No. 382 NAI 2003/17/181

Letter from John W. Dulanty to Joseph P. Walshe (Dublin)
(No.95) (Secret)

London, 19 November 1936

On1 Saturday 31st October in the course of a conversation with the President I reported that there was a good deal of loose talk and gossip-mongering in various circles in London about the question of the British King and Mrs. Simpson. I said that until comparatively recently one had heard very little of this either in clubs, Fleet Street, or private houses. At the moment a spate of sensational cuttings from America had caused a certain amount of further gossip in this country. The President said that not only was he not interested in any of this talk but was very reluctant even to hear of it unless some political significance was involved. I have accordingly paid no attention to gossip.

Today, however, I talked with Dr J.J. Mallon, the Warden of Toynbee Hall, certainly the most successful University Social Settlement in this country, and possibly from all one hears, in the world. Queen Mary has always been very much interested in this Settlement since it was established by her close personal friends Canon and Mrs. Barnett many years ago. At the Buckingham Palace parties when Dr Mallon was there Queen Mary I have noticed on several occasions has spent much more time talking to him than to anybody else, and I know that he has advised her on social questions. The President of Toynbee Hall is the Archbishop of Canterbury and he and Dr Mallon work in very close association. At Balmoral, at Sandringham, and at Windsor Castle I have always found the Archbishop of Canterbury in attendance, and from my own observation and from what I am told it seems reasonable to assume that he was a close confidante of the late King and continues to be such with Queen Mary.

When2 he was Prince of Wales the present King went a good deal to Toynbee Hall where he gained part of his present rather special knowledge of the housing problem. Dr Mallon has therefore seen a good deal of the King and is able to form an estimate of his character.

He told me that he is in some ways rather original. He is a first-class business man in running the Crown estates in the Duchy of Cornwall which have prospered under his direction. A complete modernist he does not conceal his disregard for what might be described as traditional authority. He has a marked tendency on social questions to a liberal attitude almost unheard of in the Royal circle. He has always claimed complete freedom about the selection of his friends. Years ago he was very much attracted by Lady Ednam who was a woman of ability and character, who, unfortunately, was killed in a flying accident. It is suggested that the Queen today feels some regret that that friendship was not encouraged.

I learned from Dr Mallon that the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. Baldwin have attempted to intervene with the King in the matter of Mrs. Simpson but each has suffered a severe rebuke. He will allow no one to make even a distant reference to the question and Dr Mallon thought that he was therefore living in a fool's paradise. I suggested that the King could scarcely fail to be unaware of the garbage with which the gossip writers were filling the columns of even reputable American papers. Dr Mallon's answer was that he thought the King, if he went to the point of marrying Mrs. Simpson, would feel that the conventions of the old aristocracy were being outraged but they were conventions in which the King had no belief or sympathy. If he thought fit to cast off the social conventions imposed on him against his will he thought he would have the sympathy and support of the younger generation. Some of the younger people certainly would take that line Dr Mallon thought but he felt that the country as a whole would be against such a marriage and that his former popularity would begin to wane.

Lord Iliffe,3 who is joint owner of the Daily Telegraph, told me that the reticence in Fleet Street was self-imposed. The owners and editors of the leading papers had adopted the line of reticence right from the beginning. The person he was sorry for in all this he said was the Queen because he thought the wholly unnecessary flaunting of Mrs. Simpson in the eyes of the public could do no good and might do much harm. The King had had other affairs but they had all been secret and it was a great pity the present affair had not been similarly treated. He told me that Mrs. Simpson was now going a good deal into English Society but entirely alone or in the company of irreproachable members of society.

I have known Dr Mallon for over thirty years and I have known Lord Iliffe for nearly twenty. Both are of moderate views and sound discretion - and different from the 'tutti-frutti' dealers in tittle-tattle.4

J.W. Dulanty
High Commissioner

1 Marginal note by Joseph P. Walshe: 'Sent on 20th. Telephone conversation - in course of - informed by H.C. that report was coming (morning of 20th) J.P.W.'.

2 The text from this point to the end of the next paragraph has been highlighted in the margin by a line drawn down the page.

3 Edward Mauger Iliffe (1877-1960), newspaper and periodical proprietor, Conservative MP (1923-29).

4 This last line has been handwritten.

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