Edward & Wallis | James Jarché

The future Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson in a London Nightclub, 1936.

For the better part of Edward VIII’s relationship with twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson, the deferential British Press remained quiet on the subject. The continental and American press, however, had a field day with the king’s cruise along the Yugoslav, Greek and Turkish coasts, which Mrs. Simpson accompanied in August 1936.

Only on 3rd December 1936 — a day after the Prime Minister and the House of Commons rejected the possibility of a morganatic marriage, the British press decided to publish the story. It was a purely symbolic reticence–many British people were aware of the king’s predicament through the foreign press and radio stations. A week later, the king would abdicate.

The above photo was taken by James Jarché, one of the first British press photographers to make a name for himself. He concealed a camera in his bowler hat to surreptitiously take pictures like this. Outside the United Kingdom, the photo originally ran with the caption “Who Is The Mystery Women?”

Jimmy Jarché’s photo career began when he was just nine, when helped his father photograph a dead woman in a slum house in Rotherhithe in the middle of the night. Her husband wanted the picture to send to relatives in Australia. He would grow up to work for Life, the Daily Sketch, the Daily Herald, and the Illustrated London News, photographing Scottish “kipper girls”, Welsh coal miners and their ponies half a mile underground (having reassured them his new kind of flashbulb would not cause an explosion), allied soldiers in North Africa during the second world war, and Clement Attlee nonchalantly mowing his lawn three weeks before VE Day. Tasked by Odhams Press to photograph the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in black and white, he also took colour photos, which he sold independently, and was therefore sacked by Odhams.

Jimmy took the first photographs of aviator Louis Blériot after his flight over the English Channel in 1909, which won him the prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail. He also captured the construction of the London Underground, the siege of Sidney Street (an armed battle between police and a gang of thieves in east London in 1911 where he shot Winston Churchill, the then Home Secretary overseeing the raid, in a top hat, peeking from cover); and the decadence of Berlin’s nightclubs just after the first world war when the rest of Germany was starving. Their clientele was mostly “war-profiteers who had bled their country while their country bled for them. There were stout old men with arms of satyrs who had waxed fat on the troubles of the Fatherland”, Jarché wrote in his 1934 memoir, People I Have Shot.

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