DECEMBER 11 = Edward VIII Abdicates

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“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.” 

Edward and Mrs. Simpson

These were the words of Great Britain’s King Edward VIII to his people as he informed them of his decision to abdicate his throne on today’s date, December 11 in 1936. Edward had become the King of England less than a year earlier following the death of his father, King George V.  His decision to abdicate voluntarily came when the Church of England, and most British politicians (with the exception of Winston Churchill), condemned his decision to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, an American woman who was twice divorced and thus was seen as unsuitable to become Queen.

Edward’s affair with Mrs. Simpson was widely reported in American and European newspapers, but was kept out of British newspapers due to a “gentleman’s agreement” between the government and the press. When Mrs. Simpson divorced her husband, American businessman Ernest Simpson in October, the King proposed to wed her in a “morganatic” marriage in which she would be granted no rights or property. But when the government of Prime Minister of Stanley Baldwin (above) rejected the idea as impractical, the situation came to a head, and the scandal broke for the first time in English papers, leading to the King’s departure. He went on to describe his personal feelings in his address:

King Edward VIII Abdicates

“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.\

Recent scholarship has suggested that Baldwin’s government may have deliberately forced the crisis as away of removing Edward, who was a sympathizer with the fascist regimes of Italy’s Mussolini, and Germany’s Hitler. Strained relations between England and those countries meant that war might break out, and in that case, having a King who was a fascist sympathizer would have been a security risk to say the least.  Much of this situation was portrayed in the winner of  the Academy Award winning film for 

“Best Picture of the Year 2010” – “The King’s Speech”, which dealt primarily with the speech defect suffered by the Duke of York, Edward’s younger brother. So far as I can tell, that film’s depiction of Edward VIII (above as played by Guy Pearce) as a fairly shallow and self-absorbed man who was far more devoted to his little romance with Mrs. Simpson than to his annoying duties as King, is largely correct. Whatever the case, Edward left and his younger brother took his place as George VI. The new King gave Edward the title of Duke of Windsor. Edward and Mrs. Simpson were married on June 3, 1937.

 

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Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_VIII_abdication_crisis

http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/edward.htm 

Released by UK Film Council, See-Saw Films & Bedlam Productions, directed by Tom Hooper, screenplay by David Seidler, 2010.

Images:

Edward VIII, & Mrs. Simpson = http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3135443.ece

Guy Pearce as Edward VIII = http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/uk/article3135443.ece

Stanley Baldwin = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Baldwin

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