
[10.31]. - Mr. President, a message from His Majesty the King -
Honorable senators having risen in their places,
I regret to have to inform honorable senators that the Prime Minister has received from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral the following message sent by His Majesty the King: - “After long and anxious consideration I have determined to renounce the
Throne to which I succeeded on the death of My father, and am now communicating this, My final and irrevocable decision.Realizing as I do the gravity of this step, I can only hope that I shall have the understanding of My peoples in the decision I have taken and the reasons which have led me to take it. I will not enter now into My private feelings, but I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden which constantly rests upon the shoulders of a Sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I now find myself. I conceive that I am not overlooking the duties that rest on Me to place in the forefront the public interests when I declare that I am conscious that I can no longer discharge this heavy task with efficiency or with satisfaction to Myself.
I have accordingly this morning executed an Instrument of Abdication in the terms following: -
I, Edward the Eighth, of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Emperor of India,do hereby declare My irrevocable determination to renounce the Throne for Myself and for My descendants, and My desire that effect should be given to this Instrument of Abdication immediately.
In token whereof I have hereunto set My hand this tenth day of December, nineteen hundred and thirty-six, in the presence of the witnesses whose signatures are subscribed. (Signed) Edwardr.I.’
My execution of this instrument has been witnessed by My three brothers, Their Royal Highnesses the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester, and the Duke of Kent.
I deeply appreciate the spirit which has actuated the appeals which have been made to Mc to take a different decision and I have, before reaching My final determination, most fully pondered over them. But My mind is made up. Moreover, further delay cannot but be most injurious to the peoples whom I have tried to serve as Prince of Wales and as King, and whose future happiness and prosperity are the constant wish of My heart. I take My leave of them in the confident hope that the course which I have thought it right to follow is that which is best for the stability of the Throne and the Empire and the happiness of My peoples. I am deeply sensible of the consideration which they have always extended to Me both before and after My accession to the Throne and which I know they will extend in full measure to My successor.
I am most anxious that there should be no delay of any kind in giving effect to the instrument which I have executed, and that all necessary steps should be taken immediately to secure that My lawful successor, My brother HisRoyal Highness the Duke of York, should ascend the Throne.
Honorable senators having resumed their seats,
Whereas His Majesty King Edward the Eighth by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, has, by an Instrument of Abdication executed on the tenth day of December, One thousand nine hundred and thirtysix, been pleased to declare that He is irrevocably determined to renounce the Throne for Himself and His descendants, and has for that purpose executed an Instrument of Abdication and has signified His desire that effect thereto should be given immediately:
And whereas a Bill intituled An Act to give effect to His Majesty’s Declaration nf Abdication and for purposes connected therewith has been introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom:
And whereas it is proposed to beenacted by that Bill that immediately upon theRoyal assent being signified thereto the Instrument of Abdication so executed shall have effect, and thereupon His Majesty shall cease to bo King, and there shallbe a demise of the Crown, and accordingly the member of theRoyal Family next in succession to the Throne shall succeed thereto and to all the rights, privileges and dignities thereunto belonging, and His Majesty, His issue (if any) and descendants of that issue shall not, after Mis Majesty’s abdication, have any right title or interest in or to the succession to the Throne, and section one of the Act of Settlement shall be construed accordingly, and theRoyal Marriages Act 1772 shall not apply to His Majesty after His abdication, nor to the issue (if any) of His Majesty or descendants of that issue:
And whereas it is by the Preambleto the Act ofthe United Kingdom known as the Statute of Westminster, 1931, among other things provided that it is meet and proper to set out by way of preamble to that Statute that, inasmuch as the Crown is the symbol of the free association of the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, and as they are united by a common allegiance to the Crown, it would be in accord with the established constitutional position of all the members of the Commonwealth in relation to one another that any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne should thereafter require the assent as well of the Parliaments of all the Dominions as of the Parliament of the United Kingdom :
And whereasthe Bill intituled An Act to give effect to His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication and for purposes connected therewith will, upon theRoyal assent being signified thereto, involve an alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne and it is desirable that the Parliament of the Commonwealth should assent to such alteration : this Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth hereby assents to such alteration.
In presenting the message and in submitting the resolution I desire to set out briefly the history of this matter so far as it concerns the King and his advisers, and particularly the part taken in the discussions by the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The cause of His Majesty’s abdication, as honorable senators know, is his desire to marry a Mrs. Simpson, and his deliberate personal conclusion that such a marriage would,inallthecircumstances, be inconsistent with his remaining upon the Throne. Mrs. Simpson is a lady of American birth, twice divorced, whose first and second husbands are still living. The decree nisi for her divorce from the second of those husbands has not yet been made absolute.
On the28th November, the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth (Mr. Lyons) received from Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a personal and secret cable informing him that he had had conversations with His Majesty the King about Mrs. Simpson; that His Majesty had stated his intention to marry Mrs. Simpson; but that, at the same time, His Majesty had said that he appreciated that the idea of her becoming Queen and her children succeeding to the Throne was out of the question, and that consequently he contemplated abdicating and leaving the Duke of York to succeed to the Throne. Mr. Baldwin having told His Majesty that he would like a fewdays to think this over, His Majesty had subsequently asked Mr. Baldwin’s views on a new proposal, namely, that special legislative provision should be made for a marriage to Mrs. Simpson which would not make her Queen and would not entitle her issue to succeed to the Throne. Mr. Baldwin informed Mr. Lyons thathehad advised His Majesty that he did not think there was any chance of such an arrangement receiving the approval of Parliament in Great Britain; also that the assent of the dominions would be essential to the carrying out of such an arrangement. He invited the personal views of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth.
Mr. Lyons then communicated with Mr. Baldwin offering his personal view - since at that time the whole matter was highly secret and confidential - that the proposed marriage, if it led to Mrs. Simpson becoming Queen, would invoke widespread condemnation, and that the alternative proposal of something in the nature of a specially sanctioned morganatic marriage would run counter to the best popular conception of the Royal Family.
There having arisen in certain sections of the press a rumour that a conflict existed between the King and his advisers, Mr. Baldwin informed Mr. Lyons on the 4th December that there was no foundation for the suggestion that any advice by Ministers had been tendered or that any conflict between His Majesty and his Ministers existed. On the 5th December, Mr. Baldwin further informed Mr. Lyons that, iri view of the fact that His Majesty the King was still contemplating as a possibility the contracting of a morganatic marriage with Mrs. Simpson, the British Cabinet had felt it necessary that he (Mr. Baldwin) should make a statement in the House of Commons making it clear that the British Cabinet regarded that course as utterly impracticable, and that from the information which had been received it was satisfied that this course would similarly not be acceptable to the dominions. Pursuant to this Mr. Baldwin made the proposed statement in the House of Commons and subsequently advised His Majesty accordingly. At the same time, Mr. Baldwin suggested that Mr. Lyons might convey to His Majesty the opinion of his Government in the ‘Commonwealth of Australia. On the 5th December Mr. Lyons did so, informing His Majesty of the views of his Government, and in particular stating that any proposal that Mrs. Simpson should become Consort and not Queen and that her issue should be barred from succession would not be approved by his Government, nor on his advices could any Government be formed in the Commonwealth Parliament which would bc prepared to sponsor legislation sanctioning such a course. The Prime Minister has been glad to note that what he said on that occasion has since received the confirmation in this Parliament of the honorable Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin). Mr. Lyons’ communication to His Majesty was formally acknowledged by bis private secretary.
For several days thereafter His Majesty took into consideration the views not only of his Ministers in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia, but also of the Governments of the Dominion of Canada, the Union of South Africa, and the Dominion of New Zealand, all of which Mr. Lyons was advised by Mr. Baldwin, were substantially in agreement with the opinions expressed by the Governments of the United Kingdom and Australia. On the 10th December, Mr. Baldwin advised Mr. Lyons that His Majesty’s determination remained unalterably fixed, and that His Majesty had informed him that it was his desire to abdicate. Mr. Baldwin added that his government was making a final appeal to His Majesty, but that it feared that there was no chance of His Majesty changing his mind. Having received that information, Mr. Lyons at once forwarded, through His Excellency the Governor-General, a message to His Majesty the King, expressing the deep sympathy of the Commonwealth Government, arid its sincere regret that His Majesty should feel it necessary to take such a step, and begging, in the name of His Majesty’s subjects in the Commonwealth of Australia, that His Majesty would reconsider his decision, and continue to reign over us. His Majesty did not feel a’ble to re-consider his decision, and his message which I have just read to the Senate is the melancholy result. I cannot conclude this narrative without emphasizing that His Majesty’s decision to abdicate was in no sense advised by any of His Majesty’s Governments, and was neither directly nor indirectly the outcome of any pressure exerted by them.
Little remains to be said. I know that I am expressing the opinion of every member of this Parliament, and of the Australian public, when 1 say how deeply we regret His Majesty’s decision, and howprofoundly grieved we all are at this sudden termination of a reign which seemed so full of golden promise. But His Majesty’s decision is irrevocable ; and it is proper that his wishes should be carried out. We must turn our eyes to the future, and set about the business of confirming in the occupancy of the Throne His Royal Highness the Duke of York, who on the effectuation of His Majesty’s abdication, becomes the successor to the Throne.
I appeal to members of this Parliament, and to the people of Australia, to show to our new sovereign all that loyalty and affection which they showed to his brother and his father, and I am certain that this appeal will not be in vain.
Any alteration of the law affecting the succession to the Throne is now a matter of concern to every British dominion, as well as to the United Kingdom. For that reason I am submitting to the Senate the motion which I have read. The substance of it is that this Senate approves of the legislation which has already been introduced into the Parliament of the United Kingdom giving effect to the King’s abdication, excluding his issue from the succession and allowing the occupancy of the Throne to go to the Duke of York as on a demise of the Crown. The motion itself is being submitted in both Houses of this Parliament in order to give effect to the constitutional convention recorded in the preamble to the Statute of Westminster, which sets out, in substance, that any alteration of the law affecting the succession to the Crown requires the assent of the Parliaments of the dominions.
.- I feel, Mr. President, that this is not an occasion when any honorable senator should seek to give expression to feelings which were engendered in the minds of some of us during recent weeks while the action which has now been taken by His Majesty was mostly the subject of conjecture and idle rumour. I agree entirely with most of the remarks made by the Leader of the Senate in his message to the Parliament and the people, particularly those in which he stressed the regret which will be felt at the determination of His Majesty to perform the act of abdication. We of the Opposition feel that regret as strongly - I do not suggest more strongly - as do the members of the other parties in this chamber. We believed that in His Majesty the Empire had a king out of the ordinary, and we anticipated that as a result of his education, his training, and his experience, he would become the most democratic monarch of all time, and one from whom we could expect great things. We were looking forward to a wonderfully successful and fruitful reign and we regret exceedingly that circumstances have arisen which make that hope futile. We of the Opposition will give place to no other section of the community in our loyalty to his successor.
– I shall not comment at length on what can be regarded only as a national tragedy because I am aware that a wave of sorrow spread over the British Empire when the decision of the King became known. Nor shall I refer to the events which led to His Majesty’s abdication. I look with hope to the future, for I am convinced that that loyalty which the people throughout his realm have shown to King Edward VIII. will be extended to the new sovereign also.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 157.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Interior - W. H. Harral.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 158.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at - Georgetown, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Goulburn, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Holbrook, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Mascot, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1936, No. 159.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1936 -
No. 46 - Auctioneers.
No. 47 - Juries.
No. 48 - Dogs Registration.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government make available to South African War veterans in indigent circumstances a percentage of the allotment of money made available to ex-service men for Christmas cheer?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
In accordance with the established practice, this year’s grant for the purpose of providing Christmas relief to ex-service men who are in necessitous circumstances has already been mode direct to the Federal Executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia. I have been informed by the federal president of the league that the grant is distributed to ex-service men without discrimination.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has furnished the following replies to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
Expenditure up to the 31st October, 1936, £72,599; annual liability up to the 31st October, 1936, £183,458.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave of absence be granted to every member of the Senate from the determination of the sitting this day to the day on which the Senate next meets.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till a day and hour to be fixed by the President, which time of meeting shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Senate adjourned at 11 a.m. till a day and hour to be fixed by the President.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1936, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1936/19361211_senate_14_152/>.