10 Dec 1936: King Edward VIII’s abdication
1936: “The Year of the Three Kings” (postcard)
King Edward VIII (who had succeeded his father on 20 January 1936) did something that monarchs do not have the luxury of doing – he fell in love with Mrs. Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who was divorced from her first husband and was pursuing a divorce of her second.
The marriage was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth. Religious, legal, political and moral objections were raised. As British monarch Edward was the nominal head of the Church of England which did not allow divorced people to remarry in church if their a former spouses were still living.
Despite the opposition, Edward declared that he loved Simpson and intended to marry her whether his governments approved or not.
But the unwillingness to accept Simpson as the King’s consort, and Edward’s refusal to give her up, led to his abdication. At 10 a.m. on December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII, surrounded by his three brothers, signed the six copies of the Instrument of Abdication.
His brother Albert, the next in line for the throne, became King George VI ( Queen Elizabeth II’s father )., while Edward became the Duke of Windsor – when he married, Wallis became the Duchess of Windsor.
On the following day, December 11, 1936, Edward made a BBC broadcast proclaiming, “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.”
The day following the broadcast he left Britain. The couple started referring to themselves as “W.E.”—their initials, but also a dig at the royal “we,” or the majestic plural.