Edward VIII

Prince Edward was born on 23 June 1894, he entered in the Royal Naval College in May 1909. In 1912 he went to Germany and he found that Country very beautiful, he became fluent in German and when he came back he attended Magdalen College in Oxford. In 1914 he was enlisted in the Grenadier Guards and when in August the First World War broke out he tried to go to the front line but the secretary of State for war Lord Kitchener refused his request. In one of the Prince Edward’s visits to the front he left his car only minutes before a shell landed on it and killed his driver. From 1919 and 1920 he did some successful tours of Canada, America, New Zealand and Australia. He was involved in a railway accident in Australia and the courage demonstrated on that occasion lead him to become an icon of a brave Prince.

King Edward VIII

He became King on 20 January 1936 and he tried to modernize the Monarchy with three acts: the substitution of morning dress for court frock coats, the change of clocks in Sandringham which ran half an hour fast for reasons connected with King George’s shooting passion, and he decided also to walk at a short distances in public rather than always using a car. His reign was undisciplined and wavering.

On 16 November 1936 he informed PM Baldwin that he was preparing to abdicate because he refused Baldwin’s request to ask his mistress Mrs Wallis Simpson to withdraw the divorce petition which she had instituted. On 25 November the King brought up the possibility of a morganatical wedding with Wallis, a practice whereby she would be his legal wife, but not the official consort.

Since 1934 the rumours about the relationship between the King and Wallis Simpson circulated, but when they went on a cruise down the Dalmatian coast in the summer of 1936 the relationship became more public. A self-denying ordinance of a part of the British press said that the public were kept ignorant of the relationship, although rumours and foreign newspapers tended to filter in England. On 1 December 1936 the Bishop of Bradford spoke about the Coronation and about the King he said: “Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness”. The newspapers such as The Times used this outburst as the excuse to break their silence.

“London Herald” Edward VIII abdication

On 10 December King Edward signed the abdication papers and the day after he made a radiobroadcast to the nation that it became a very popular speech.

Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson in their wedding day

The ex King left England on 12 December to stay with Baron Eugene de Rothschild in Austria at Schloss Enzesfeld. In June 1937 he married Wallis Simpson in France and his brother, King George VI, sent him a letter in which he said that although he was a Royal Highness neither his wife nor any descendent of theirs would be permitted to do so but they had a royal title “Duke and Duchess of Windsor“. When the couple went to Germany in 1937 the British Parliament was furious with them above all when the couple took tea with Hitler. To prevent other scandals, British Parliament proposed to Prince Edward and his wife the Governorship of Bahamas, one of the Empire’s least significant colonies and he accepted but he was really upset.The couple came back to France in 1945 at the end of the war.

The Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson

In the last years of his life he wrote, with the help of ghost writers, three book, as A King’s Story, The Crown and the People and Family Album. He died on 28 May 1972 from lung cancer.

Funeral of the Duke of Windsor

When eight months before his death Prince Charles went to visit him he was astonished by the way of life of Edward and he wrote in his diary: “I found footmen and pages wearing identical scarlet and black uniforms to the ones ours wear at home. It was rather pathetic seeing that. The eye then wandered to a table in the hall on which lay a red box with “The King” on it… While we were talking the Duchess kept flitting to and fro like a strange bat… The whole thing seemed so tragic – the existence, the people and the atmosphere – that I was relieved to escape it after 45 minutes and drive round Paris by night.” This description help to understand how the frame of mind of the Duke of Windsor after his abdication.

Duke and Duchess of Windsor

The Royal Family isolated him for his entire life. The Duke of Windsor was a problem for the Monarchy and they wished that the British public would forget him. He was really famous in the rest of Europe for his style and his glamourous life. Probably, he suffered a lot to be far from his Country, his family and the decision to abdicated was very hard for a man with a strict discipline that all his early life he studied as to became King.

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