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Friday, 11 December 1936

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. Lyonsthen 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.

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