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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Edward VIII of the United Kingdom

Edward VIII was born on June 23, 1894, White Lodge, Richmond Park, on the outskirts of London during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

He was born as the first son of the Prince and Princess of Wales, (later King George V and Queen Mary).

He was christened Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, the last four names being patron saints of the British Isles countries.

He was known to his family and close friends as David.

Edward was officially invested as Prince of Wales in a ceremony at Caernarvon Castle on July 13, 1911 and was even tutored by future Prime Minister David Lloyd George to speak a few words of Welsh.

Edward immediately entered Magdalen College, Oxford, but left after eight terms without any academic qualifications. but left without a degree. A keen horseman, he learned how to play polo with the university club.

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Edward was keen to participate and joined the Grenadier Guards but Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, forbade him for joining in the fighting, saying it was too risky. However, Edward still witnessed trench warfare at first-hand and attempted to visit the front line as often as possible.

In 1914 as World War I began he was keen to get to the front line and joined the Grenadier Guards but Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for war, forbade him, saying it was too risky

Throughout the 1920s Edward represented King George V at home and abroad on many occasions. However, he had several affairs with married women and his reckless behaviour worried Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and his hard working, strict father.

Edward was the first member of the British royal family to have a pilot’s licence, which he had gained around 1920.

Portrait by Reginald Grenville Eves, c. 1920
After months of ill health King George V died on January 20, 1936, and his eldest son ascended the throne as King Edward VIII.

When his father died, Edward flew to London from Sandringham, becoming the first monarch UK to fly in an aircraft.

Five weeks after becoming King, Edward VIII broadcast his first message to the British Empire on March 1, 1936. His next message, nine months later, was to announce he was abdicating so he could marry Wallis Simpson.


Edward was uninterested with royal duties and disliked the British establishment. He did not work hard as King and neglected important state papers preferring to spend his time with his lover, American socialite Wallis Simpson.

Edward insisted on facing left on coins to show his parting. Only a few such test coins were made.

A constitutional crisis began on November 16, 1936 when Edward VIII told Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin he intended to Wallis Simpson, despite her two divorces.

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson on their Mediterranean holiday, 1936

Desiring to marry Wallis Simpson against widespread opposition, Edward VIII abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936, the only British monarch to have voluntarily done so since the Anglo-Saxon period.

The British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin prayed, “God grant him peace and happiness but never understanding of what he has lost”. Baldwin's stand against the King’s marriage to a divorcee had been instrumental in bringing about the abdication of the King.

He is one of three British monarchs who were never crowned. (Edward V and Lady Jane Grey were the other two).

After his abdication, Edward was given the title Duke of Windsor. He married Simpson in a private ceremony near Tours, France on June 3, 1937. His brother and mother did not attend the ceremony.


Adolf Hitler considered Edward to be friendly towards Nazi Germany. The Duke and Duchess visited Nazi Germany, against the advice of the British government, and met Hitler at his private retreat. During the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes, causing anger in Britain.

At the outbreak of the Second World War the Nazis plotted to persuade the Duke to support the Nazi effort and planned to kidnap him.

The Duke was appointed Governor of the Bahamas during the Second World War.

The Duke in 1945

In June 1953, instead of attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in London, the Duke and Duchess watched the ceremony on television in Paris. The Duke said that it was contrary to precedent for a Sovereign or former Sovereign to attend any coronation of another.

In late 1971, the Duke, who had been a smoker from an early age, was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent cobalt therapy.

On May 28, 1972, the Duke died at his home in Paris, less than a month before his 78th birthday.

Frail, and suffering increasingly from dementia, the Duchess died 14 years later, and was buried alongside her husband as "Wallis, Duchess of Windsor."

Source Daily Express

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