On This Day 1936 – Edward VIII of Great Britain Abdicates

art carving close up crown
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He had been king for less than a year and hadn’t had a coronation.

Edward VIII officially gave up his kingship, his rule over an empire which spanned the earth, on which the sun never set. All because, we are famously told, for his love of an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, a situation which could not be tolerated by the highly conservative establishment of the time. But of course it was a bit more complicated than that.

Like quite a few Britons at the time, Edward was an admirer of certain European dictators. After the abdication he became more than a mere acquaintance of one of them, something which didn’t go down too well in certain parts of the British establishment, as Europe and the world was led inexorably towards war.

As Prince of Wales he had been quite popular with his people back home and throughout the Empire and Commonwealth. He was able to relate to them despite the most privileged upbringing one could get. He was, however, quite shy and perhaps felt somewhat unworthy of the role fate had given him, something which led to several bouts of depression.

For these reasons and perhaps others too, he probably never felt he was not cut out for being a monarch of a vast and populous empire.

Falling in love with Mrs Simpson was only one reason among several which made him feel incapable of carrying on as king, a heavy responsibility which in the end he was forced to leave behind.

copyright Francis Barker 2019

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