AIn 1936, the British Empire faced a constitutional crisis caused by King-Emperor Edward VIII’s proposal to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing a divorce of her second.

Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII

Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII

The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the autonomous Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political and moral objections were raised. As British monarch, Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England, which did not allow divorced people to remarry if their ex-spouses were still alive; so it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Wallis Simpson and remain on the throne. Simpson was perceived to be politically and socially unsuitable as a consort because of her two failed marriages. It was widely assumed by the Establishment that she was driven by love of money or position rather than love for the King. Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her whether his governments approved or not.

Edward VIII, former King of England, and his bride, Wallis Simpson, June 3, 1937.

Edward VIII, former King of England, and
his bride, Wallis Simpson, June 3, 1937.

The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King’s consort, and Edward’s refusal to give her up, led to his abdication in December 1936.

The Instrument of Abdication signed by Edward VIII and his three brothers

The Instrument of Abdication signed by Edward VIII and his three brothers

He remains the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who took the regnal name (reign name) of George VI.   Edward was given the title His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor following his abdication, and he married Wallis Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later.

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14 responses

  1. I vaguely remember hearing about this (shh… don’t tell my history teachers) but was glad to see that they did in fact end up staying together. Thanks for the lesson! (Found your blog via the A to Z page – thought I’d try a history site specifically)

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  2. riverfairchild says:

    And was most likely much happier than he would have been on the throne! Welcome to the A to Z. 🙂

    River Fairchild – A to Z Challenge, a Jeremy’s Angels Co-Host Minion
    Seasoned With Words

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  3. celticmama36 says:

    I have always found this an intriguing story. If I truly loved someone, I would gladly give up my “place” to be with them.

    Who knows, maybe if Edward hadn’t abdicated the throne, then Elizabeth would never have become queen, and maybe Diana would still be here to meet her grandchildren. It is fascinating to me how one seemingly remote action can affect so many things overall.

    I have always enjoyed history, most especially the personal side of it.

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  4. Tonja says:

    Fabulous post. That had to be a tense dinner conversation when he announced he’d rather not be king. FYI – I cannot easily read the post titles here – they are blending into the background. New follower. http://tonjasmusings.blogspot.com

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    • Thank you. I should upgrade so I have more options with colors for the titles. I looked at my options without upgrading previously but haven’t in awhile. Thanks for following.

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  5. Great subject choice! My husband was from England and he remembered his Dad talking about how stunning it was that Edward would give up the throne to marry (sniff) “that American woman”.

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  6. Found your blog in the A to Z, nice to ” meet” you! This story is so fascinating, just the idea to quit such a job! I wrote about this myself on day K, although from a jewellery perspective: http://galeriaredelius.wordpress.com/2014/04/12/kings-kweens/

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