Edward VIII


Edward VIII
(Duke of Windsor) 1894-1972, king of Great Britain 1936: abdicated (son of George V; brother of George VI).

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born June 23, 1894, Richmond, Surrey, Eng.
died May 28, 1972, Paris, France

King of the United Kingdom (1936) who abdicated voluntarily.

Son of George V, he served as a staff officer in World War I. After the war he made extensive goodwill tours of the British Empire and became very popular with the British people. In 1930 he became friends with Wallis Simpson and her husband and by 1934 had fallen in love with her. In January 1936 he succeeded to the throne on his father's death. Unable to gain social and political acceptance for his proposed marriage to Simpson, he abdicated in December, becoming the only British sovereign to resign the crown voluntarily. He was created duke of Windsor and in 1937 married Simpson, who became the duchess of Windsor. At Winston Churchill's invitation, he served as governor of the Bahamas during World War II, and after 1945 the couple lived in Paris. Though they were counted among the social elite, not until 1967 were they invited to attend an official public ceremony with other members of the royal family.

The duke of Windsor (formerly Edward VIII) and duchess of Windsor on their wedding day, June 3, ...

Camera Press

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▪ king of United Kingdom
also called  (from 1936) Prince Edward, Duke Of Windsor,  in full  Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David 
born June 23, 1894, Richmond, Surrey, Eng.
died May 28, 1972, Paris
 prince of Wales (1911–36) and king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British dominions and emperor of India from Jan. 20 to Dec. 10, 1936, when he abdicated in order to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson of the United States (see Windsor, Wallis Warfield, duchess of). He was the only British sovereign ever voluntarily to resign the crown.

      The eldest child of George, duke of York (later King George V), and Princess Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary), he became heir to the throne on the accession of his father (May 6, 1910). Although trained (1907–11) for the Royal Navy, he was commissioned in the Army's Grenadier Guards after the outbreak of World War I (Aug. 6, 1914) and served as a staff officer. After the war and through the early 1920s he undertook extensive goodwill tours of the British Empire; and, after an illness that his father suffered in 1928, the prince took an increasing interest in national affairs. In 1932, after unemployment had reached unprecedented levels, he toured workingmen's clubs throughout Britain and enlisted more than 200,000 men and women in occupational schemes. During these years his popularity rivaled, if it did not exceed, that of his grandfather King Edward VII when the latter was prince of Wales.

      In 1930 King George V gave him Fort Belvedere, an 18th-century house belonging to the crown, near Sunningdale. The Fort, as he always called it, gave him privacy and the sense of making a home that was entirely his own. He worked arduously in the garden and woodlands, becoming in the 1930s something of an authority on horticulture, especially on the growing of roses. He soon began to regard the Fort as a refuge from the official world that he increasingly disliked. There he entertained a private circle of friends, not drawn from the conventional aristocracy and perhaps better characterized as part of the “high society” of the time.

      In 1930 the prince's friendship with Mrs. Simpson began. Mrs. Simpson, divorced from a U.S. Navy lieutenant in 1927, married Ernest Simpson in 1928. Members of a private circle of friends, the Simpsons were frequently in the company of the prince, and by 1934 he was deeply in love with Mrs. Simpson. It was at this point, before he could discuss the matter with his father, that George V died (Jan. 20, 1936) and Edward was proclaimed king.

      As king, Edward VIII set in motion drastic economies in the royal estates. In November he opened Parliament and then toured distressed areas in South Wales. Meanwhile his attempts to gain the royal family's acceptance of Mrs. Simpson, who had obtained a preliminary decree of divorce on Oct. 27, 1936, met with firm opposition, backed by the Church of England (of which he was the head) and most politicians in both Britain and the Commonwealth. (Winston Churchill, then out of power, was his only notable ally.) His affair with Mrs. Simpson evoked much lurid comment in American and continental European newspapers and journals but, until nearly the end of his kingship, was kept out of the British press through governmental persuasions and pressures.

      Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin attempted to impress upon the king the peril to the integrity of the monarchy caused by the private friendship with a divorcée. Discussions of a morganatic marriage were pursued, but on December 2 Baldwin assured him that this was impracticable. It was doomed by being somewhat hurriedly and forcibly put to the dominions and by the explosion of the whole matter in the press and Parliament on December 3. On the following day the word “abdication” appeared in the newspapers for the first time. The king therefore made his final decision and submitted his abdication on Dec. 10, 1936 (“I, Edward, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and my descendants”). The instrument of abdication was endorsed by Parliament on December 11, and on the same evening the former king spoke on a radio broadcast: “I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” That night he left for the Continent, where he lived several months with friends in Austria and discreetly apart from Mrs. Simpson until after her decree of divorce became final. On June 3, 1937, Edward was married to Mrs. Simpson by a clergyman of the Church of England at the Château de Candé, France. The new king, George VI, had created his older brother duke of Windsor (Dec. 12, 1936) but in 1937, on the advice of the Cabinet, refused to extend to the new duchess of Windsor the rank of “royal highness” enjoyed by her husband; this decision severely wounded the duke.

      For the next two years the duke and duchess lived mainly in France, visiting various other European countries, including Germany (October 1937), where the duke was honoured by Nazi officials and had an interview with Adolf Hitler. The outbreak of World War II failed to close the breach between the duke and his family, and, after visiting London, he accepted a position as liaison officer with the French. On the fall of France he traveled to Madrid, where he was subjected to a fanciful plan of the Nazis to remake him king and to use him against the established government in England. When he reached Lisbon, he was offered by Prime Minister Winston Churchill the governorship of the Bahamas, a British colony in the West Indies, and he remained there for the duration of the war (1940–45). After 1945 he lived in Paris. Short visits to England followed in succeeding years—notably, to attend the funerals of his brother King George VI (1952) and their mother, Queen Mary (1953)—but it was not until 1967 that, for the first time, the duke and duchess were invited to attend an official public ceremony with other members of the royal family—initially, the unveiling of a plaque to Queen Mary at Marlborough House.

      After their deaths, the duke and the duchess were buried side by side at Frogmore, within the grounds of Windsor Castle.

Additional Reading
The duke's memoirs, A King's Story, were published in 1951; those of the duchess, The Heart Has Its Reasons, appeared in 1959. Edward VIII: A Biography of the Duke of Windsor (1975) is by Frances Donaldson. An excellent, but unflattering, biography of both Edward and the duchess of Windsor is The Windsor Story (1979) by Joseph Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy.

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Universalium. 2010.

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