Edward VIII, King of The UK
Edward VIII, King of The UK

When did he live?

Edward David was born on June 23rd 1894. He died on May 28th 1972 in Paris.

A Young Edward VIII
A Young Edward VIII

Why is he famous?

Edward became King Edward VIII on January 20th 1936 after the death of his father George V.

326 days later, on December 11th, he abdicated, the only British king in modern history to do so.

The reason he abdicated was his wish to marry Wallis Simpson, an American socialite who had been divorced once and was looking for a second divorce. At the time both British society and the church disagreed with the idea of marrying a divorcee whose ex-spouse was still alive (both Simpson’s ex-spouses would still be alive). For the king to do this was so unthinkable the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, threatened to resign.

Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII
Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII

What was his mark on history?

Abdication is a very rare event in British royal history. Despite Edward’s famous example, it has not been repeated and the only royals to have left their positions since have been those who married into the family and then divorced back out.

Notes

Edward served during World War I and World War II.

Although it is possible to romanticise about a king giving up his power for love, other areas of Edward’s life have reduced the affection for him. During World War II he was positioned in France but, with fears he sympathised with the Nazis, he was moved to the Bahamas. He returned to France after the war, becoming a ‘cafe society celebrity’ and surviving on a royal allowance and illegal currency trades.

A ghost-written book in 1951 helped bring Edward money. He wrote (this time by himself) another less successful book later, as well as articles for newspapers.

After Edward abdicated his younger brother Albert became king. Albert took the ‘regnal’ name George VI.

Edward VIII in his Paris Years
Edward VIII in his Paris Years