Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Birthday of Edward VIII

Today, June 23, marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, later the Duke of Windsor.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was born June 23, 1894 at White Lodge in Surrey. He was named in honor of his late uncle, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (who was always known as "Eddy" by his family) as well as his grandfather, King Edward VII. However, to friends and family he was always known by the last of his names, David.

Edward's father became king in 1910 and he was created Prince of Wales in 1911. During World War I, he enlisted in the military and was keen to serve in ba
ttle, but the government refused to send him to the front for fear of his being captured.

After the war, he undertook a number of royal duties and extensively toured the British empire. He was frustrated with the rituals of royalty
, however, and before long he became frustrating to members of the Establishment for his cosmopolitan lifestyle and numerous liaisons with married women.

Edward became king upon his father's death in 1936. By this time, he had fallen deeply in love with the American socialite Wallis Simpson, nee Warfield, who was married to a prominent British businessman and had already been divorced once before. Over the subsequent months following his accession, Edward stirred the frustrations of his family and his cabinet by continuing his relationship with Mrs. Simpson.


In November 1936, Edward met with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and announced his intentions to marry Wallis Simpson once her divorce had become final. Aghast, Baldwin informed the king that such a marriage would be unacceptable. Mrs. Simpson was a commoner, yes, but then his younger brother Albert had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. However, Mrs. Simpson was once divorced and currently seeking a second divorce, and as head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, the king could not marry a divorcee.

This resulted in a constitutional crisis. Members of the cabinet threatened to resign if the king married Mrs. Simpson, and the heads of the British realms and territories also threatened to resign. The king was forbidden from appealing directly to the people, for if the people expressed their support for the king's decision, he would be creating a breech between the crown and Parliament- something he was bound by the structures of a constitutional monarchy from doing.

Finally, Edward accepted the inevitable - if he were to remain on the throne, he would have to give up his romance with Mrs. Simpson. Edward decided instead to abdicate, and on December 10, 1936, he became the first British monarch to ever do so. His younger brother Albert succeeded in his place, becoming King George VI.



After the abdication, Edward was granted the title "His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor". When he married Wallis Simpson in June 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor but was denied the official usage of the style "Royal Highness". Edward remained bitterly resentful of this for the remainder of his life, and in private asked that his household and friends address the Duchess as "Her Royal Highness".

Edward died of cancer in 1972, twenty years after the relatively young death of his brother, the unexpected and reluctant king.

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