You might have heard of, some kings and queens, who might have abdicated their thrones for the sake of love—their heart throb. Well I have one such world famous story to tell you in this regard and that is about King Edward the VIII of the United Kingdom.
King Edward the VIII (1894-1972) became the king of the United Kingdom upon the death of his father, George V, on 20 January 1936. He was then in his early forties and a bachelor. Edward VIII was both popular and good-looking. He very quickly made his desire known, to marry an American woman, Wallis Warfield (Spencer) Simpson, whom he had known since 1931. But when King Edward VIII in this regard sought the approval of his family, the Church of England, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his government in order to marry her, he met with complete opposition. Reason being: Wallis Simpson had been married twice before. Her second divorce was still pending and her ability to provide an heir to the throne was questionable as she was already forty, and childless.
It was on 16 November 1936, King Edward VIII, invited Prime Minister Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and expressed his desire to marry Simpson when she became free to remarry. Baldwin informed him that his subjects would deem the marriage morally unacceptable, largely because remarriage after divorce was opposed by the Church of England, and the people would not tolerate Simpson as the queen. Reason being: King Edward was the titular head of the Church, and the clergy expected him to support the Church’s teachings. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, was therefore vocal in insisting that King Edward must go.
Edward proposed an alternative solution of a morganatic marriage, also called, left-handed marriage, in which he would remain king but Simpson would not become the queen consort. She would enjoy a lesser title instead, and any children that they might have, would not inherit the throne. The proposal was supported by senior politician Winston Churchill in principle, but some historians, even suggest, that Churchill even conceived the plan for Edward. Ultimately, the plan was rejected by the British Cabinet as well as other Dominion governments. Their views were sought, pursuant, to the Statute of Westminster 1931, which provided in part that “any alteration in the law touching the Succession to the Throne or the Royal Style and Titles shall hereafter require the assent, as well, of the Parliaments, of all the Dominions, as well as the Parliament of the United Kingdom.”
So, on 10 December, King Edward VIII submitted his abdication and became the only British monarch to voluntarily resign his station. The decision was endorsed by the Parliament on 11 December, and on that day Edward publicly announced his decision via radio to a breathless, worldwide audience. This is a historical speech. It was a Radio broadcast in London, England, on 11 December 1936. Below is the gist of it.
‘At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.
A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.
You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.
But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love. (So he abdicates the crown of UK as he is unable to marry his lady love). He further goes on to say,
And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.
I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.
This decision is less difficult for me because of the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the empire. And he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me—a happy home with his wife and children.
During these hard days I have been comforted by Her Majesty, my mother, and by my family. The ministers of the crown, and in particular, Mr Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration. There has never been any constitutional difference between me and them, and between me and the Parliament. Bred in the constitutional tradition, by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.
Ever since I was Prince of Wales, and later on when I occupied the throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of people, wherever, I have lived or journeyed throughout the empire. For that I’m very grateful.
I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden. It may be sometime before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and empire with profound interest, and if at any time in the future I can be found of service to His Majesty in a private station, I shall not fail.
And now, we all have a new king. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all! God save the King!’
Edward’s younger brother, George VI, took over the throne and immediately gave Edward VIII the title, ‘Duke of Windsor.’ The Duke and Mrs Simpson (who was given the title of Duchess of Windsor) were married in France on 3 June, 1937 and lived in Paris. As an apparent, personal appeasement, of Hitler’s Nazi regime (the Windsors met the German Chancellor in 1937 and found him ‘charming’) made them something of an embarrassment when World War II broke out. Edward and Wallis were sent to the Commonwealth outposts of Bermuda and the Bahamas to serve out the conflict, with the former monarch serving as a Governor. The family of King George VI, especially his wife Mary (the Queen Mother) and daughter Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) never forgave Edward for abdicating and exposing his brother George to the throne. They indirectly blamed Edward for the premature death of George VI—a quiet, shy man with a nervous stutter. He died of cancer in 1953, at the age of 57.
Edward VIII died in Paris on 28 May, 1972, forever estranged from his family and former subjects. On 28 May 1972, ten days after the Queen’s visit, the Duke died at his home in Paris, less than a month before his 78th birthday. His body was returned to Britain, lying in state at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. His wife, the former Mrs Simpson, also died there, on April 24, 1986, a virtual recluse. She was buried beside her late husband in Windsor Castle.
Almost 67 years after King Edward VIII’s abdication, the British Parliament and the Church of England avoided another potential constitutional crisis and allowed Charles, Prince of Wales and the heir to the throne, to marry fellow divorcee Camilla Parker-Bowles in April 2005. So friends that’s what happens when you abdicate your duties and responsibilities because of love that is not acceptable to the family.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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