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Edward VIII

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Edward VIII
Duke of Windsor
Edward in 1919
King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, Emperor of India
Reign20 January 1936 – 11 December 1936
PredecessorGeorge V
SuccessorGeorge VI
Prime Ministers
Born23 June 1894
White Lodge, Richmond, Surrey, England
Died28 May 1972 (aged 77)
4 Rue du Champ d'Entraînement, Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Burial5 June 1972
Wallis Simpson
Full name
Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David
HouseHouse of Windsor
FatherGeorge V
MotherMary of Teck
SignatureEdward VIII's signature

Edward VIII (born Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972) was King of the United Kingdom, from 20 January 1936 until 11 December 1936. He was born at White Lodge, Richmond Park in London.

Edward abdicated (resigned) from the throne, because he wanted to marry the American woman Wallis Simpson. Simpson had been married twice before. As King, he was Head of the Church of England, and the Church did not support divorce. After abdicating as king, he was known as His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor.[1][2] His wife was not allowed to be called "Her Royal Highness".[3]

Early life[change | change source]

Edward, commonly known by those close to him as David, was born as the first son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King George V and Queen Mary. As a young man, he disliked his royal duties, but his charisma made him popular with the British people. Edward was officially invested as Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarvon Castle on 13 July 1911 and was even tutored by the future Prime Minister David Lloyd George to speak a few words of Welsh.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the twenty-year-old Edward was keen to participate. He witnessed trench warfare at first-hand and attempted to visit the front line as often as possible, but he did not experience as much hardship and misery as ordinary British soldiers.

Edward undertook a military flight in 1918 and gained a pilot's licence later. Throughout the 1920s, Edward represented his father, King George V, at home and abroad on many occasions. His popularity was at its greatest peak in that decade and gained him much public and media attention.

However, his increasing womanising and reckless behaviour in the 1920s and the 1930s worried Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his hardworking, strict father, King George V. Edward was also uninterested with royal duties and disliked the British establishment. George V was disappointed by Edward's failure to settle down in life and was furious with his many affairs with married women, and he was reluctant to see him inherit the Crown. George V preferred his son Albert (later King George VI), a family man who was loyal to his beloved wife.

Edward had a string of relationships with married women including Freda Dudley Ward and Lady Furness, the American wife of a British peer, who later introduced him to Wallis Simpson. She was an American who had been twice divorced. Edward later became Wallis Simpson's lover.

That further weakened his poor relationship with his father, who stated, "After I am dead," George said, "the boy will ruin himself in 12 months".

Reign[change | change source]

After months of ill health, King George V died on 20 January 1936. His son became King Edward VIII and watched the announcement of his new role from a window of St James's Palace with his lover, Wallis. After only a few weeks, Edward began to cause unease in government circles with actions that were seen as too political. He did not work hard as king and was not careful about important state papers. Far from working, in August and September, Edward and Wallis simply sailed around the Mediterranean on a luxury steam yacht.

On 16 November 1936, Edward invited British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and expressed his plans to marry Wallis Simpson after her divorce. Baldwin was unhappy about that and informed him that his subjects would see it as morally unacceptable, because remarriage after divorce was opposed by the Church of England, which Edward was the formal head, and the people did not like Wallis. Edward knew that the government, led by Baldwin, would resign if the marriage went ahead. That action could have led to a general election and would ruin Edward's status as a politically-neutral monarch. That would be disastrous for the Royal Family and damage the nation.

As a result, he chose to abdicate in December of that year and married Wallis later in 1937. His brother, Prince Albert, Duke of York, became King George VI.

Duke of Windsor and later life[change | change source]

Edward reviewing a squad of SS with Robert Ley, 1937
Edward Duke of Windsor in 1945

After his abdication, he was given the title Duke of Windsor. He married Simpson in France on 3 June 1937. His brother and mother did not attend the ceremony. Many people became alarmed with what they thought was Edward's pro German stance. Some even said that he favoured German fascism. Hitler considered Edward to be friendly towards Nazi Germany. Even in the 1960s, Edward privately said to a friend, Lord Kinross, "I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap".[4] The Duke and Duchess visited Nazi Germany, against the advice of the British government, and they met Adolf Hitler at his private retreat. During the visit, the Duke gave full Nazi salutes, causing anger in Britain. At the start of the Second World War, the Nazis plotted to persuade the Duke to support the Nazi effort and planned to kidnap him. Lord Caldecote warned Winston Churchill that "[the Duke] is well-known to be pro-Nazi and he may become a centre of intrigue".[5] More problems arose when Edward gave a "defeatist" interview, which angered Churchill even more.

After the war, the Duke and Duchess became celebrities and hosted parties and lived between Paris and New York. In the 1960s, the Duke's health became worse. Because he was a heavy smoker from an early age, he had throat cancer. On 28 May 1972, the Duke died at his home in Paris, less than a month before his 78th birthday. Wallis Simpson was not strong. She suffered from dementia and died 14 years later. The coffin was buried in the Royal Burial Ground behind the Royal Mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Frogmore.

Titles and styles[change | change source]

  • 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1898: His Highness Prince Edward of York
  • 28 May 1898 – 22 January 1901: His Royal Highness Prince Edward of York[6]
  • 22 January – 9 November 1901: His Royal Highness Prince Edward of Cornwall and York
  • 9 November 1901 – 6 May 1910: His Royal Highness Prince Edward of Wales
  • 6 May – 23 June 1910: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall
  • 23 June 1910 – 20 January 1936: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
    • in Scotland: 1910–1936: His Royal Highness The Prince Edward, Duke of Rothesay
  • 20 January – 11 December 1936: His Majesty The King
    • and, occasionally, outside the United Kingdom, and with regard to India: His Imperial Majesty The King-Emperor
  • 11 December 1936 – 8 March 1937: His Royal Highness The Prince Edward
  • 8 March 1937 – 28 May 1972: His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor
    • Edward began use of the title immediately upon abdication, in accordance with George VI's declaration to his Accession Council, but several months passed before the title was formalised by Letters Patent.

His full style as king was "His Majesty, Edward the Eighth, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India".

References[change | change source]

  1. "No. 34349". The London Gazette. 12 December 1936. p. 8111.
  2. "No. 34350". The London Gazette. 15 December 1936. p. 8115.
  3. "No. 34402". The London Gazette. 28 May 1937. p. 3429.
  4. Lord Kinross, Love conquers all in Books and Bookmen, vol. 20 (1974), p. 50: "He indeed remarked to me, some twenty-five years later, 'I never thought Hitler was such a bad chap'."
  5. Ziegler, Philip (1991). King Edward VIII: The official biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-57730-2.
  6. Letters Patent, 28 May 1898