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 Wednesday, 29 January, 2003, 18:56 GMT
Profile: Walter Monckton
Walter Monckton
Walter Monckton had a key role in the abdication crisis

As the Public Record Office releases more documents concerning the abdication of King Edward VIII, BBC News Online looks at the life of his legal adviser Walter Monckton.

Walter Monckton enjoyed several varied careers as a highly-decorated soldier, a much sought-after lawyer and political adviser, a businessman and politician.

But it is for his role in the abdication crisis of 1936, during which he advised King Edward VIII in his negotiations with the then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, that most people will know him.

Indeed, his influence was so great that he even drafted the statement of abdication, read out by the King on 11 December 1936.

Walter Monckton with Edward VIII
Monckton negotiated Edward's abdication settlement

Walter Turner Monckton was born in Kent in 1891. Educated at Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, he was president of the Oxford Union in 1913.

His studies were put on hold by World War I, during which he was awarded the Military Cross.

After graduating in 1918, Monckton became a barrister with a large and lucrative practice and there he might have remained, wealthy yet obscure, for the rest of his life.

In 1932, though, an old Oxford colleague - none other than the Prince of Wales himself - asked Monckton to become his legal adviser. This would normally be a low-key job, but the abdication crisis changed everything.

Monckton acted as a go-between in Edward VIII's relations with the government. He keenly felt the King's frustration at being forced to choose between his mistress and the throne.

Knighthood

"They the people," he wrote, "must take him as he was - a man different from his father and determined to be himself."

However, owing to a "gentleman's agreement" between the Palace and the press, the people knew nothing of the predicament faced by their monarch.

Walter Monckton was the first person to be knighted by the King, who nearly sliced his ear off when dubbing him with a sword, quipping: "Well. Walter, we did not manage that very well, but neither of us had done it before."

Edward VIII in 1936
Monckton felt the King's frustration with his predicament

As the supreme courtier, Sir Walter successfully negotiated the financial terms of the abdication settlement.

Edward's successor, George VI, paid his brother 300,000 for the private royal residences, Sandringham and Balmoral, as well as an annual gratuity of 25,000.

He remained close to, and trusted by, both brothers.

Indeed, his correspondence with the late Queen Mother was so frank that one of her letters to him - dated 14 August 1940 and said to refer to the late Duchess of Windsor - is still judged too acerbic to be made public.

A month earlier, she had referred to the duchess, in another letter, as "the lowest of the low".

That letter, written to the Colonial Secretary Lord Lloyd, expressed her unhappiness that the Duke of Windsor was being made Governor of the Bahamas.

The Monckton letter is said to be even more colourful and will, barring any change in policy, remain out of sight until 2037.

Sir Walter Monckton went from strength to strength. He ran the UK's propaganda department in Cairo during World War II and wrote a second abdication document, this time for Egypt's playboy King Farouk, after he had shown pro-German sympathies.

Criticism

This 1942 document remained unsigned after Farouk gave way.

Following the war, Sir Walter successfully negotiated with the Soviet Union over German reparations and, aged 60, entered politics as Minister of Labour in Churchill's 1951 government.

Conservative historians like Andrew Roberts, author of Eminent Churchillians, have criticised Monckton for being too conciliatory towards organised labour.

After leaving government in 1956, Sir Walter became a Lord and served as chairman of the Midland Bank and president of the MCC.

Lord Monckton, whose grand-daughter, Rosa Monckton, was a close friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, died in 1965.


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