Sacrifices for love

In 1936, Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England to be with the woman he loved. It’s widely considered to be one of the greatest love stories of the 20th century. But is it really? A century earlier, an elderly pauper named Daniel Rush and his wife faced a terrible choice: enter the workhouse and be separated after 49 years of marriage, or try to survive without any income or family for support. Who made the greater sacrifice for love, the king or the pauper? In this episode, we try to answer that question.

See also:

Documents used in this episode:

MH 12/6846; PC 11/1; TS 22/1/1; TS 22/1/2

Daniel Rush’s letter read by Adrian McLoughlin. Recorded by Digital Drama.

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Matt Norman: Monarchy in Crisis, Royal Family Scrambles to Restore Order After News Leaks that Beloved Royal Will Abdicate his Position to Live Abroad with American Divorcee.

Katie Fox: That’s how tabloid headlines might have read in December 1936…

Matt: …if the press hadn’t been keeping a tight lid on this scandalous story out of respect for the royal family.

Katie: On 11 December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated the throne just a few months before his scheduled coronation, giving up the position of King of England in order to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite.

Matt: The British people were shocked by this sudden news, and it created quite a stir, to put it mildly.

Anne Sebba: This was a very dramatic moment when suddenly the press reported that this wonderful King was giving everything up and leaving.

My name is Anne Sebba. I’m a historian, and I’ve written a book about Wallis Simpson and the abdication, which is called That Woman.

Katie: Anne is also a Trustee of The National Archives Trust, and she joined me in our staff reading room to help us examine the famous story of Edward and Wallis.

Anne: What you have to imagine is that in 1936 the British press, largely out of deference, had been self-censored. So most people, unless they had access to American newspapers or international friends, didn’t really know what was happening. And then suddenly this Instrument of Abdication bursts upon the news and this wonderful, charming, handsome Prince of Wales, lately King Edward VIII…now suddenly he was leaving. So you have to imagine that sense of drama, that the British people felt what on earth is happening? This must be an evil woman who’s put a terrible spell over this wonderful king that he’s laying down his duty. He’s giving up everything, and by the Instrument of abdication, he became a private individual. He left England within a couple of days after this and he was gone. Now, he always thought he would come back. But for the British people, this was the end of so much hope.

Matt: You’re listening to On the Record at The National Archives, a show that uncovers the stories hidden in our collections, stories of famous monarchs and spies…

Katie: …and stories of everyday people like you and me.

Matt: …Stories you’ve never heard before…

Katie: …and stories you thought you knew.

Matt: I’m Matt Norman,

Katie: ….and I’m Katie Fox.

Matt: Here at The National Archives, we’re the guardians of more than 11 million historical government and public records spanning a thousand years of British history.

Katie: We’re the paper trail of a nation, and our original documents have some incredible stories to tell…if you know where to look.

Matt: In this mini-series we’re re-reading famous love letters preserved in our archives…. and reading between the lines of less obviously romantic records…to discover the love-stories of everyday people from the last 500 years.

Matt: So what’s our connection to the love story of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson?

Katie: Well, here at The National Archives, we hold the “Instrument of Abdication.” The Instrument is a single piece of paper. It has a red royal seal stamped at the top of the page, two small paragraphs of text, and four signatures.

Anne Sebba [reading The Instrument of Abdication]:

The Instrument of Abdication

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 decedents, 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 at
Fort Belvedere
in the Presence of

Edward Rex

Anne: So this is the instrument of application. Most people think of Edward VIII’s abdication speech, but actually the instrument of abdication is a much shorter document, which is the important document where he signed away his life as king. He was the uncrowned king for 326 days. And this was a very dramatic document when the British people heard about it.

Matt: One way to describe this document is an artifact of immense sacrifice made for love.

Katie: Well that’s one way. It’s certainly the way Edward framed his abdication when he announced his decision to the public in a broadcasted speech:

Matt [reading the speech]: You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the Empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

Anne: “Without the help and support of the woman I love..” That phrase is what has reverberated down the ages and television producers, stage producers have often just used the snatch of the abdication broadcast with that wonderful wobble on the “I” and the little stutter so you can hear that he’s just like his brother and stutters as well. And that became shorthand. It’s a sort of Pavlovian reaction…people would say, “Oh, the greatest love story of the 20th century. “

Matt: Okay but, is it though? Before we can make any judgements, let’s backtrack to the beginning, when Edward met Wallis and the wheels of scandal were set in motion.

Katie: It’s the 1930s. George V is King. His son, Edward, the Prince of Wales is in his mid-thirties, and well-liked.

Anne: He travelled around the country making speeches and people just saw pictures because the British press at this point didn’t do major interviews, so he was considered a prince charming. He was very handsome. He’d been sent in 1920 on a tour of the Commonwealth and the Dominions to proclaim, “Look at this wonderful, handsome, charming prince. Don’t worry about the Russian Czars. They may have killed their monarchy, but the monarchy in Britain is utterly safe in the hands of this man.” He didn’t actually have to do much more than that. He turned up at events, he raised money…so he was an important figurehead.

In the 1930s he had a string of women friends. Many of them were half American. Thelma, Lady Furness was the immediate predecessor to Wallis, and when Wallis burst on the scene, she was already married.

Wallis was with her second husband, Ernest Simpson, who was an Anglo American and they were married in 1928 and they came to live in London, and she acquired a reputation as an American hostess who did things rather differently. You know, she had a longstanding Southern heritage, so she cooked things like chicken Maryland and bacon molasses, you know, things like that loomed in importance in society affairs.

She had a friend who introduced her to Thelma Furness, who was the King’s mistress at the time. And when Thelma needed a chaperone, she thought, “Oh well I’ll ask that other American society hostess who’s causing such ripples in London society. I’ll use her as my chaperone”. That was the first time she was invited to Melton Mowbray, and then Thelma went a bit further. She thought, why don’t I have Wallis presented at court that’ll make it easier for her to be part of the Prince’s circle. He was the Prince of Wales in those days. And of course it did.

But what Thelma had not realised is that actually the Prince would fall for her because he found Wallis so different, so spirited, so original. She had a very sharp caustic wit and for the Prince of Wales, who at this point was rather fed up with all these yes men with whom he was surrounded, he’d behaved if you like as a spoiled child. He’d always got his way, and he rather liked being told off in the way that Wallis did, and he found that very refreshing and appealing.

So it didn’t take long thanks to Thelma’s introduction, and very soon he was regularly visiting Wallis at her flat at Branson Court in Marble Arch.

Matt: It was all fine and good for the Prince to have a string of girlfriends, but a married American who had already been divorced once…

Katie: …well that’s a different situation. And it became an even bigger problem when Edward made it clear to his family and advisors that he planned to marry Wallis.

Anne: So everybody was very worried as to how on earth that would pan out, because if she divorced, she would have two living husbands. Now divorce in 1936 Britain, and I’m not going to give you a whole history lesson, but you need to understand there was only one ground for a woman to get a divorce. She had to prove the adultery of her husband, but if it was shown that she too was having an affair, that was considered a collusive divorce, that’s a legal term, divorce by agreement. Divorce by agreement was not allowed because they did not want an easing of the divorce laws.

And there was actually a bill going through parliament to make divorce easier but for example, the 500,000 strong mothers union was desperately against any easing of the divorce laws because they thought that society would collapse. But specifically they worried that women would be abandoned by their husbands who would just go off with some younger model and they would be left to look after the children, probably without a job, without any visible means of support.

So this was a deeply worrying scenario in Britain. If the divorce laws are going to be made easier by people like Wallis Simpson breezing in just because she’s got Royal support and money and able to chuck two husbands and marry a third, what on earth is going to happen to us?

Katie: Edward wanted to get Wallis her divorce as quietly and quickly as possible, so he arranged for the first stage of the two-stage process to take place in Ipswich.

Matt: The assumption being that the press wouldn’t actually bother going all the way to Ipswich.

Anne: He was quite wrong because the international press came in droves. So that was really the first time that the British public got a glimpse of this woman. Who was she and why was she allowed the first stage.

Matt: In Ipswich, Wallis had to make the case for why she should be allowed to get a divorce. The divorce process at the time included what you might call an “if anyone here objects” clause, which meant concerned citizens who thought there was more evidence to be considered could compel a government lawyer called the King’s Proctor to invite the public to write in if they knew anything that the judge didn’t know about Wallis’ arguments.

Katie: And that went…well that went exactly like you’d imagine.

Anne: All those letters to the King’s Proctor that are here in The National Archives and they make absolutely dramatic and revelatory reading because here you take the pulse of the British population.

All sorts of people wrote to the Kings Proctor. Some were educated, but some were barely literate and you can read these letters and you get a sense of the fury. “Why is this woman being allowed to get a divorce when we’re not,” was what some people felt. And many of these letters were really vitriolic and vicious. I mean, people talk about the country being angry today and you see that perhaps on social media, but here is the Twitter of its day all preserved in The National Archives and it gives you a very clear idea of why people so resented Wallis Simpson, and why she came to be perceived as, as this wicked and evil person.

Matt: So on the one hand you have a man willing to do whatever it takes to be with the woman he loves, and on the other, the British public…anxious about possible changes to the permanence of marriage, changes that threaten to upend the social order.

Katie: But Edward’s desire to marry Wallis also led to a bit of a constitutional crisis…

Anne: So Edward decided that he really couldn’t live his life without Wallis by his side, whatever happened and he didn’t really care, he just had to have Wallis. He was always used to having what he wanted. And he thought if I broadcast to the British nation, they’ll understand and then I’ll be allowed to have my way, I’ll marry Wallis. But the politicians were explaining to Edward that it was not acceptable for a British King to go above the heads of the elected representatives and broadcast to the people.

So the only way he could broadcast was after he had laid down his burdens of state, when he was a private individual, when he was no longer King. By the time he abdicated, of course, he’d given everything up and then he could have Wallis, which was actually what he wanted more than being King. It’s a complex psychological drama.

Katie: The Royal family and the Prime Minister just couldn’t understand why he would give up the throne or how love could be more important than duty, they put a lot of the blame on Wallis, who they felt was forcing Edward to abdicate.

Anne: You know let’s put our minds back to 1936 it’s this period just after the First World War, when so many women, single women had not been able to marry because their fiancés or their boyfriends or would be husbands had been killed in World War One. So Queen Mary for example, Edward’s mother, couldn’t understand why Edward was not prepared to make a small sacrifice when so many people in Britain had made major sacrifices, had not been able to get married.

And Baldwin, the Prime Minister, couldn’t understand why Edward was not prepared to have Wallis as his mistress.

Katie: But he was determined to marry Wallis. In his abdication speech, he defends his decision, and he also makes it really clear that Wallis didn’t seduce him off the throne.

Matt Norman reading an excerpt from Edward VIII’s Abdication Speech: At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak. And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course. I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.

Matt: So, then what….do they live happily ever after? Does he regret his decision? How did Wallis feel about how everything went down?

Katie: Let’s answer that last question first. It’s clear what Edward wanted…and got…but for Wallis, the aftermath of his abdication would have been really tough:

Anne: She felt that she had given up much more. She felt she’d given up her good name, that she’d given up her privacy. She wasn’t allowed to go out. She couldn’t even go to the hairdresser without paparazzi, and she was terrified that every time a flash bulb went off, perhaps somebody was taking a pot shot at her.

So she was completely loathed and the British public could not understand why on earth this handsome, charming man had married her. That’s because they didn’t know anything about Edward. So what I’ve tried to do is turn the story around and show that actually it was his need for her. He was the one doing the hunting rather than her.

Katie: And as for the impact this all had on the royal family…

Anne: So the new King George VI and Queen Elizabeth suddenly had to take over. They had two young daughters, Elizabeth and Margaret. And by all accounts, they did not want to take over as King and Queen. They hadn’t been expecting this. So they felt let down, the bitterness between the two brothers became corrosive.

And meanwhile Edward was waiting for Wallis’ divorce to come through. He was waiting in Germany in Schlüsselfeld, hoping that the second stage would go ahead. But the British politicians recognized it would just be too cruel for this man to have given up his throne and then find that actually Wallis couldn’t get a divorce because it had been an illegal. They decided to call the King’s Proctor off. So Wallis was going to get her divorce, but it took six months, and they agreed to wait for their wedding until after the coronation.

Katie: Edward took on a role with the British military, but as the 1930s came to a close, his and Wallis’ uncomfortably close relationship with many hi-ranking Nazi officials, and their support of the Nazi party and other far-right movments growing in Britain, became a problem for the British government. So Edward was appointed Governor of the Bahamas, which was still a British colony. They stayed there until the Second World War was over, and then they retired to Paris, where they lived comfortably in exile for the rest of their lives.

Anne: Did they regret it? They gave an interview to the BBC late in life where they were asked that question, and they’re both in their seventies, sitting very upright in great armchairs in their home in Paris. And Wallis answered the question first, any regrets? And she said, “Oh, well, of course everyone has a few regrets.” And Edward reached out and touched her hand immediately and said, “Oh no, no regrets.” And I think you see there the difference in how they perceived their lives in exile.

Matt: So is this one of the great love stories of history? Or is it something else?

Anne: I think Edward had fallen in love with Wallis. I think he could not envisage life without her, but it was, as Baldwin and many courtiers believed, a sort of mad love. I mean, we all know the phrase love is mad, love is blind. And you see it writ large in Edward’s case. Now, Wallis, was it a love story for her? I don’t believe so. I think it was something much darker. I think she fell in love with the jewelry, the money, the security, the leg up in society.

Absolutely love is there. But what I don’t accept is this sort of instant response when you hear the terribly sad abdication speech. I mean it was really a sort of Shakespearian tragedy if you like, that somebody in his forties who’d been brought up with all this privilege and so much hope in the country abandons it all for a woman. Of course the way to explain that….I mean it has to be given narrative sense by saying, well it was obviously a great love story, but in my view it’s a much darker, more Gothic love story. And it’s a bit one-sided as well.

Matt: Royals live big lives, lives that are thoroughly recorded and analysed. So of all the sacrifices made for love, it’s often those made by the rich and powerful that get told over and over.

Katie: But as we’ve shown throughout this mini-series, love is not just for the rich and powerful…

Matt: And neither is making great sacrifices to be with the person you love. So let’s leave all this royal drama and take a look at the story of Daniel Rush, a pauper from East London who didn’t have anything other than his own life, and yet was willing to give that up rather than be separated from his wife.

Katie: Daniel Rush’s story hasn’t inspired any books, documentaries, or films like Edward and Wallis’ did. In fact, we don’t really know much about him at all. We don’t even know his wife’s name. Like Cyril and Morris from episode 1 of this series and James Gillespie from episode 2, Daniel’s life went largely unrecorded except for a letter he wrote to the Poor Law Board in 1851. The Poor Law Board was essentially the government department in charge of welfare in the 19th century.

Here’s what Daniel wrote:

Actor reading out the letter:

August 22nd 1851

I have taken the Liberty of Writing to you Implorin of you to take my Case into your most seirous Considration I am a Silk Weaver Past Labour being 71 years of age my Wife 68 We Now Wind Silk and Cotton and When full employd Can Earn from 4s to 5s per Week but trade being bad We now earn abought 3s and I have aplyed to the Parish of St Mathews bethnal Green and they Will not Relive me With out my goin in to the Poor house and We went on Tuesday the 19th and they insisted in Sepratin me from my Wife Wich I have had 49 years or turn us out, and soner then We Would be seperated We Will Perish for Want som time a goe I had a Blad Vessel burst in my Leg and Went to the Poor house and as soon as I got Well I took my Discharge


Gentlemen in the Act for the Administration of the Laws in England 23rd July 1847 Chap 109 Verse 23 any two Persons being Husband and Wife shall not be ness be Compeld to be separate and Gentlmen I hope you Wioll take my Case into your Most seirous Consideration to alow me som little Relief or not be separated in the Poor house

and I in Duty Bound
Would Ever Pray
Daniel Rush

No.8 Littel George
Street bethnal Green

Paul Carter: It’s a letter that he sent, that he wrote and that he sent to the Poor Law Board in 1851 complaining about his situation, about his case.

Katie: This is Paul Carter, a Modern Domestic Records Specialist here at The National Archives.

Paul: He’s made a request for relief. He’s 71 years old, his wife’s 68. So he’s, he’s towards the end of his working life, and he’s made a request locally to the Bethnal Green Guardians for outdoor relief. And they’ve refused that and they said he’s got to go into the workhouse. So him and his wife have gone down to the workhouse and it’s only when they get there, they realise or they say they realise, we are going to be separated. We’re going to be split, we’re going to be taken into different parts of the institution. And they refuse that. They refuse that, and they’re writing into the Poor Law Board now saying, you know, “Is there something that we can do?” And in fact they actually say “There is something you can do.” And they point to different rules and regulations, pointing out that married couples over the age of 60 can be allowed to share accommodation in the workhouse, but it’s been refused them. And that’s the nature of their complaint in this letter.

Matt: Before we unpack the details Daniel Rush has included in his letter, we should explain what a workhouse is for anyone who doesn’t already know.

Katie: Workhouses were built to house the poor. They have a long history, but in the Victorian period, when Daniel wrote this letter, the Poor Law placed a big emphasis on building hundreds of workhouses across England and Wales.

Katie: Workhouses were closed institutions where the poor, elderly, and infirm could go as a last resort. Separated from the world, they would often be set work, supposedly linked to their physical abilities.

Matt: After the New Poor Law of 1834, the assumption made by the law was that many people were poor because they were lazy.

Katie: Which obviously wasn’t the case.

Matt: So workhouses had harsh conditions to discourage poor people from claiming relief of assistance

Paul: From the Poor Law Commission’s point of view, when they set up in 1834, they had heavy instructions of what the conditions should be like within the union workhouse. So they talk about the way in which the husband would be held in one part of the building, the wife in another, children would be distributed elsewhere. They talk about what time people were going to get up, what time they’re going to go to bed, what kind of work they can be given while in the workhouse.

They’d be given a lot of very routine and kind of very boring aspects of life around this, where you are removed from being an agent in history if you like. You’re told what to do and when and when to do it.

Matt: But the workhouse wasn’t Daniel’s first choice for welfare support.

Katie: That’s right, the workhouses were only one part of the system supporting the poor…or dealing with the poor…depending on how you look at it. First, Daniel applied for “outdoor” or “out” relief.

Paul: “Out relief” means that you received perhaps a small amount of money and some material goods that get you by. That’s instead of going into the workhouse, the 19th century workhouse. And in fact the majority of people in the 19th century under the New Poor Law they are on outdoor relief. Proportionately, it’s a small number that go into the workhouse and he’s saying, we should be in that small number. You know, we’ve worked all our lives. We’re now at the end of our working life, but we don’t want to be separated. And they talk about, you know, we’ve been together now for 49 years and that they’d rather than, rather than, be separated, we’re so attached, we’d rather not come in at the workhouse, but that would leave them of course with no relief at all with nothing to get by on.

Matt: So without support, the Rushes won’t be able to get by. They apply for some financial support that would allow them to survive, but get turned down for whatever reason. As a last resort, they are offered the workhouse, but once they get there, they’re told that they’ll be split up and housed in separate facilities.

Katie: This is a big deal. Because of their age, they probably won’t ever leave the workhouse. So if they want to enter, they would have to say goodbye…possibly forever. I just can’t imagine having to make a decision like that.

Paul: What’s particularly clear in Rush’s letter is that position around him and his wife. We’ve been together for 49 years. We would rather do without than go into the workhouse and be separated. And when we talk about love letters, we instantly think of the, you know, I love you or….this is more than that. This is a couple, now they’ve brought up a family, they’ve lived locally in that part all of their working lives and now they are unable to shift for themselves and they don’t want to shift for themselves individually. It’s them as a couple.

He talks about how they wouldn’t relieve him and he says, so on Tuesday the 19th, “we went down with the workhouse and they insisted in separating me from my wife, which I’ve had for 49 years or turn us out. And sooner than that, we would be separated. We will perish, for want for some time ago, I had a bad blood vessel burst…” He talks about his ailments. But the point is that bit there, rather than, rather than be separated, we will go without, and we have to understand what that means in the mid 19th century because there are numerous newspaper reports where people have refused the workhouse and have therefore died. So the kind of risk that he’s running by refusing this relief is great, not just for him but for him and his wife, and I can’t imagine what that must feel like when you apply for welfare and they turn around and say, well your life partner for the last half a century, you’re just not going to be with them anymore.

Katie: But Daniel Rush isn’t ready to give up on relief just yet, and that’s why he writes his letter to the Poor Law Board.

Matt: And if it weren’t for this letter, we’d have no record of the Rushes, their love, and of their struggle to survive in mid 19th century London.

Paul: There are thousands of letters from paupers in this particular collection at The National Archives. What is special about this is first of all, historians in the main have not really looked at them. So it’s not a new source. It’s an MH 12. It’s source that has been open for decades and decades, but it’s a very big set of records, and therefore to try to pick in there and pick out letters from the kind of lowest strata of society in the 19th century, it’s not something that historians have done before.

Why is it worth examining? It’s the nearest we can get to the voice of the 19th century poor. The 19th century poor. Those are the very, very bottom. They don’t leave an archive. They don’t leave diaries. They don’t leave memoirs in the main. That’s not what poor people, ordinary, poor people do, but because they sent their letters 160 years ago, 170 years ago, into the central government department for welfare, the Poor Law Commission, Poor Law Board or Local Government Board, those letters are then being bound up. They therefore were never weeded, and we therefore have this huge collection of letters and what we can get to is what did the poor in the 19th century think about the welfare that was offered to them at that time, and that’s the bit that’s missing I think from, from the secondary history literature. This is the nearest that you get to the voice of the poor.

Katie: This particular letter is fascinating as well, because besides showing how much Daniel loved his wife, it also shows his knowledge of the law and his rights, and his ability to articulate those rights.

Paul: Well, he’s saying that at his time of life, for him and his wife, they should be allowed a small amount of relief to get by outside of the workhouse. It’s a deterrent system, they don’t want to be inside, and they feel they have some kind of right to it. And they’re quite right. In 1847 there is a set of regulations that are sent out to all Poor Law Guardians saying for those over 60 men and women, they can be provided with accommodation within a workhouse, and they don’t have to be divided.

So he’s quite right. And therefore this becomes a little bit more than this is what I’d like. Rush is making a demand. He’s saying to the Poor Law Board, these are your rules, these are your rules, and they’re not doing it, and therefore I’m asking you to intervene.

Matt: Okay so how does the story end? Do the Rushes get the support they need?

Paul: Typically, what the central authorities do is they’ll write back to the local guardians and say, we’ve received this letter from so-and-so. Can you please give me your observations on it? And normally they’d write back with some very generic well we think is the best thing to do. And the central authorities say, fine, that’s fine. And that, that there’s a big routine around that. Not always, not always. And there are occasions when there are interventions and the poor individual, the pauper gets what it is that they were, they were seeking.

In this case, we can tell by looking further on in the volume, that the Guardians of Bethnal Green write back. And I have a copy of that letter where they say, “First of all,” they say “It’s not true. It’s not true.” In fact, they were leaving off….can’t even remember Daniel Rush. However, the Guardians then go on to say that we do know of him though, and he’s quite a troublesome man. And that what he does is he puts on all of these Chartist airs, as they refer to this. Chartism is first working class movement for the popular vote in the 19th century. So it appears that Daniel has got a history of stating his rights or demands for rights, and they’re aware of that. So much so, that they say to the Poor Law Board, if he applies for relief again, we’re going to give him outdoor relief because we think he will influence the more–for want of a better phrase–more placid inmates in the workhouse, and that it’s worth giving him outdoor relief just to mitigate that as a problem.

Matt: So this guy is clearly a strong character. Loves his wife and knows his rights. You can’t help but respect him.

Paul: This is quite unusual. I’ve got to say. I’ve not seen many, if any, letters like this, because that’s not the criteria in which you would put somebody into a workhouse. The criteria which you would, you would give somebody relief. So that’s really unusual. What’s even more unusual is that the central authorities don’t write back to Bethnal Green and say you can’t do that. They don’t say you can’t, you can’t possibly do that, and they let that go. What they also do is they write to Daniel Rush. They don’t pass on the little message about if you, if you claim relief again, they’re going to give you out relief. And for obvious reasons, they don’t really want him to make that application. They don’t want him to have that out relief.

And we don’t see any follow up letters and that that, might indicate that he has actually got what he wants in this. But all Daniel has to do following this set of correspondence is make another application for relief and he will have, him and his wife, the outdoor relief that he so craved.

Katie: So we don’t know if the Rushes ever got the support they needed, or if they were forced to fend for themselves.

Matt: I’d like to think a guy like Daniel wouldn’t have given up at this point. It sounds like he knew his rights and wasn’t afraid to fight for them.

Katie: Yeah, It’s another historical mystery waiting to be solved.

Katie: I asked Paul who he thought made the biggest sacrifice for love, Edward VIII or Daniel Rush.

Paul: There’s no, there’s no doubt in my mind it’s Daniel Rush. Daniel Rush had everything to lose and it’s not uncommon to see reports of paupers who, because they’ve refused to go into the workhouse, have died. Edward had a very rich and full life right through to his death. Even if Daniel got the outdoor relief that he craved, it wouldn’t be that. But what he had got to lose was his life. And of course, that of his, of his wife. I think Daniel put a lot on the line.


Matt: Thanks for listening to On the Record, a production of The National Archives at Kew.

This is the end of our mini-series on love letters, but it’s not the end of the podcast. Stay tuned for more episodes coming later this year.

All of the letters featured in this mini-series were chosen from The National Archives’ With Love exhibition.

Listeners, now we need your help to make this podcast better! We need to know a bit more about you and what themes you’re interested in. You can share this information with us by visiting We’ll include that link in the episode description and on our website. You can also share your feedback or suggestions for future series by emailing us at

To find out more about these letters, the history behind them, and The National Archives, follow the link from the episode description in your podcast listening app or visit

Thank you to all the experts who contributed to this episode. This episode was written, edited, and produced by Hannah Hethmon for Better Lemon Creative Audio.

This podcast is copyright to The National Archives, all rights reserved. It is available for reuse under the terms of the Open Government Licence.