Abdication of Edward VIII
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In early December 1936, a
constitutional crisis In political science, a constitutional crisis is a problem or conflict in the function of a government that the constitution, political constitution or other fundamental governing law is perceived to be unable to resolve. There are several variat ...
in the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. I ...

British Empire
arose when
King-Emperor A king-emperor (the female equivalent being queen-empress) is a sovereign ruler who is simultaneously a king of one territory and emperor of another. This title usually results from a merger of a royal and imperial crown, but recognises that the ...
Edward VIII Edward VIII (Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David; 23 June 1894 – 28 May 1972), later known as the Duke of Windsor, was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Empire and Emperor of India from 20 January ...
proposed to marry
Wallis Simpson Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield, later Simpson; June 19, 1896 – April 24, 1986), was an American Socialite#United_States, socialite and wife of the former King Edward VIII. Their intention to marry and her status ...
, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing the divorce of her second. The marriage was opposed by the governments of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...

United Kingdom
and the
Dominions The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other ...
of the
British Commonwealth The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a political association of 56 member states, the vast majority of which are former territories of the British Empire. The chief institutions of the organisation are the C ...
. Religious, legal, political, and moral objections were raised. As the
British monarch The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy, constitutional form of government by which a hereditary monarchy, hereditary sovereign reigns as the head of state of the United ...
, Edward was the nominal head of the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
, which at this time did not allow divorced people to remarry in church if their ex-spouses were still alive. For this reason, it was widely believed that Edward could not marry Simpson and remain on the throne. As a twice-divorced woman, Simpson was perceived to be politically, morally and socially unsuitable as a prospective queen consort. It was widely assumed by
the Establishment ''The Establishment'' is a term used to describe a dominant social group , group or elite that controls a polity or an organization. It may comprise a closed social group that selects its own members, or entrenched elite structures in specific ...
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 as soon as her second divorce was finalised. The widespread unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King's consort and Edward's refusal to give her up led to his
abdication Abdication is the act of formally relinquishing monarchical authority. Abdications have played various roles in the Order of succession, succession procedures of monarchies. While some cultures have viewed abdication as an extreme abandonment of d ...
in December 1936. He was succeeded by his brother Albert, who became
George VI George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a poli ...

George VI
. Edward was given the title of
Duke of Windsor Duke of Windsor was a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 8 March 1937 for the former monarch Edward VIII, following his Edward VIII abdication crisis, abdication on 11 December 1936. The dukedom takes its name from Winds ...
, and styled
Royal Highness Royal Highness is a style (manner of address), style used to address or refer to some members of royal family, royal families, usually princes or princesses. Monarchs and their wiktionary:consort, consorts are usually styled ''Majesty''. When ...

Royal Highness
, following his abdication, and he married Simpson the following year. They remained married until his death 35 years later.


Prelude

Edward had been introduced to Wallis Simpson, an American citizen and wife of British shipping executive
Ernest Aldrich Simpson Ernest Aldrich Simpson (6 May 1897 – 30 November 1958) was an United States, American-born British people, British Freight transport, shipbroker, best known as the second husband of Wallis Simpson, later wife of the former King Edward VIII. ...
, by
Lady Furness Thelma Furness, Viscountess Furness (née Morgan, 23 August 1904 – 29 January 1970), was a mistress of King Edward VIII while he was Prince of Wales. She was supplanted in his affections by Wallis Simpson, for whose sake Edward abdicated and b ...
on 10 January 1931, when Edward was Prince of Wales. Ernest Simpson was Wallis's second husband; her first marriage, to U.S. Navy pilot Win Spencer, had ended in divorce in 1927. It is generally accepted that Wallis Simpson and Edward became lovers in 1934, while Lady Furness (who was also in a relationship with the prince) was visiting relatives in the United States. However, Edward adamantly insisted to his father, King
George V George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936. Born during the reign of his grandmother Q ...

George V
, that he was not physically intimate with Simpson and that it was inappropriate to describe her as his mistress. Edward's relationship with Simpson further weakened his poor relationship with his parents. Although King George and
Queen Mary
Queen Mary
met Simpson at
Buckingham Palace Buckingham Palace () is a London royal official residence, residence and the administrative headquarters of the monarch of the United Kingdom. Located in the City of Westminster, the palace is often at the centre of state occasions and roya ...

Buckingham Palace
in 1935, they later refused to receive her. Edward and Simpson were secretly followed by members of the Metropolitan Police
Special Branch Special Branch is a label customarily used to identify units responsible for matters of national security and Intelligence (information gathering), intelligence in Policing in the United Kingdom, British, Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth, ...
, who produced reports on the nature of their relationship and their investigations into Wallis Simpson's private life that included the "pursuit of vicious gossip" and the identification of a "secret lover". The prospect of having an American divorcee with a questionable past having such sway over the
heir apparent An heir apparent, often shortened to heir, is a person who is first in an order of succession and cannot be displaced from inheriting by the birth of another person; a person who is first in the order of succession but can be displaced by the b ...

heir apparent
led to anxiety among government and establishment figures. Edward VIII succeeded his father on 20 January 1936, after which Simpson attended more official functions as the King's guest. Despite her name appearing regularly in the
Court Circular The Court Circular (CC) is the official record that lists the engagements carried out by the monarch of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms; the British Royal Family, Royal Family; and appointments to their staff and to the court. ...
, the name of her husband was conspicuously absent. In the summer of that year, the King eschewed the traditional prolonged stay at
Balmoral
Balmoral
in favour of a holiday with Simpson in the eastern Mediterranean that was widely covered in the American and continental European press, but not by the British press, which maintained a self-imposed silence. Nevertheless, Canadians and expatriate Britons, who had access to the foreign reports, were largely scandalised by the coverage. By October, it was rumoured in high society and abroad that Edward intended to marry Simpson as soon as she was free to do so. At the end of that month, the crisis came to a head when she filed for divorce and the American press announced that marriage between her and the King was imminent. The King's private secretary, Alec Hardinge, wrote to him on 13 November, warning: "The silence in the British Press on the subject of Your Majesty's friendship with Mrs Simpson is not going to be maintained ... Judging by the letters from British subjects living in foreign countries where the Press has been outspoken, the effect will be calamitous." Senior British ministers knew that Hardinge had written to the King and may have helped him draft the letter. The King invited
Prime Minister A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the Cabinet (government), cabinet and the leader of the Minister (government), ministers in the Executive (government), executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary syst ...
Stanley Baldwin Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, (3 August 186714 December 1947) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who dominated the government of the Interwar Britain, United Kingdom between the world wars, serv ...
to Buckingham Palace the following Monday (16 November) and informed him that he intended to marry Simpson. Baldwin replied that such a marriage would not be acceptable to the people, stating: "... the Queen becomes the Queen of the country. Therefore in the choice of a Queen the voice of the people must be heard". Baldwin's view was shared by the Australian High Commissioner in London,
Stanley Bruce Stanley Melbourne Bruce, 1st Viscount Bruce of Melbourne, (15 April 1883 – 25 August 1967) was an Australians, Australian Politician, politician who served as the eighth prime minister of Australia from 1923 to 1929, as leader of the N ...

Stanley Bruce
, who was also a former
prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government of the Commonwealth of Australia. The prime minister heads the executive branch of the Australian Government, federal government of Australia and is also accountable to Parliament of A ...
. On the same day that Hardinge wrote to the King, Bruce met Hardinge and then wrote to Baldwin, expressing horror at the idea of a marriage between the King and Simpson. Nevertheless, the British press remained quiet on the subject until Alfred Blunt, Bishop of Bradford, gave a speech to his diocesan conference on 1 December, which alluded to the King's need of
divine grace Divine grace is a theology, theological term present in many religions. It has been defined as the divinity, divine influence which operates in humans to regenerate and sanctify, to inspire virtuous impulses, and to impart strength to endure trial ...
: "We hope that he is aware of his need. Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness." The press took this for the first public comment by a notable person on the crisis and it became front-page news on 3 December. When asked about it later, however, the bishop claimed he had not heard of Simpson at the time he wrote the speech. Acting on the advice of Edward's staff, Simpson left Britain for the south of France two days later in an attempt to escape intense press attention. Both she and the King were devastated by the separation. At a tearful departure, the King told her, "I shall never give you up."


Opposition

Opposition to the King and his marriage came from several directions. Edward's desire to modernise the monarchy and make it more accessible, though appreciated by many of the public, was distrusted by the British Establishment. Edward upset the aristocracy by treating their traditions and ceremonies with disdain, and many were offended by his abandonment of accepted social norms and mores.


Social and moral

Government ministers and the royal family found Wallis Simpson's background and behaviour unacceptable for a potential queen. Rumours and innuendo about her circulated in society. The King's mother, Queen Mary, was even told that Simpson might have held some sort of sexual control over Edward, as she had released him from an undefined sexual dysfunction through practices learnt in a Chinese brothel. This view was partially shared by Alan Don, Chaplain to the
Archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
, who wrote that he suspected the King "is sexually abnormal which may account for the hold Mrs S. has over him". Even Edward VIII's official biographer, Philip Ziegler, noted that: "There must have been some sort of
sadomasochistic Sadomasochism ( ) is the giving and receiving of pleasure from acts involving the receipt or infliction of pain or humiliation Humiliation is the abasement of pride, which creates mortification or leads to a state of being Humility, humb ...
relationship ... dwardrelished the contempt and bullying she bestowed on him." Police detectives following Simpson reported back that, while involved with Edward, she was also involved with a married car mechanic and salesman named Guy Trundle. This may well have been passed on to senior figures in the establishment, including members of the royal family.
Joseph Kennedy Joseph Patrick Kennedy (September 6, 1888 – November 18, 1969) was an American businessman, investor, and politician. He is known for his own political prominence as well as that of his children and was the patriarch of the Irish-American Ken ...

Joseph Kennedy
, the American ambassador, described her as a "tart", and his wife,
Rose A rose is either a woody perennial plant, perennial flowering plant of the genus ''Rosa'' (), in the family Rosaceae (), or the flower it bears. There are over three hundred Rose species, species and Garden roses, tens of thousands of cultivar ...
, refused to dine with her. Wallis was perceived to be pursuing Edward for his money; his
equerry An equerry (; from French language, French 'stable', and related to 'squire') is an officer of honour. Historically, it was a senior attendant with responsibilities for the horses of a person of rank. In contemporary use, it is a personal attend ...
wrote that she would eventually leave him, "having secured the cash". The future prime minister
Neville Chamberlain Arthur Neville Chamberlain (; 18 March 18699 November 1940) was a British politician of the Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. He is best known for his for ...

Neville Chamberlain
(then Chancellor of the Exchequer) wrote in his diary that she was "an entirely unscrupulous woman who is not in love with the King but is exploiting him for her own purposes. She has already ruined him in money and jewels ..." Relations between the United Kingdom and the United States were strained during the inter-war years and the majority of Britons were reluctant to accept an American as queen consort. At the time, some members of the British upper class looked down on Americans with disdain and considered them socially inferior. In contrast, the American public was clearly in favour of the marriage, as was most of the American press.


Religious and legal

In Edward's lifetime, the
Church of England The Church of England (C of E) is the State religion, established List of Christian denominations, Christian church in England and the mother church of the international Anglican Communion. It traces its history to the Christian church record ...
forbade the remarriage of divorced people in church while a former spouse was still living. The monarch was required by law to be in communion with the Church of England, and was its nominal head or
Supreme Governor The supreme governor of the Church of England is the Titular ruler, titular head of the Church of England, a position which is vested in the British monarch. Queen and Church > Queen and Church of England">The Monarchy Today > Queen and State > ...
. In 1935 the Church of England reaffirmed that, "in no circumstances can Christian men or women re-marry during the lifetime of a wife or a husband". The
archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
,
Cosmo Gordon Lang William Cosmo Gordon Lang, 1st Baron Lang of Lambeth, (31 October 1864 – 5 December 1945) was a Scottish Church of England, Anglican prelate who served as Archbishop of York (1908–1928) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1928–1942). His elev ...

Cosmo Gordon Lang
, held that the king, as the head of the Church of England, could not marry a divorcée. If Edward married Wallis Simpson, a divorcée who would soon have two living ex-husbands, in a civil ceremony, it would directly conflict with Church teaching and his role as the Church's ''ex officio'' head. Wallis's first divorce (in the United States on the grounds of "emotional incompatibility") was not recognised by the Church of England and, if challenged in the English courts, might not have been recognised under
English law English law is the common law list of national legal systems, legal system of England and Wales, comprising mainly English criminal law, criminal law and Civil law (common law), civil law, each branch having its own Courts of England and Wales, ...
. At that time, the Church and English law considered
adultery Adultery (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally a dialect spoken in the lower Tiber area (then known as Latium) around pr ...

adultery
to be the only grounds for divorce. Consequently, under this argument, her second marriage, as well as her marriage to Edward, would be considered
bigamous In cultures where monogamy Monogamy ( ) is a form of Dyad (sociology), dyadic Intimate relationship, relationship in which an individual has only one Significant other, partner during their lifetime. Alternately, only one partner at any one ...
and invalid. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1937, which was passed shortly after Edward and Wallis's marriage, would allow for numerous other divorce justifications at the legal level.


Political

When Edward visited
depressed
depressed
mining villages in
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the Wales–England border, east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, the Celtic Sea to the south west and the ...

Wales
, his comment that "something must be done" led to concerns among elected politicians that he would interfere in political matters, traditionally avoided by constitutional monarchs.
Ramsay MacDonald James Ramsay MacDonald (; 12 October 18669 November 1937) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the first who belonged to the Labour Party (UK), Labour Party, leading Minority government, minority Labour ...

Ramsay MacDonald
,
Lord President of the Council The lord president of the Council is the presiding officer of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom The Privy Council (PC), officially His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the sovereign of th ...
, wrote of the King's comments: "These escapades should be limited. They are an invasion into the field of politics and should be watched constitutionally." Although Edward's comments had made him popular in Wales, he became extremely unpopular with the public in
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a Countries of the United Kingdom, country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a Anglo-Scottish border, border with England to the southeast ...

Scotland
following his refusal to open a new wing of Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, saying he could not do so because he was in mourning for his father. The day after the opening, he was pictured in newspapers on holiday: he had turned down the public event in favour of meeting Simpson. As
Prince of Wales Prince of Wales ( cy, Tywysog Cymru, ; la, Princeps Cambriae/Walliae) is a title traditionally given to the heir apparent An heir apparent, often shortened to heir, is a person who is first in an order of succession and cannot be displaced ...

Prince of Wales
, Edward had publicly referred to Labour
county council A county council is the elected administrative body governing an area known as a county. This term has slightly different meanings in different countries. Ireland The county councils created under British rule in 1899 continue to exist in Irela ...
lors as "cranks" and made speeches counter to government policy. During his reign as king, his refusal to accept the advice of ministers continued: he opposed the imposition of sanctions on
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic, ) or the Republic of Italy, is a country in Southern Europe. It is located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, and its territory largely coincides with the Italy (geographical region) ...
after its invasion of Ethiopia, refused to receive the deposed
Emperor of Ethiopia The emperor of Ethiopia ( gez, ንጉሠ ነገሥት, nəgusä nägäst, " King of Kings"), also known as the Atse ( am, ዐፄ, "emperor"), was the hereditary ruler of the Ethiopian Empire, from at least the 13th century until the abolitio ...
, and would not support a strengthening of the
League of Nations The League of Nations (french: link=no, Société des Nations ) was the first worldwide Intergovernmental organization, intergovernmental organisation whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. It was founded on 10 January 1920 by ...
. Members of the
British government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal coat of arms of t ...
became further dismayed by the proposed marriage after being told that Wallis Simpson was an agent of
Nazi Germany Nazi Germany (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") (officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945) was ...

Nazi Germany
. The
Foreign Office Foreign may refer to: Government * Foreign policy A State (polity), state's foreign policy or external policy (as opposed to internal or domestic policy) is its objectives and activities in relation to its interactions with other states, unio ...

Foreign Office
obtained leaked dispatches from the German Reich's Ambassador to the United Kingdom,
Joachim von Ribbentrop Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop (; 30 April 1893 – 16 October 1946) was a German politician and diplomat who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs (Germany), Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nazi Germany from 1938 to 1945. Rib ...

Joachim von Ribbentrop
, which revealed his strong view that opposition to the marriage was motivated by the wish "to defeat those Germanophile forces which had been working through Mrs Simpson". It was rumoured that Simpson had access to confidential government papers sent to Edward, which he left unguarded at his Fort Belvedere residence. While Edward was abdicating, the personal protection officers guarding Simpson in exile in France sent reports to
Downing Street Downing Street is a street in City of Westminster, Westminster in London that houses the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Situated off Whitehall, it is long, and ...

Downing Street
suggesting that she might "flit to Germany".


Options considered

As a result of these rumours and arguments, the belief strengthened among the British establishment that Simpson could not become a royal consort. British Prime Minister
Stanley Baldwin Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley, (3 August 186714 December 1947) was a British Conservative Party (UK), Conservative Party politician who dominated the government of the Interwar Britain, United Kingdom between the world wars, serv ...
explicitly advised Edward that the majority of people would be opposed to his marrying Simpson, indicating that if he did, in direct contravention of his ministers' advice, the government would resign ''en masse''. The King responded, according to his own account later: "I intend to marry Mrs Simpson as soon as she is free to marry ... if the Government opposed the marriage, as the Prime Minister had given me reason to believe it would, ''then I was prepared to go''."The Duke of Windsor, p. 332. Under pressure from the King, and "startled" at the suggested abdication, Baldwin agreed to take further soundings on three options: # Edward and Simpson marry and she become queen (a royal marriage); # Edward and Simpson marry, but she not become queen, instead receiving some
courtesy title A courtesy title is a title that does not have legal significance but rather is used through custom or courtesy, particularly, in the context of nobility Nobility is a social class found in many societies that have an aristocracy (class), ...
(a
morganatic marriage Morganatic marriage, sometimes called a left-handed marriage, is a marriage between people of unequal social rank, which in the context of royal family, royalty or other List of titles, inherited title prevents the principal's position or privileg ...
); or #
Abdication Abdication is the act of formally relinquishing monarchical authority. Abdications have played various roles in the Order of succession, succession procedures of monarchies. While some cultures have viewed abdication as an extreme abandonment of d ...
for Edward and any potential heirs he might father, allowing him to make any marital decisions without further constitutional implications. The second option had European precedents, including Edward's own great-grandfather, Duke Alexander of Württemberg, but it had no parallel in British constitutional history. The prime ministers of the five
Dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, Dominion of New Zealand, New Zealand, Dominion of Newfoundland, Newfoundland, Un ...

Dominion
s (Australia, Canada, New Zealand,
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the Southern Africa, southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded to the south by of coastline that stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, South Atlantic and Indian Oceans; to the ...
, and the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a State (polity), state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independ ...
) were consulted, and the majority agreed that there was "no alternative to course (3)".
William Lyon Mackenzie King William Lyon Mackenzie King (December 17, 1874 – July 22, 1950) was a Canadian statesman and politician who served as the tenth prime minister of Canada for three non-consecutive terms from 1921 to 1926, 1926 to 1930, and 1935 to 1948. A Li ...

William Lyon Mackenzie King
(
Prime Minister of Canada The prime minister of Canada (french: premier ministre du Canada, link=no) is the head of government of Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories exte ...
),
Joseph Lyons Joseph Aloysius Lyons (15 September 1879 – 7 April 1939) was an Australian politician who served as the List of prime ministers of Australia by time in office, 10th Prime Minister of Australia, in office from 1932 until his death in 1939. He ...

Joseph Lyons
(
Prime Minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government of the Commonwealth of Australia. The prime minister heads the executive branch of the Australian Government, federal government of Australia and is also accountable to Parliament of A ...
), and J. B. M. Hertzog (
Prime Minister of South Africa The prime minister of South Africa ( af, Eerste Minister van Suid-Afrika) was the head of government The head of government is the highest or the second-highest official in the Executive (government), executive branch of a sovereign sta ...
) opposed options 1 and 2. Mackenzie King told Edward to do "what he believed in his own heart was right" and the Canadian government appealed to the King to put his duty before his feelings for Simpson.
Governor General of Canada The governor general of Canada (french: gouverneure générale du Canada) is the federal viceregal representative of the . The is head of state of Canada and the 14 other Commonwealth realms, but resides in oldest and most populous realm ...
Lord Tweedsmuir told Buckingham Palace and Baldwin that Canadians held deep affection for the King, but also that Canadian public opinion would be outraged if Edward married a divorcée. (
Prime Minister of New Zealand The prime minister of New Zealand ( mi, Te pirimia o Aotearoa) is the head of government of New Zealand. The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, leader of the New Zealand Labour Party, took office on 26 October 2017. The prime minister (informa ...
) rejected option 1 and thought that option 2 "might be possible ... if some solution along these lines were found to be practicable", but "would be guided by the decision of the Home government". In communications with the British government,
Éamon de Valera Éamon de Valera (, ; first registered as George de Valero; changed some time before 1901 to Edward de Valera; 14 October 1882 – 29 August 1975) was a prominent Irish statesman and political leader. He served several terms as head of governm ...

Éamon de Valera
(
President of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State The president of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State ( ga, Uachtarán ar Ard-Chomhairle Shaorstát Éireann) was the head of government or prime minister of the Irish Free State which existed from 1922 to 1937. He was the chairman of t ...
) remarked that as a
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: *Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus (Romulus and Remus, legendary) , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan c ...

Roman Catholic
country, the Irish Free State did not recognise divorce. He supposed that if the British people would not accept Wallis Simpson then abdication was the only possible solution. On 24 November, Baldwin consulted the three leading opposition politicians in Britain:
Leader of the Opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the Opposition (parliamentary), largest political party not in government, typical in countries utilizing the parliamentary system form of government. The leader of the ...
Clement Attlee Clement Richard Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, (3 January 18838 October 1967) was a British politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1951 and Leader of the Labour Party (UK), Leader of the Labour Party from 1935 t ...

Clement Attlee
, Liberal leader Sir Archibald Sinclair, and
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 Winston Churchill in the Second World War, dur ...

Winston Churchill
. Sinclair and Attlee agreed that options 1 and 2 were unacceptable, and Churchill pledged to support the government. Churchill did not support the government, however. In July, he had advised the King's legal counsel, Walter Monckton, against the divorce, but his advice was ignored. As soon as the affair became public knowledge, Churchill started to pressure Baldwin and the King to delay any decisions until parliament and the people had been consulted. In a private letter to Geoffrey Dawson, the editor of ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its s ...
'' newspaper, Churchill suggested that a delay would be beneficial because, given time, the King might fall out of love with Simpson. Baldwin rejected the request for delay, presumably because he preferred to resolve the crisis quickly. Supporters of the King alleged a conspiracy between Baldwin, Geoffrey Dawson, and
Cosmo Gordon Lang William Cosmo Gordon Lang, 1st Baron Lang of Lambeth, (31 October 1864 – 5 December 1945) was a Scottish Church of England, Anglican prelate who served as Archbishop of York (1908–1928) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1928–1942). His elev ...

Cosmo Gordon Lang
, the
archbishop of Canterbury The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of Episcopal polity, authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally resp ...
. The royal physician Bertrand Dawson was possibly involved in a plan to force the prime minister to retire on the grounds of heart disease, but he eventually accepted, on the evidence of an early electrocardiograph, that Baldwin's heart was sound. Political support for the King was scattered and comprised politicians alienated from the mainstream parties such as Churchill,
Oswald Mosley Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet (16 November 1896 – 3 December 1980) was a British politician during the 1920s and 1930s who rose to fame when, having become disillusioned with mainstream politics, he turned to fascism Fascism i ...
(leader of the British Union of Fascists), and the Communist Party of Great Britain. Former Prime Minister David Lloyd George also supported the King despite disliking Simpson. He was, however, unable to take any active role in the crisis because he was on holiday in Colony of Jamaica, Jamaica with his mistress Frances Lloyd George, Frances Stevenson. In early December, rumours circulated that the King's supporters would join in a "King's Party", led by Churchill. However, there was no concerted effort to form an organised movement and Churchill had no intention of leading one. Nevertheless, the rumours damaged the King and Churchill severely, as members of parliament were horrified at the idea of the King interfering in politics. The letters and diaries of working-class people and ex-servicemen generally demonstrate support for the King, while those from the middle and upper classes tend to express indignation and distaste. ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its s ...
'', ''The Morning Post'', ''Daily Herald (UK newspaper), Daily Herald'', and newspapers owned by Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley, Lord Kemsley, such as ''The Daily Telegraph'', opposed the marriage. On the other hand, the ''Daily Express'' and the ''Daily Mail'', owned by Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, Lord Beaverbrook and Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere, Lord Rothermere, respectively, appeared to support a morganatic marriage. The King estimated that the newspapers in favour had a circulation of 12.5 million, and those against had 8.5 million. On 3 December, Edward had a "tense" meeting with Baldwin. Backed by Churchill and Beaverbrook, Edward proposed to broadcast a speech via the BBC. The proposed text invoked the "ancient custom" for a King to "address his public utterances to his people". Edward proposed to remind his listeners: "I am still the same man whose motto was 'Ich Dien', I serve." In the proposed speech, Edward indicated his desire to remain on the throne or to be recalled to it if forced to abdicate, while marrying Simpson morganatically. In one section, Edward proposed to say: Baldwin blocked the speech, saying that it would shock many people and would be a grave breach of constitutional principles. By modern convention, the sovereign could only act with the advice and counsel of ministers. In seeking the people's support against the government, Edward was opting to oppose binding ministerial advice and instead act as a private individual. Edward's British ministers felt that, in proposing the speech, Edward had revealed his disdainful attitude towards constitutional conventions and threatened the political neutrality of the Crown. Cabinet Office files released in 2013 show that on or before 5 December 1936, the Home Secretary, Sir John Simon, had ordered the General Post Office (which controlled British telephone services) to intercept "telephone communications between Fort Belvedere and Buckingham Palace on the one hand and the continent of Europe on the other". On 5 December, having in effect been told that he could not keep the throne and marry Simpson, and having had his request to broadcast to the Empire to explain "his side of the story" blocked on constitutional grounds, Edward chose the third option.


Legal manoeuvres

Following Simpson's divorce hearing on 27 October 1936, her solicitor, Theodore Goddard, John Theodore Goddard, became concerned that there would be a "patriotic" citizen's intervention (a legal device to block the divorce), and that such an intervention would be successful. (subscription required). The courts could not grant a collaborative divorce (a dissolution of marriage consented to by both parties), and so the case was being handled as if it were an undefended at-fault divorce brought against Ernest Simpson, with Wallis Simpson as the innocent, injured party. The divorce action would fail if the citizen's intervention showed that the Simpsons had Collusive lawsuit, colluded by, for example, Connivance, conniving in or No-fault divorce#Methods for bypassing the showing-of-fault requirements for divorce, staging the appearance of his adultery so that she could marry someone else. On Monday 7 December 1936, the King heard that Goddard planned to fly to the south of France to see Wallis Simpson. The King summoned him and expressly forbade him to make the journey, fearing that the visit might put doubts in Simpson's mind. Goddard went straight to 10 Downing Street, Downing Street to see Baldwin, as a result of which he was provided with an aeroplane to take him directly to Cannes. Upon his arrival, Goddard warned his client that a citizen's intervention, should it arise, was likely to succeed. It was, according to Goddard, his duty to advise her to withdraw her divorce petition. Simpson refused, but they both telephoned the King to inform him that she was willing to give him up so that he could remain king. It was, however, too late; the King had already made up his mind to go, even if he could not marry Simpson. Indeed, as the belief that the abdication was inevitable gathered strength, Goddard stated that: "[his] client was ready to do anything to ease the situation but the other end of the wicket [Edward VIII] was determined". Goddard had a weak heart and had never flown before, so he asked his doctor, William Kirkwood, to accompany him on the trip. As Kirkwood was a resident at a maternity hospital, his presence led to false speculation that Simpson was pregnant, and even that she was having an abortion. The press excitedly reported that the solicitor had flown to Simpson accompanied by a gynaecologist and an anaesthetist (who was actually the lawyer's clerk).


Abdication

At Fort Belvedere, on 10 December, Edward signed his written abdication notices, witnessed by his three younger brothers: Prince Albert, Duke of York (who succeeded Edward as
George VI George VI (Albert Frederick Arthur George; 14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth The Commonwealth of Nations, simply referred to as the Commonwealth, is a poli ...

George VI
); Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and Prince George, Duke of Kent. The following day, it was given effect by Act of Parliament: His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. Under changes introduced in 1931 by the Statute of Westminster 1931, Statute of Westminster, a single The Crown, Crown for the entire empire had been replaced by multiple crowns, one for each Dominion, worn by a single monarch in an organisation then known as the Commonwealth of Nations, British Commonwealth. Though the British government, hoping for expediency and to avoid embarrassment, wished the Dominions to accept the actions of the "home" government, the Dominions held that Edward's abdication required the consent of each Commonwealth state. Under the Statute of Westminster, the act passed by the UK parliament could become law in other Dominions at their request. This was duly given by the Parliament of Australia, which was at the time in session, and by the governments of Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand, whose parliaments were in recess. The government of the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a State (polity), state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independ ...
, taking the opportunity presented by the crisis and in a major step towards Irish head of state from 1922 to 1949, its eventual transition to a republic, passed Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Act 1936, an amendment to its constitution on 11 December to remove references to the Crown and abolish the office of Governor-General of the Irish Free State; the King's abdication was recognised a day later in the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936, External Relations Act. In South Africa, His Majesty King Edward the Eighth's Abdication Act 1937 declared that the abdication took effect there on 10 December. Canada passed the Succession to the Throne Act 1937 to symbolically confirm the abdication. Edward's supporters felt that he had "been hounded from the throne by that arch humbug Baldwin", but many members of the establishment were relieved by Edward's departure. William Lyon Mackenzie King, Mackenzie King wrote in his diary on 8 December 1936 that Edward's "sense of right or wrong has been largely obliterated by the jazz of life he has led for years" and, upon receiving news of Edward's final decision to abdicate, "if that is the kind of man he is it is better he should not be longer on the Throne." Edward's own Assistant Private Secretary, Alan Lascelles, had told Baldwin as early as 1927: "I can't help thinking that the best thing that could happen to him, and to the country, would be for him to break his neck." On 11 December 1936, Edward made a BBC radio broadcast from Windsor Castle; having abdicated, he was introduced by John Reith, 1st Baron Reith, Sir John Reith as "His Royal Highness Prince Edward". The official address had been polished by Churchill and was moderate in tone, speaking about Edward's inability to do his job "as I would have wished" without the support of "the woman I love". Edward's reign had lasted 327 days, the List of monarchs in Britain by length of reign, shortest of any monarch in Britain since the disputed reign of Lady Jane Grey over 380 years earlier. The day following the broadcast he left Britain for Federal State of Austria, Austria.


Post-abdication

George VI granted his elder brother the title of
Duke of Windsor Duke of Windsor was a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was created on 8 March 1937 for the former monarch Edward VIII, following his Edward VIII abdication crisis, abdication on 11 December 1936. The dukedom takes its name from Winds ...
with the style His Royal Highness on 12 December 1936. On 3 May the following year, the Simpsons' divorce was made final. The case was handled quietly and it barely featured in some newspapers. ''
The Times ''The Times'' is a British Newspaper#Daily, daily Newspaper#National, national newspaper based in London. It began in 1785 under the title ''The Daily Universal Register'', adopting its current name on 1 January 1788. ''The Times'' and its s ...
'' printed a single sentence below a separate, and seemingly unconnected, report announcing the Duke's departure from Austria. Edward married Wallis in France on 3 June 1937. She became the Duchess of Windsor, but, much to Edward's disgust, George VI issued letters patent that denied her the style of Her Royal Highness. The couple settled in France, and the Duke received a tax-free allowance from his brother, which Edward supplemented by writing his memoirs and by illegal currency trading. He also profited from the sale of Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House to George VI. Both estates are private property and not part of the Royal Estate, and were therefore inherited and owned by Edward, regardless of the abdication. In October 1937, Duke and Duchess of Windsor's tour of Germany, 1937, the Duke and Duchess visited Germany, against the advice of the British government, and met Adolf Hitler, Hitler at his Obersalzberg retreat. The visit was much publicised by the German media. During the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes. In an article for the New York ''Daily News (New York), Daily News'' and ''Chicago Tribune'' of 13 December 1966 the Duke wrote that in 1937 Hitler persuaded him "it was in Britain's interest and in Europe's too, that Germany be encouraged to strike east and smash Communism forever ... I thought the rest of us could be fence-sitters while the Nazis and the Reds slogged it out." After the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, Edward was assigned to the British Military Mission in France.Colin Matthew, Matthew, H. C. G. (September 2004; online edition January 2008
"Edward VIII, later Prince Edward, duke of Windsor (1894–1972)"
''Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'', Oxford University Press, , retrieved 1 May 2010 (Subscription required)
In February 1940, the German ambassador in The Hague, Count Julius von Zech-Burkersroda, claimed that Edward had leaked the Allied war plans for the defence of Belgium. When Germany Battle of France, invaded the north of France in May 1940, the Duke and Duchess fled to Lisbon. Under the code name Operation Willi, Nazi agents, principally Walter Schellenberg, plotted unsuccessfully to persuade the Duke to leave Portugal, and contemplated kidnapping him. Thomas Inskip, 1st Viscount Caldecote, Lord Caldecote warned Winston Churchill, Churchill that the Duke "is well-known to be pro-Nazi and he may become a centre of intrigue". Churchill threatened the Duke with a court-martial if he did not return to British soil. In July 1940, Edward was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. Edward reportedly told an acquaintance, "After the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans ... we'll take over ... They [the British] don't want me as their king, but I'll be back as their leader." He was reported as saying that "it would be a tragic thing for the world if Hitler was overthrown". Comments like these reinforced the belief that the Duke and Duchess held Nazi sympathies and the effect of the abdication crisis of 1936 was to force off the throne a man with extreme political opinions. Claims that Edward would have been a threat or that he was removed by a political conspiracy to dethrone him remain speculative and "persist largely because since 1936 the contemporary public considerations have lost most of their force and so seem, wrongly, to provide insufficient explanation for the King's departure".


Explanatory notes


References

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Further reading


Digital reproduction of the Abdication Act 1936 on the Parliamentary Archives catalogue
* {{Featured article Abdication of Edward VIII, 1936 in British politics Constitutional crises Royal scandals