Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Edward VIII's Abdication Becomes Official - 1936

On December 11, 1936, Edward VIII’s abdication becomes official. He reigned from January 20- December 11, 1936. Edward became king upon his father, George V’s death in early 1936. He showed impatience with court protocol and politicians were concerned by his apparent disregard for established constitutional conventions. Only months into his reign, he caused a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to American Wallis Simpson, who had divorced her first husband and was seeking a divorce from her second. The prime minister opposed the marriage, arguing that the people would never accept a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands as queen. Additionally, such a marriage would have conflicted with Edward's status as head of the Church of England, which opposed the remarriage of divorced people if their former spouses were still alive. Edward knew that the government led by British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin would resign if the marriage went ahead, which could have dragged the king into a general election and would ruin his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. Choosing not to end his relationship with Simpson, Edward abdicated.  

On December 10, 1936, Edward executed an Instrument of Abdication which was given legal effect the following day, when he gave Royal Assent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act, by which Edward VIII and any children he might have were excluded from succession to the throne. In 1937, Edward was created Duke of Windsor and married Wallis Simpson in a ceremony in France. During the Second World War, the Duke of Windsor escaped from Paris, where he was living at the time of the fall of France, to Lisbon in 1940. The Duke of Windsor was then appointed Governor of the Bahamas, a position he held until 1945. He lived abroad until the end of his life, dying in 1972 in Paris (he is buried at Windsor). Edward was never crowned; his reign lasted only 325 days. His brother Albert became King George VI. 

Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Royal Tombs: A Guide to the Lives and Burial Places of British Monarchs, it can be purchased from Amazon or Barnes and Noble through the following links: 

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