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Edward VIII abdicated the English throne after discussion with his Prime Minister.
Edward informed Baldwin that he would abdicate if he could not marry Simpson. Baldwin then presented Edward with three choices: give up the idea of marriage; marry against his ministers' wishes; or abdicate. It was clear that Edward was not prepared to give up Simpson, and he knew that if he married against the advice of his ministers, he would cause the government to resign, prompting a constitutional crisis. He chose to abdicate.
Quoted from Wikipedia in order to establish context; the wikipedia text includes references & citations not reproduced here.
- Were the procedures used to force Edward VIII to renounce the throne legitimate? Were there established precedents and procedures?
- Were there procedures which would have allowed Edward to retain the throne?
- To what extent were there covert, unstated objections to Edward? (e.g. "sympathy for Germany" is frequently cited). Is this a conspiracy theory, or is there any real evidence to support this contention?
The UK has a constitution, but it was not constructed systematically in the way of most modern written constitutions, and it can be extended when necessary. The abdication of Edward VIII caused some significant precedents to be set. There were no established procedures, because nothing like this had ever happened before.
His ministers and other influential people convinced him that he could not marry Wallis Simpson and retain public support. Modern standards of behaviour are rather different, so it may seem strange.
- The monarch is Head of the Church of England, which is still unwilling today to marry divorced people whose spouses are still alive. Therefore, he could not marry Simpson under the aegis of the church of which he was the figurehead.
- Many of the people who had met Simpson were very unimpressed by her. Being American was not a social advantage in upper-class England of the time, and many people thought she was after money and power, rather than loving the king. They seem to have been wrong about that, but it was the feeling at the time.
- The monarch needs public support. The British are well aware that the monarchy is an anachronism, and somewhat silly. If the monarchy is not popular, its contradictions in the modern day become much more obvious.
His renunciation of the throne was legal, in the sense that there was no law against it. It did not take legal effect until Parliament had passed His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. He actually continued to be monarch until that act came into effect, which happened when he gave Royal Assent to it, and thereby ceased to be monarch. All of this happened the day after he had renounced the throne: Parliament can act quickly when everyone agrees that's a good idea. Each realm of which he was King had to pass its own act to give effect to the abdication, which is why he was King of Ireland for a day longer than anywhere else. If any future UK monarch abdicates, the procedure will presumably be similar.
To retain the throne, he would have had to abandon his plans to marry Mrs Simpson, and he was unwilling to do that. He could have remained unmarried and kept her as a mistress, but she would not have had a social position along with him. He also had an implied duty to father an heir, and she was a bit old for that in 1936.
There was a covert objection to Edward VIII, among those who knew him. He had the maturity of a teenager, entirely self-centred and caring only for his own pleasures and desires. My source for this is the diaries of "Tommy" Lascelles who was Private Secretary to Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II. George V had regarded Edward as poorly suited to being king and hoped that it would end up with "Bertie" (George VI) and his daughter Elizabeth, as actually happened.
The story that he was in favour of Nazi Germany has a distinct problem. If he was, why was he picked out of his exile in France and attached to the British Military Mission to France? It's very plausible that he was impressed by the glamour and displayed power of Nazism, but that's different from being a traitor.
Looking at the original version of the question, there are no established ways in the UK to persuade or pressure a monarch to abdicate. In the post-Victoria era, if a monarch lost public support completely, their choices would be to tough it out, which may well end the monarchy entirely, or to abdicate. Since Edward VIII was mainly interested in his own pleasures and desires, abdication was presumably the easier course for him.
Edward was presented by his minsters with three unpalatable choices, and he choose abdication from the list.
As there was no threat of physical violence, of insurrection, of violation of the King's peace, or of commitment of any other felony, it was constitutional. In England constitutional essentially amounts to whatever competent individuals agree to do without any felonious activity, or threat thereof.
It has to be said that even as heir to the throne, the Prince of Wales admitted doubts as early as 1919 about his fitness for the role he was born to. He wrote to his mistress Freda Dudley Ward, ‘I have so often told you sweetheart that I’m not ½ big enough man to take on what I consider is about the biggest job in the world.’ His father, George V, shared this lack of confidence, telling one court functionary that should Edward become King – as was inevitable – he would ‘wreck the monarchy and the Empire’. And to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin George said, ‘After I’m dead the boy will ruin himself in twelve months.’
Once Edward succeeded to the throne on his father’s death in January 1936, concerns about his attitude and behaviour were soon confirmed. One essential quality demanded of a constitutional monarch was, and remains, discretion. For a quarter of a century George V had played his part impeccably through an era of war, revolution and political instability. Edward – as George feared – gave every impression this was beyond his ability. On a summer cruise round the Greek islands the new king flaunted his relationship with the still married Mrs Simpson, forcing her to plead with him to be more discreet. She recalled that he laughed her aside. ‘Discretion,’ he said, almost proudly, ‘is a quality which, though useful, I have never particularly admired.’
There was a far more serious aspect to the new King’s lack of prudence. Though Britain was slowly recovering from the Depression of the early 1930s, the economy and society remained fragile. In Europe, the rise of the dictators – Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy – posed a growing threat to peace and to Britain’s imperial position. Despite this, Edward made little effort to hide his sympathy with right-wing authoritarianism. ‘I see we are to have a Fascist King, are we?’ one Labour MP told Prime Minister Baldwin.
Within a month of Edward’s accession in 1936, Britain’s three senior mandarins – Warren Fisher (head of the Home Civil Service), Maurice Hankey (Cabinet Secretary) and Robert Vansittart (Foreign Office Permanent Secretary) – met to discuss disquiet about the new monarch’s handling of confidential State papers: acts of Parliament, notes of confidential diplomatic discussions, drafts of treaties, details of naval and military organisation.
Secret files were left openly on display for any visitor to Edward’s Fort Belvedere weekend retreat to see. Among those socialising with the King were Italian and German diplomats. He was sharing highly sensitive documents with Mrs Simpson, discussing their contents with her. Interception by the intelligence services revealed the French and Swiss Embassies in London were reporting to their governments on her influence over the King. Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, Vansittart said, believed she was ‘in the pocket’ of the German Ambassador. The security implications were obvious.
Clive Wigram who, as the King’s private secretary, was as close to him as any man, reported to the Lord Chancellor his worries about Edward’s state of mind. ‘He might any day develop into a George III,’ he wrote, ‘and it was imperative to pass the Regency Bill as soon as possible, so that if necessary he could be certified.’ Alec Hardinge, Wigram’s assistant, complained of the new King’s irregular hours, which, combined with an irresponsible attitude to work, made the serious conduct of affairs all but impossible.
The public knew nothing of Establishment doubts about the King, the press and the BBC maintaining an effective blackout on his relationship with Mrs Simpson. The affair might be openly reported in Europe and the United States, but in Britain silence prevailed up to the eve of the abdication. As official desperation grew, Edward remained popular, a breath of fresh air, a charming and attractive maverick, with a frequently displayed and apparently genuinely felt compassion for the unemployed and for veterans of the First World War.
But Edward had to go and the Establishment eagerly seized the golden opportunity when he told Prime Minister Baldwin he was set upon marrying Mrs Simpson the moment her divorce was finalised. A form of morganatic marriage, with Edward remaining on the throne but his wife denied royal status, was raised but deemed out of the question.
One thing remains: had a section of the Establishment been prepared to go even further in its determination to remove Edward? Some elements may have been willing to turn a blind eye to what MI5 and the Metropolitan Police Special Branch had been reliably informed was a conspiracy to assassinate the King in broad daylight on 16 July 1936. Was incompetence or collusion involved? The question is open.
In the event, the attempt on the King’s life – farcical and confused – did not come off. Instead Edward was removed from the throne in December 1936 – reluctantly, he declared in his memoirs, but possibly with some sense of relief. Exiled to France, the former King was rebranded ‘Duke of Windsor’. There is a final historical irony in the fact that as the present Duke of York retreats from official life tainted by sexual scandal, it was an earlier Duke of York – Edward’s brother Albert – who restored confidence in the institution of monarchy when he succeeded, taking the title George VI in an act of symbolic continuity.
Why did Edward VIII abdicate?
American divorcee Wallis Simpson will forever be known as the woman who rocked the Royal Family and plunged the monarchy into crisis when Prince Edward married her in 1937.
Their relationship allegedly started in 1934, but Edward – then a prince – denied this to his dad King George V.
On January 20, 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne.
Fears were beginning to grow that the new king planned to marry Wallis - something the Church of England condemned on the grounds that she was a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands.
Brits were also reluctant to accept an American as a queen – prompting Wallis to flee to France to avoid the heavy press coverage.
Edward was told he could not keep the throne and marry Wallis and sent shockwaves across the world when in December 1936 he decided to abdicate the throne.
As a result, his stammering younger brother “Bertie”, the current Queen’s father, became George VI.
In his announcement, Edward made a BBC broadcast saying he could not do the job of the king “without the help and support of the woman I love”.
He was smitten with Simpson&aposs independence and wit
The prince met Simpson at the house of friends in early 1931. A few years removed from her divorce from U.S. Navy pilot Earl Winfield Spencer, she had resettled in London with her second husband, maritime broker Ernest Simpson.
By his own account, the first meeting between the future lovebirds was wholly unremarkable: Hampered by a cold, Edward wrote in his memoir, "she was not feeling or looking her best," and their "stilted" conversation turned to the dreaded topic of the weather.
However, their social circles brought them together again, and by the time Simpson was presented to the court later that year, the prince found himself "struck by the grace of her carriage and the dignity of her movements," adding, "I looked upon her as the most independent woman I had ever met, and presently the hope formed that one day I might be able to share my life with her."
Indeed, while Simpson wasn&apost considered a standard beauty, she had a quick wit and an undeniable magnetism, and Edward became obsessed with this worldly woman who was unafraid to challenge his whims. On her end, here was the dashing Prince of Wales, the most eligible bachelor in the world, making her the center of his royal attention and Simpson was swept up in the romantic intrigue.
By 1934, after the prince&aposs regular mistress departed on an extended trip, Edward began foregoing the usual airs of secrecy regarding their relationship. They vacationed together that summer, without her husband, and the following year Wallis began accompanying the prince to royal events.
George V and Queen Mary were not happy with the presence of "that woman," as Simpson was derisively known, but virtually everyone connected to the prince seemed to believe that his infatuation with the American would eventually pass, not grasping that he was determined to make her his wife.
The Duchess and Duke of Windsor pick flowers on the grounds of their home, la Moulin de la Tuilerie, in the commune of Gif-sur-Yvette, outside of Paris, France, 1955.
Photo: Frank Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
How Wallis Simpson Reacted When King Edward VIII Revealed His Plans to Abdicate
Biographer Anna Pasternak's new book about the Duchess of Windsor takes a closer look at the woman involved in one of the most scandalous love stories in history.
In 1936, King Edward VIII, was informed via letter that Parliament would not back his marriage to Wallis Simpson. Upon receiving that letter, he decided to abdicate the throne.The following excerpt from Anna Pasternak's new book,The Real Wallis Simpson, details how Simpson reacted when she heard the news of his plan.
After she had read the explosive missive, Wallis felt numb. She said: &ldquoThis was the end I had always known in the back of my mind was bound to come.&rdquo Realizing that the government&rsquos stance would trigger a crisis with the king, Wallis concluded: &lsquoClearly, there was only one thing for me to do: it was to leave the country immediately as [Sir Alexander] Hardinge had implored.&rdquo
When Edward returned a few moments later, Wallis told him that her departure would be in everyone&rsquos best interests. &ldquoYou&rsquoll do no such thing,&rdquo he told her. &ldquoI won&rsquot have it. This letter is an impertinence.&rdquo
&ldquoThat may well be,&rdquo replied Wallis. &ldquoBut just the same, I think he&rsquos being sincere. He&rsquos trying to warn you that the government will insist that you give me up.&rdquo
&ldquoThey can&rsquot stop me. On the throne or off, I&rsquom going to marry you.&rdquo
On the throne or off, I&rsquom going to marry you.&rdquo&mdash King Edward VIII
&ldquoNow it was my turn to beg him to let me go,&rdquo Wallis later recalled. &ldquoSummoning all the powers of persuasion in my possession, I tried to convince him of the hopelessness of our position. For him to go on hoping, to go on fighting the inevitable, could only mean tragedy for him and catastrophe for me.&rdquo
Edward remained deaf to her entreaties. Taking Wallis&rsquos hand, he said: &ldquoI&rsquom going to send for Mr Baldwin to see me at the palace tomorrow. I&rsquom going to tell him that if the country won&rsquot approve of our marrying, I&rsquom ready to go.&rdquo
At this, the first mention between them of abdication, Wallis burst into tears. &ldquoDavid [as the royal was known by friends and family] was determined that I stay,&rdquo admitted Wallis. &ldquoHe insisted that he needed me, and as a woman in love I was prepared to go through rivers of woe, seas of despair, and oceans of agony for him.&rdquo
She had fallen in love with Edward and was now all too aware of the sacrifice this would entail. Yet the thought of the vicissitudes of her suffering never seemed to register with him. Surely, the greater act of love would have been for Edward to let Wallis go? Yet he did not seem to be able to see matters from any other perspective than his own.
As far as he was concerned, he could not live without her and could not see that she might not be able to live with the consequences of his single-mindedness. Being blamed in perpetuity for stealing a beloved, popular king from his throne and almost destroying the British monarchy would prove to be a lifelong annihilating burden that Wallis was forced to bear.
Typically, Wallis later reproached herself&mdashrather than Edward and his narcissistic neediness&mdashfor being deflected from her decision to leave England immediately. &ldquoI should have realized that this was the fateful moment&mdashthe last when any action of mine could have prevented the crisis.&rdquo
She still could not fully comprehend that Edward was not going to let her go anywhere. Wallis also blamed herself for not realizing the true position of the king in the British constitutional system. Because she was accustomed to witnessing the apparent deference to his every wish, the fawning adulation that surrounded him, she was unaware of how vulnerable he really was and how little power he actually had vis-à-vis his ministers and Parliament. As a result, it was still inconceivable to her that his adoring public in Britain and the Empire would &ldquoever allow anybody who had served and loved them so well to leave them.&rdquo
The king summoned Stanley Baldwin to a meeting at Buckingham Palace on Monday, November 16 at 6:30 p.m. In the meantime, he tried to get hold of Lord Beaverbrook, the Canadian-born press baron, only to discover that he was halfway across the Atlantic on the ocean liner, Bremen. A chronic sufferer from asthma, Beaverbrook was heading for the drier, healing climes of Arizona. Edward managed to persuade his powerful ally to head back to Britain when the ship set sail from New York 12 days later.
From THE REAL WALLIS SIMPSON by Anna Pasternak available March 5, 2019. Copyright © 2019 by Anna Pasternak. Reprinted by permission of Atria Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
The Abdication of Edward VIII
After long and anxious consideration I have determined to renounce the throne to which I succeeded on the death of my father and I am now communicating this, my final and irrevocable decision.
Realizing as I do the gravity of this step, I can only hope that I shall have the understanding of my peoples in the decision I have taken and the reasons which have led me to take it.
I will not enter now into my private feeling, but I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden which constantly rests upon the shoulders of a sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I now find myself.
I conceive that I am not overlooking the duty that rests on me to place in the forefront public interest when I declare that I am conscious that I can no longer discharge this heavy task with efficiency or with satisfaction to myself.
I have accordingly this morning executed an instrument of abdication in the terms following:
I, Edward VIII, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas, King and Emperor of India, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately.
In token whereof I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of December, 1936, in the presence of the witnesses whose signatures are subscribed.
My execution of this instrument has been witnessed by my three brothers, their Royal Highnesses the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent.
I deeply appreciate the spirit which has actuated the appeals which have been made to me to take a different decision and I have before reaching my final determination most fully pondered over them.
But my mind is made up. Moreover further delay cannot but be most injurious to the peoples whom I have tried to serve as Prince of Wales and as King and whose future happiness and prosperity are the constant wish of my heart.
I take my leave of them in the confident hope that the course which I have thought it right to follow is that which is best for the stability of the throne and Empire and happiness of my people.
I am deeply sensible of the consideration which they have always extended to me both before and after my accession to the throne and which I know they will extend in full measure to my successor.
I am most anxious that there should be no delay of any kind in giving effect to the instrument which I have executed and that all necessary steps should be taken immediately to secure that my lawful successor, my brother. His Royal Highness the Duke of York, should ascend to the throne., Edward R.I.
Mr. Baldwin*s Speech.
The speech of Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin to the House of Commons, December 10, 1936, following the reading of the King's message.
I HAVE to move that His Majesty’s most gracious message be now considered.
No more grave message has ever been received by Parliament and no more difficult and, I might almost say, more repugnant task has ever been imposed upon the Prime Minister.
I will ask the House, which I know will not be without sympathy for me now, to remember that in this last week I have had little time in which to compose a speech for delivery today.
And so I must tell what I have to tell, truthfully, sincerely and plainly, with no attempt to dress up or to adorn, and I shall have little or nothing to say in the way of comment or criticism, of praise or blame.
I think my best course today and one that the House would desire is to tell them so far as I can what has passed between His Majesty and myself and what has led up to the present situation.
I would like to say at the start that His Majesty as Prince of Wales has honored me for many years with a friendship which I value and I know that he would agree with me in saying to you that it was not only a friendship but between man and man a friendship of perfection.
I would like to tell the House when I begin that when I said “Good-by” on Tuesday night at Fort Belvedere we both knew and felt and said to each other that that friendship, so far from being impaired by discussions this last week, bound us more closely together than it ever had and would last for life.
Now, sir, the House will want to know when it was that I had my first interview with His Majesty.
I may say that His Majesty has been most generous in allowing me to tell the House the pertinent part of the discussion that took place between us.
As the House is aware, I had been ordered, in August and September, to take a complete rest which, owing to the kindness of my staff and consideration of all my colleagues I was able to enjoy fully, and when October came, although I had been ordered to take a rest that month, I felt I could not in fairness to my work take a further holiday and I came, as it were, on half time before the middle of October.
I was then, for the first time since the beginning of August, in a position to look into things.
There were two things that disquieted me at that moment.
There was coming into my office a vast volume of correspondence mainly at that time from British subjects and American citizens of British origin in the United States, all expressing perturbation and uneasiness on what was then appearing in the American press.
I was aware also that there was in the near future a divorce case coming on, the results of which made me realize that possibly a difficult situation might arise later.
I felt it was essential that someone should see His Majesty and warn him of the difficult situation that might arise later if occasion w'as given for continuation of this kind of gossip and criticism&mdashthat might come if this gossip and criticism spread from the other side of the Atlantic to this country.
I thought in the circumstances there was only one who could speak to him and talk the matter over with him and that man was the Prime Minister.
I felt doubly bound to speak, as it was my duty as I conceived it to the country and my duty to him, not only as a counsellor but as a friend.
I consulted&mdashI am ashamed to say it, but they have forgiven me&mdashnone of my colleagues.
I happened to be staying in the neighborhood of Fort Belvedere about the middle of October and ascertained that His Majesty was leaving his house on Sunday, the 18th of October, to entertain a small shooting party at Sandringham and that he was leaving Sunday afternoon.
I telephoned from my friend’s house Sunday morning and found he (the King) had left earlier than expected.
In these circumstances I communicated with him through his secretary and stated I desired to see him.
It was the first and only occasion on which I was the one who asked for an interview.
I said I desired to see him and that the matter was urgent.
I told him what it was and I expressed my willingness to go to Sandringham, Tuesday, the 20th, but I said I thought it would be wiser, if His Majesty thought it fit, to see him at Belvedere because I was anxious at that time that none should know of my visit and that the first talk should be in complete privacy.
His Majesty replied he would motor back Monday, October 19, to Belvedere and that he would see me Tuesday morning and on Tuesday morning I saw him.
I may say before I proceed to give any details of the conversation that an adviser of the Crown can be of no possible service to his master unless he tells him at all times the truth as he sees it.
Whether that truth be welcome or not and let me say here as I may say several times before I finish, that during those talks&mdashwhen I look back&mdashthere is nothing I have not told His Majesty of which I felt he ought to be aware, but never has His Majesty shown any signs of offense, of being hurt at anything I have said to him, and the whole of our discussions have been carried through with an increase, if possible, of that mutual respect and regard in which we stood.
I told His Majesty I had two great anxieties&mdashthe effect of the continuance of criticism of the King that at the time was proceeding in the American press, and the effect it would have in the Dominions and particularly Canada, where it was widespread, and the effect it would have in this country. That was first.
I reminded him of what I have often told him and his brothers in the years past and that’s this:
The Crown in this country through centuries has been deprived of many of its prerogatives, but today, while that is true, it stands for far more than it ever had done in its history.
The importance of its integrity is beyond all question far greater than it has ever been, being as it is not only the last link of Empire that is left but a guarantee in this country, so long as it exists in that integrity, against many evils that have affected and afflicted other countries.
There is no man or woman in this country to whatever party they may belong who would not subscribe to that, but while this feeling vastly depends on the respect that has grown up in the last three generations for the Monarchy, it might not take so long in the face of the kind of criticism to which it was being exposed to lose that power far more rapidly than it was built up, and, once lost, I doubt if anything could restore it.
Now that was the basis of my talk on that aspect and I expressed my anxiety and then my desire that such criticisms should not have cause to go on.
I said that in my view no popularity in the long run would be weighed against the effect of such criticism.
I told His Majesty that I had looked forward to his reign as a great reign in a new age. He has so many of the qualities which are necessary to it.
I told him I had come naturally, and wanted to talk it over with him as a friend. Perhaps I am saying what I should not say here&mdashI did not ask His Majesty whether I might say this-&mdashbut I will say it, because I do not think he would mind, and I think it illustrates the basis on which our talks have been held.
He said to me, not once, but many times during these many, many hours we have had together, especially toward the end, he said to me: “You and I must settle this matter together. I will not have anyone interfering.”
Well, I then pointed out the danger of the divorce proceedings that if a verdict was given in that case which left the matter in suspense for some time, that period of suspense must be dangerous, because then everyone would be talking, and when once the press begins, as it must begin some time in this country, a most difficult situation would arise for me and for him, and there might well be the danger which both he and I have seen through all this, and one of the reasons why he wanted to take this action quickly was that there should not be sides taken and factions grow up in this country where no faction ever ought to exist.
It was on that aspect of the question that we talked for an hour and I went away glad that the ice had been broken.
My conscience at that moment was clear and for some little time we had no further meetings.
I begged His Majesty to consider all that I said. I said that I pressed him for no kind of an answer but would he consider everything'that I had said. The next time I saw him was November 16.
That was at Buckingham Palace. By that date the decree nisi was pronounced in the divorce case and I felt it my duty on that occasion&mdashHis Majesty had sent for me&mdashI felt it my duty to begin the conversation and I spoke to him for a quarter of an hour on the question of marriage.
Again you must remember my cabinet hadn’t been in this at all.
I reported to about four of my senior colleagues the conversation at Belvedere.
I saw him Monday, the 16th, and I began by giving him my view on a possible marriage.
I told him I did not think that a particular marriage was one that would receive the approbation of the country.
That marriage would have involved a lady becoming queen and I did tell His Majesty once that I might be a remnant of the old Victorians, but my worst enemy could not say this of me&mdashthat I did not know what the reaction of the English people would be to any particular course of action.
I told him that so far as they went I was certain that that would be impracticable.
I cannot go further into the details but that was the substance and I pointed out to him that the position of the king’s wife was different from the position of the wife of any citizen of the country.
It was part of the price the king has to pay. His wife becomes the queen. The queen becomes the queen of the country and therefore in the choice of the queen the voice of the people must be heard.
It is the truth expressed in those lines which may come to the minds of the many of you.
“His will is not his own, for he himself is subject to his birth. He may not, as unvalued persons do, carve for himself, for on his choice depends the safety and the health of the whole state.”
And then His Majesty said to me, and I had his permission to tell you this, that he wanted to tell me something that he had long wanted to tell me.
He said: “I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson and I am prepared to go.”
I said: “Sir, that is most grievous news and it is impossible for me to make any comment on it today.”
He told the Queen that night. He told the Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester the next day and the Duke of Kent, who was then out of London, either on Wednesday or Thursday, and for the rest of that week so far as I know he was considering that point.
He sent for me again on Wednesday, the 25th of November.
Meantime, the suggestion had been made to me that a possible compromise might be arranged to avoid those two possibilities that had been seen, first in the distance and then approaching nearer and nearer.
The compromise was that the King should marry and that Parliament should pass an act enabling the lady to be the King’s wife without the position of Queen.
I saw His Majesty on Wednesday, Nov. 25. He asked me if that proposition had been put to me and I said, “Yes,” and he asked me what I thought of it.
I told him that I had given it no considered opinion but if he asked me my first reaction it was that Parliament would never pass it.
I said that if he desired I would examine it formally. He said he did so desire.
Then I said it will mean my putting it formally before the whole cabinet and communicating with all the Prime Ministers of the Dominions and asked if that was his wish.
He told me that it was and I said I would do it.
On December 2, he asked me to see him. and again I had intended asking for an audience later that week because some enquiries I had thought proper to make had not been completed.
But they had gone far enough to show me that neither in the Dominions nor here would there be any prospect of such legislation being accepted.
His Majesty asked me if I could answer his question. I gave him the reply that I was afraid it was impracticable for those reasons, and I do want the House to realize this.
His Majesty said he was not surprised at that answer. He took my answer without question and he never referred to it again.
I want you to put yourselves in His Majesty’s place and realize what his feelings are and to know how glad he would have been had this been possible.
There was no formal decision of any kind until I come to the history of yesterday, but when we finished that conversation I pointed out that possible alternatives had been nulled and it had really brought him into a position when he would be placed in a grievous situation between two conflicting causes in his own heart, either complete abandonment of the project on which his heart was set and remaining ás the King, or doing as he intimated to me he was prepared to do in the talk which I have reported, and of going and, later, contracting that marriage if possible.
In the last days from that date until now that has been the struggle in which His Majesty has been engaged.
We had many talks discussing the aspect of this limited problem, the House must realize&mdashand it is difficult to realize&mdashthat His Majesty is not a boy.
He looks so young that we all thought of him as our Prince, but he is a mature man with a wide and great experience of life and the world.
He always had before him three motives which he repeated in the course of conversation at all hours and again and again: That if he went he would go with dignity, that he would not allow a situation to arise in which he could not do that and that he wanted to go with as little disturbance to his ministers and his people as possible.
He wished to go in such circumstances that the succession of his brother would be made with as little difficulty as possible and I may say that any idea to him of what might be called a king’s party was abhorrent.
He stayed down at Belvedere because he said he was not coming to London while these things were in dispute because of the cheering crowds. I honor and respect him for the manner in which he behaved at that time.
I have something which I think will touch the House. I have here a pencilled note sent to me by His Majesty this morning and I have his authority for reading it.
It is just simply in pencil, and it says:
“The Duke of York and the King have always been on the best terms as brothers, and the King is confident that the Duke will deserve and receive the support of the whole Empire.”
Now, sir, I would say a word or two on the King’s position. The King cannot speak for himself. The King has told us that he cannot carry, and does not see his way to carry, those almost intolerable burdens of kingship without a woman at his side, and we know that this crisis, if I may use the word, has risen now rather than later from that very frankness of His Majesty’s character which is one of his many attractions.
It would have been perfectly possible for His Majesty not to tell me this at the date when he did, and not to have told me for some months to come. But he realized the damage that might be done in the interval by gossip and rumors and talk, and he made that declaration to me when he did on purpose to avoid what he felt might be dangerous, not only here but throughout the Empire, to that very moral force of the Crown which we are all determined to sustain.
He told me his intention and he has never wavered from it. I want the House to understand that. He felt it was his duty to take into anxious consideration all representations that his advisers might give him, and not until he had fully considered them did he make public his decision.
There has been no sign of conflict in this matter. My efforts during these last days have been directed, as have the efforts of those most closely around him, in trying to help him make the choice which he has not made, and we have failed, and the King has made his decision to take this moment to send his gracious message because of his confident hope that by that he will preserve the unity of this country and the whole Empire and avoid those factious differences that might so easily have arisen.
These last days have been days of great strain. It was a great comfort to me and I hope it will be to the House when I was assured, before I left him Tuesday night, by that intimate circle that was with him at the Fort that evening, that I had left nothing undone that I could have done to move him from the decision at which he had arrived.
While there is not a soul among us who will not regret this from the bottom of his heart, there is not a soul here today that wants to judge.
We are not the judges. His Majesty has announced his decision.
He has told us what he wants us to do and I think we must close our ranks.
At a later stage this evening I shall ask leave to bring in the necessary bill so it may be read for the first time, printed, and made available to the members.
The House will meet tomorrow at the usual time, 11 o’clock, when we shall take the second reading and the remaining stages of the bill. It is very important it should be passed into law tomorrow and I shall put on the order paper tomorrow a motion to take the private members’ time and suspend the four o’clock rule.
Now I have only two other things to say. The House will forgive me for saying now what I should have said a few minutes ago. I have told the House that yesterday morning when the Cabinet received the King’s final definite announcement, officially, they passed a minute and, in accordance with it, I sent a message to His Majesty which he has been good enough to allow me to read.
Mr. Baldwin, with his humble duty to the King:
1. This morning Mr. Baldwin reports to the Cabinet his interview with your Majesty yesterday, and informed his colleagues your Majesty then communicated to him informally your firm and definite intention to renounce the throne.
2. The Cabinet received the statement of His Majesty’s intention with profound regret and wished Mr. Baldwin to convey to His Majesty immediately the unanimous feeling of His Majesty’s servants.
The ministers, reluctant to believe His Majesty’s resolve is irrevocable, still venture to hope before His Majesty pronounces any formal decision. His Majesty may be pleased to reconsider the intention which must so deeply distress and so vitally affect all His Majesty’s subjects.
3. Mr. Baldwin is at once communicating with the Dominion Prime Ministers for the purpose of letting them know His Majesty now has made to him an informal intimation of His Majesty’s intention.
The King received the Prime Minister’s letter of December 9, 1936, informing him of the views of the Cabinet.
His Majesty has given the matter his further consideration, but regrets he is unable to alter the decision.
My last words on that subject are that I am convinced that where I failed no one could have succeeded. Those who know His Majesty best would know what that means.
This House today is a theatre that is being watched by the whole world and let us conduct ourselves with that dignity that His Majesty himself has shown in this hour of his trial. And, whatever be our regret at the contents of the message, let us fulfill his wishes to do what he asks and do it with speed and let no word be spoken today that the speaker or utterer of that word may regret in days to come.
Let no word be spoken that causes pain to any soul and let us not forget today the revered, beloved figure, Queen Mary. Think what all this time has meant to her and think of her when we have to speak, as speak we must during this debate.
We have, after all, as guardians of democracy in this little island, to see that we do our work to maintain the integrity of monarchy, that monarchy which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is now the sole link of the whole Empire and guardian of our freedom. Let us look forward and remember our country and the trust reposed by our country in this, the House of Commons, and let us rally behind the new King. Let us rally behind him and help him.
Whatever the country may have suffered by what we are passing through may soon be repaired and we may take a hand again in trying to make this country a better country for all the people in it.
At 10 o’clock on the night of December 11, 1936, at Windsor Castle, Edward, introduced as “ His Royal Highness Prince Edward,” spoke by radio to the peoples of the Empire.
AT LONG LAST I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withold 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.
You 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 25 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.
And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone.
This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried to the last to persuade me to take a different course.
I have made this, the most serious decision of my life only upon the single thought of what would in the end be best for all.
This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the Empire, and he has one matchless blessing enjoyed by so many of you and not bestowed to me, a happy home with his wife and children.
During these hard days I have been comforted by Her Majesty my mother and by my family. The ministers of the Crown and in particular Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration.
There have never been any constitutional differences between me and them and between me and Parliament.
Bred in the constitutional traditions by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.
Ever since I was Prince of Wales and later on when I occupied the Throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of the people wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the Empire.
For that I am very grateful. I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden.
It may be some time before I return to my native land. But I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and Empire with profound interest, and, if at any time in the future I can be found of service to His Majesty in a private station, I shall not fail.
And now we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart.
God bless you all. God save the King.
In the early hours of the morning of December 12, Edward sailed from Portsmouth on board a destroyer. That afternoon he landed at Boulogne and entrained for Vienna, proceeding to the castle of Baron Eugene de Rothschild at Enzesfeld, Austria.
One of the first acts of the new monarch, King George VI, was to bestow upon Edward the title of Duke of Windsor.
Queen Mary's Message.
On the night of December 11, 1936, Mary, the Queen Mother, issued a message to the nation and the Empire.
I HAVE been so deeply touched by the sympathy which has surrounded me at this time of anxiety that I must send a message of gratitude from the depths of my heart.
The sympathy and affection which sustained me in my great sorrow less than a year ago have not failed me now and are once again my strength and stay.
I need not speak to you of the distress which fills a mother’s heart when I think that my dear son has deemed it to be his duty to lay down his charge and that the reign which had begun with so much hope and promise has so suddenly ended.
I know that you will realize what it has cost him to come to this decision and that, remembering the years in which he tried so eagerly to serve and help his country and Empire, you will ever keep a grateful remembrance of him in your hearts.
I commend to you his brother, summoned so unexpectedly and in circumstances so painful, to take his place.
I ask you to give to him the same full measure of generous loyalty which you gave to my beloved husband and which you would willingly have continued to give to his brother.
With him I commend my dear daughter-in-law who will be his Queen. May she receive the same unfailing affection and trust which you have given to me for six and twenty years.
I know that you have already taken her children to your hearts. It is my earnest prayer that in spite of, nay through, this present trouble, the loyalty and unity of our land and empire may by God’s blessing be maintained and strengthened. May He bless and guide you.
Text of the abdication bill filed in the House of Commons, December 10, 1936.
A BILL to give effect to His Majesty’s declaration of abdication and for the purposes connected therewith. Whereas His Majesty by his royal message of the 10th day of December in this present year has been pleased to declare that he is irrevocably determined to renounce the throne for himself and his descendants, and has for that purpose executed an instrument of abdication set out in the schedule to this act, and has signified his desire that effect thereto should be given immediately :
And whereas following upon the communication to his dominions of His Majesty’s said declaration and desire, the Dominion of Canada, pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster of 1931, has requested and consented to the enactment of this act, and the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa have assented thereto :
Be it therefore enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
1. Immediately upon Royal assent being signified to this Act, the instrument of abdication executed by his present Majesty on the 10th day of December, 1936, set out in the schedule to this Act, shall have effect, and thereunder His Majesty shall cease to be King and there shall be a demise of the Crown, and accordingly the member of the Royal Family then next in succession to the throne shall succeed to all rights, privileges and dignities thereunto belonging.
2. His Majesty and his issue, if any, and descendants of that issue, shall not alter His Majesty’s abdication or have any right, title or interest in or to succession to the throne, and section one of the act of settlement shall be construed accordingly.
3. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 shall not apply to His Majesty after his abdication, and not to the issue, if any, of His Majesty or descendants of that issue.
This act may be cited as His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act of 1936.
The attached schedule read:
I, Edward VIII, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas, King, Emperor of India, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants, and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately.
In token whereof I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of December, 1936, in the presence of witnesses whose signatures are subscribed.
Edward R. I. signed at Fort Belvedere in the presence of Albert, Henry and George (the King’s three brothers).
Proclamation of George VI.
On the morning of December 12, 1936, the Duke of York was proclaimed King as George VI.
WHEREAS, by the instrument of abdication, dated the 10th day of December instant, his former Majesty Edward VIII did declare his irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for himself and his descendants, and the said instrument of abdication now has taken effect whereby the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, Ireland and all other of his former Majesty’s dominions now solely and rightfully come to the high and mighty Prince, Albert Frederick Arthur George
We, therefore, the Lords spiritual and temporal of this realm, being here assembled with these of His Majesty’s Privy Council, with numbers of other principal gentlemen of quality, with the Lord Mayor and aldermen and citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim :
That the high and mighty Prince, Albert Frederick Arthur George, is now become our only lawful and rightful liege lord, George VI, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas. King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, to whom we do acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to bless the Royal Prince, George VI, with long and happy years to reign over us.
Given at St. James’ Palace, this 12th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1936.
Did Edward VIII's abdication follow constitutional procedures? - History
Press, Politics and the Abdication of Edward VIII
The Press creates the Press destroys. All my life I had been the passive clay which it had enthusiastically worked into the hackneyed image of Prince Charming. Now it had whirled around and was bent upon demolishing the man who had been there all the time.
At the death of George V in January of 1936, the loyal subjects of the British Empire expressed reverent sorrow at the loss of an old king who had stood as a relic of Victorian continuity in a postwar England that was rapidly outgrowing those stoic virtues of a bygone era. The First World War and the Depression earlier in the century had reinforced the tendency of the majority of British subjects to put the strenuous past decade behind them and look to the future. This break with the past was made all the easier by the accession of the modem, charming and progressive figure of Edward VIII to the throne. As the Prince of Wales, Edward had gained admiration, not only within the Empire, but throughout the world. His genuine sympathy for the poor and unfortunate, his valiant service during the Great War and his popular overseas goodwill tours, not to mention his handsome, yet boyish appearance, resulted in the view of British subjects throughout the Empire that their new monarch, at the age of forty-one, would "usher-in a new age of peace and hope." <1>
This age of peace and hope," however proved to be a dream that the British people, and indeed the entire world, would have to postpone. Forces were already in motion, as they had been since the conclusion of the Great War, that in just three short years would culminate in another conflict of global proportions. However, the year 1936 proved to be significantly important. In the first seven months of Edward VIII's mere ten-month, 19-day reign Germany reoccupied and remilitarized the Rhineland, Spain became embroiled in a tumultuous civil war and Hitler and Mussolini formally aligned under the auspices of the Rome-Berlin Axis. However, in this age of ever increasing worldwide violence and political polarity, the British people held steadfast to their constitutional monarchy as the one symbol of the solidarity of their empire and as the protector of their liberty and democracy. In a time of rising nationalism, when calls for independence were being heard throughout the Empire, it remained the general consensus that the Crown was "the sole visible link of Empire." <2>
However, by the mid 1930's the main function of the monarch was, primarily, to serve as a symbolic figure that linked the Empire together and that exhibited the grandeur of this Empire to the world. By 1911 it was generally recognized that the sovereign, in practice, held only three rights. These were the rights to be consulted, to encourage, and to warn. <3> Further more, it was at this time that the monarch began to accept two realities: 1) the monarch reigns but does not rule the Empire 2) to remain above politics the sovereign must "abide by the decisions of a cabinet that possesses the confidence of a Parliamentary majority." <4> George V was the first British monarch to think of himself as a constitutional, and thus limited, monarch. By the end of George V's reign, the subordination of the monarchy to the will of Parliament was complete. However, the accession of a new, young and dynamic King to the throne, in the person of Edward VIII, had the effect of bringing an unwarranted optimism to many who sought change in the economy and society in England and throughout the Empire. Thus, It was generally felt by the majority of subjects that the new King, enjoying immense popularity and exhibiting promising qualifications, could actually strengthen the position of the Crown at home and abroad. <5>
These were the conditions under which Edward VIII assumed the imperial crown in late January of 1936. Yet those who knew him well did not share in the optimism surrounding the new reign. The new King was impulsive, lonely, somewhat depressed and not entirely comfortable in his role as king. Upon his deathbed, King George V expressed his personal fears for his son's reign to the Archbishop of Canterbury when he said, When I am gone, the boy will ruin himself in six months." <6> Actually, it would be more like ten.
The road to future trouble began in 1934 when the King met and subsequently fell in love with Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, the American divorcee who was, at the time, married to the London merchant, Earnest Simpson. Although those who were close to him, as well as the foreign press, knew of their relationship, no one ever imagined that the King honestly intended to marry Mrs. Simpson. <7> Yet, as his Ministers would find out a mere month before his abdication, this had been the Kings intention all along,
Contrary to popular speculations, the King did not seek out this disapproved union in order to force a situation in which abdication would be the inevitable result. The truth was that the King "was preparel to rule, but only on his own terms. <8> As he states in his memoirs, "I wanted to be a successful King, though King in a modem way." <9> Unfortunately, this "modern way included a marriage to a woman who would not be tolerated on the throne by either England or her Dominions.
Much has been written about the reign and abdication of Edward VIII, which has, for the most part, gone down in history as a romantic tale of a youthful and handsome king who gave up his throne for the woman he loved. However, this is not merely a story of "love and sacrifice." <10> The events that led up to the King's abdication are those of a very political nature which involved the King, his Government, his political enemies and allies, and last but not least, the Press. Therefore, through the close examination of firsthand sources, such as the personal accounts of the abdication crisis from Edward VIII himself, Prime Minister Baldwin and Lord Beaverbrook, as well as The Times' coverage of the "crisis," a more accurate sense of the importance of these events emerges. The Times was the dominant Conservative newspaper in England. By contrasting its coverage, beginning on December 3rd and ending on December 12, with more intimate accounts of the situation, one is able more accurately to determine the importance of the role of the Press and the Government throughout this incident and the effect they had on shaping public opinion on this issue and the public perception of the Monarchy in general.
Amid articles dealing with German aggression, bombings in Madrid, and pledges of French support against the growing tide of fascism which appeared in The Times on December 3, 1936, there also appeared a small article which must have confounded British subjects at the time. Simply stated, The Times ran an extract of an article appearing in the Yorkshire Post which referred to "the great deal of rumor regarding the King" which as of late, had appeared in the "more sensational American newspapers." <11> The article goes on to say, that although rumor is commonly associated with "European Royal persons," the appearance of "certain statements" about the British Monarch in more reputable U.S. journals should not be treated with "indifference." <12> When one considers that the majority of contemporary readers had, at this point, never heard of Mrs. Simpson, nor of her relationship with the King. this article did nothing more than induce excitement and anxiety.
December 4th brought to the British people more clarity on the issue under the headline of "The King and a Crisis," which tended to take the position, ironically, that there was no impending "Constitutional crisis" between the King and his Ministers as had been intimated in other newspapers throughout the Empire on the previous day. <13> The Times relates the situation as follows: "The King has expressed his desire to contract such a marriage as would require a special act of Parliament that he has himself taken the initiative in asking whether such a measure can be passed and that Ministers, after full consideration and consultation, have replied that in their opinion it is impossible. <14>
The King had consulted his Ministers the week of November 27th and it is assumed by The Times that the following week was spent by Mr. Baldwin in ascertaining the opinion of his colleagues, leaders of the Opposition, and the Dominion Governments as to whether they would be prepared to support legislation that would allow a, by this time, twice divorced woman to marry the King. This legislation would allow the King to contract a morganatic marriage with Mrs. Simpson. The concept of morganatic marriage originated with the old German monarchies and is defined as that "between a man of exalted rank and a woman of lower station in which it is provided that neither the wife nor her children s share the dignities of the husband." <15> Yet, the result of this inquiry was that it would be most improper and "detrimental to the dignity of the Crown" if the King as head of the Church of England (an institution that did not recognize divorce), entered into a marriage of any kind with a woman whose two previous husbands were still living. <16> The situation was simple, according to The Times. The King asked for advice, had gotten a negative response and it was up to him either to take or reject the advice of his Ministers. If the King did decide to go against the advice of his Ministers, it would then be his option to seek other advisors who could command the support necessary to carry out the King's will. The latter possibility was viewed by The Times as not being an option in that it would involve the King in purposely making his personal life a point of division in Parliament, which would most definitely have the effect of doing irreparable damage to the prestige of the Crown.
The first official statement from the Government appeared in The Times on December 5, basically reiterating the impossibility of morganatic legislation. However, Prime Minister Baldwin added several key points to the Government's position. First, any act that would have the effect of changing the line of succession to the throne would require, by the Statute of Westminster, the approval of the Parliaments of all of the Dominions. Second, having "sufficient reason" to believe that the Dominions would not approve such legislation he advised the King accordingly. <17> "Finally, the Prime Minister emphasized the fact that the King "requires no consent" to legally marry and that "the sovereign's decision," which he must now make alone, "is fettered only by his sense of what is due to the dignity and authority of the crown." <18> Thus, if the King refused to follow the advice of his Ministers which was supposedly given only on the issue about which they were consulted, and abandon the projected marriage, the only possible course left was the voluntary abdication of the throne.
Therefore, in between the official statement made by the Government on December 5th and the King's decision to abdicate on December 10th, The Times was filled with articles expressing the anxiety felt by the entire Empire at the thought of being abandoned by their Monarch when "the need for national calm and national unity was never greater." <19> Many of the views expressed are of particular significance and several noteworthy themes emerge. First, there is the justified idea that while the Kings decision should not be rushed, a decision should come quickly so that the strength and prestige of the Crown should avoid further damage. While the December 7th issue of The Times denied that the King was neither being hurried to make a decision nor pressed to follow a path of abdication, it was generally felt that "to prolong the acute and exhausting dilemma now confronting the Sovereign and to keep the whole Empire in a state of profound anxiety, perhaps until the eve of the Coronation with uneasiness fermenting into downright controversy would be to court irreparable injury to the authority of the Throne itself." <20>
The fear of a prolonged decision was twofold. First, it was felt that the longer the King delayed the greater the chance would be of the formation of a "King's Party," which would factionalize Parliament in a manner reminiscent of the Cavaliers (supporters of the Crown) and Roundheads (supporters of Parliament) of England's Civil War pertod. <21> However, wishing to avoid this painful association and reflecting the subsequent idea that the Monarch should remain above politics, the King did remark that he found "any idea of a 'King's Party' abhorrent." <22> The second fear was that the Dominions that were unhappy with colonial rule may seize this opportunity of weakness to attempt to break away from. the Empire. This fear was not unjustifted. In South Africa the abdication prompted The Burger to run an article on December 12th which stated, "The South African people are not enamored of the Crown, and it would be far better and safer for South Africa to be a Republic." <23> Furthermore, in the Irish Free State, De Valera, President of the Executtve Council, used the abdication crisis to revive his "Document No. 2" which essentially called for a "republic within the Empire." <24> Thus, the momentary weakness in the Crown revealed a glimpse of future problems that would have to be dealt with in years to come.
A second theme found in The Times between December 5th and December 10th is that of the overwhelming support for the Cabinet and for Prime Minister Baldwin in particular. Statements of sympathy for the position in which Mr. Baldwin and the Cabinet had "been placed by the King" and of the overwhelming support for the Governments action of all parties in Parliament are found in almost all articles concerning the matter. <25> Furthermore, excerpts from Dominion newspapers reveal the same level of support and also guarantees the support of their Parliaments to uphold the British Parliament's decision not to introduce morganatic legislation. On December 9th, an excerpt from The Times of India states. "The whole Empire, including India, appears to stand behind the Government. That patent fact cannot be disputed." <26> Moreover, while there appeared, in almost all articles, sentiments expressing heartfelt sympathy for the King's stressful position, there emerged, simultaneously, the view that, "Of the King and the Empire, the Empire is the greater." <27> It seems that while popular desire expressed the wish to keep a King whose youth, sense of compassion, and ability to reach out to "the people" of the Empire made him immensely popular, the overriding feeling was that the stability of the Government was more important.
Although expressing support for Baldwin's Cabinet is the undeniable intention of The Times throughout this ordeal, it is also interesting to note the articles which express an opposite view point, and the way these views are either diminished or discounted. The Times would have had the British people believe that the only opposition in Parliament to Baldwin on the issue of the King's marriage consisted of the independent Conservative backbencher, Mr. Winston Churchill and his followers whose numbers, according to The Times, amounted to an "insignificant size." <28> On Monday, December 7th, The Times published a statement issued by Churchill on the preceding Saturday under the headline, "A Plea For Delay." <29> The crux of his argument rests on the fact that Mrs. Simpson's divorce would not be finalized until April of the following year. In lieu of this fact Churchill maintains that since the proposed marriage would be impossible for at least another five months, the King should be granted more time to consider all of his options in making this most grave decision. During this extra time, Churchill feels that "every method should be exhausted which gives the hope of a happier solution." <30> More importantly is Churchill's expression of the notion that, despite repeated assurances that the Cabinet is not rushing the King to make a decision, immense pressure from the Ministers is being exerted on the King to bring this "crisis" to an end. Churchill's statement culminates in a powerful expression of the utter helplessness of the King's position when he concludes, "The King has no means of personal access to his Parliament or his people. Between him and them stand in their office the Ministers of the Crown. If they thought it their duty to engage all their power and influence against him, still he must remain silent." <31>
Needless to say, both the Cabinet and The Times regarded Mr. Churchill's statement as an accusation that not only was Baldwin not being truthful when he claimed that no pressure was being placed on the King for a decision but there was actually something in the form of a conspiracy taking shape to prevent the facts of the case and the true feelings of the King from becoming public. Thus, it is no coincidence that on the following day, December 8th, two articles appeared which had the consequences of negating Churchill's argument while simultaneously showing the "hardening of support behind the Prime Minister and the Cabinet." <32> The first article sets the tone by commenting that Churchill's statement resulted in "the most striking rebuff of modern Parliamentary history," and was opposed by "Conservative Liberal, and Labour members alike." <33>
The second article, "Making Mischief," goes about rebuilding Churchill's insinuations of the Government's mishandling of the situation in a manner which seems, at first glance, not to be directed towards any one person. This article systematically denies three points of contention insinuated by Mr. Churchill. First, it is denied that the Ministers presented the King with some form of ultimatum. Next, It is denied that the Ministers have used their influence in the Dominions and upon Opposition leaders to put united pressure on the King. Finally, it is denied that the Ministers were putting pressure on the King to either renounce the marriage or abdicate. <35> However, upon the study of first hand accounts published after the abdication, one finds that all of these accusations contain some element of truth.
By December 5th it was known by those in higher circles that the King had already made the decision to abdicate. However, this announcement came to the public on December 10, 1936 along with the first statement issued by the King on the matter. A copy of the Instrument of Abdication was released along with an assurance that "after long and anxious consideration" he had come to his decision which is both "final and irrevocable." <36> His only words in defense of his decision were "I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden upon the shoulders of a sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I now find Myself." <37>
Thus the "crisis" was resolved. With the passage of the Instrument of Abdication through all of the Parliaments of the Dominions the reign of King Edward VIII came to a close and no time was wasted in making arrangements for the proclamation of the new King, Edward VIII's brother and Duke of York, who took the title George VI. Yet certain questions arise: Was the so called "crisis really as simple as The Times would have the public believe? Was there merely a threefold decision to be made by the King between either taking the advice of his ministers, plunging Parliament into conflict over his private issues, or voluntarily abdicating? Or were there greater political forces at work that had a profound effect on public opinion, although the public was not aware of it?
A comparison of the personal accounts of this incidence, which must be regarded as one of the most publicized events of the 20th century, reveals that not one, but many factors were at work which culminated in the King's final decision to abdicate. To understand how the Press became involved, it must first be understood how the Government became involved. When Edward VIII inherited the throne, he also inherited the conservattve, "old-fashioned" court of George V, which was comprised of men who "mistrusted and disapproved" of the new King. <38> This distrust was not only based on Edward's relationship with Mrs. Simpson. which had been going on since 1934, but It was also based on the fact that Edward was a youthful and energetic man who came to the throne "filled with reforming intentions." <39> However, as the new King, Edward VIII had the option of setting up a new Court. Many who had expected a "clean sweep" were surprised to learn that the King, for the most part, kept things as they were. <40> Perhaps the greatest surprise was Edward's choice of Alexander Hardinge, who had been the Assistant Private Secretary under George V, for Private Secretary. Hardinge been a sharp critic of Edward as the Prince of Wales, and Edward's decision to retain such a character in his Court gave rise to the notion that Edward's lack of caution to protect his throne, politically, reflected his lack of desire to be King. <41>
In the King's memoirs, published in 1951, he writes of Hardinge and the role he played in bringing the romance into the public spectrum. While those in high social and official circles had known of Mrs. Simpson since 1934, her impending divorce and the appearances of her name in the Court Circular gave credence to the talk of her relationship with the Prince. In 1935 the foreign press, and the United States press in particular, were ablaze with rumors surrounding the romantic nature of their involvement. By the time the Prince became King, the situation had grown problematic. Prime Minister Baldwin suddenly found himself receiving a steady stream of mail from British citizens in America and in the Dominion of Canada who were growing increasingly concerned with the manner in which the American press was discussing their King. <42> On October 20, 1936, Baldwin decided to confront the King on the issue by asking Hardinge to arrange a meeting. During this first meeting, according to Edward VIII, it was the Prime Minister who brought up the issue by stating, "People are talking about you and this American woman, Mrs. Simpson. <43> Baldwin went on to warn the King of the mounting criticism regarding his relationship with the divorcee and that the British Press, now aware of the situation, could not be held for much longer. Baldwin urged the King to merely consider what had been said and pressed him for no immediate answer.
However, it was a letter from Hardinge received by the King on November 13th which provided the turning point needed to make the situation public knowledge throughout the Empire. This letter informed the King of two "facts," the accuracy of which Hardinge claims to have "known." <44> First, he informed the King that "The silence of the British Press is not going to be maintained." <45> Second, he stated that the Prime Minister and senior members of the Government were preparing to meet to discuss what action should be taken with regards to this "serious situation." <46> Although this did not come as news to the King, he later stated in his memoirs that he did not know whether to interpret the letter as a "warning or an ultimatum." <47> Furthermore this letter gave Edward VIII reason to believe that Hardinge had contacts with the Prime Minister about the matter, of which he had not informed the King.
It was this letter that finally forced the King to confront the Government on the subject of his marriage. On November 16th this confrontation occurred between the King and Baldwin in which the King confessed his desire to marry Mrs. Simpson "as soon as she is free to marry." <48> Despite Baldwin's assurances to Parliament that no pressure was being placed on the King for a decision, the King states in his memoirs that he was given very little choice in the matter. "Almost pedantically, he [Baldwin] summed up for me the three choices that had faced me from the outset: 1. I could give up the idea of marriage. 2. I could marry contrary to the advice of my Ministers. 3. I could abdicate. Faced with this information the King then informed Baldwin "If I could marry her as King, well and good." but if not, then I was prepared to go" <49> However, in Baldwin's account given before Parliament of the same conversation he only states that the King said "I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson, and I am prepared to go." <50> The difference here is important, for Baldwin's account implies to Parliament and those who read this account in The Times that the King had already made up his mind on his own and thus revoked the idea that the Government had put pressure on the King or influenced his decision in any way.
The truth, however, is that, unbeknownst to Baldwin, the King probably had already made up his mind to abdicate. This view is supported by two facts. First, when the idea of morganatic marriage was suggested to the King by Mrs. Simpson as a possible solution, the King, secretly finding the idea distasteful, grudgingly went along with it. A morganatic marriage, as previously stated, would have to be granted by an Act of Parliament and this Act would have to be approved by all the Dominions. Thus, at his next meeting with Baldwin the King proposed this "solution" and instructed Baldwin to communicate with the Dominions so as to feel out their responses, although it was the King's right, to communicate with the Dominions himself. <51> By allowing Baldwin to assume his right of consultation, the King allowed Baldwin to influence the response of the Dorninions, which he did by insinuating that the London Parliament was unwilling to introduce morganatic legislation. Second, the King refused to allow his allies in the Press to inake any public appeals in his favor. <52>
It was the proposal of contracting a morganatic marriage which made the King's relationship a Parliamentary matter and thus a matter of public concern. The Press in England had known of the King's relationship with Mrs. Simpson for some time. However, according to the King's wishes the Press had remained silent on the issue. Once the King's marriage became an issue in Parliament there was no way to keep it quiet any longer. By not allowing his allies in the Press to make public appeals for his position Edward VIII committed political suicide. This was because, as Lord Beaverbrook, Conservative M.P. and ally of the King, recounts in his book about the abdication, Geoffrey Dawson, editor of The Times, was in the pocket of Prime Minister Baldwin. Beaverbrook goes on to say, "He [Dawson] was Baldwin's intimate advisor and he did much to make the Abdication a certainty." <53> In 1936, it was said of The Times that, "it is not read by many, but it is read by those who form the opinion of the masses." <54> Thus, by running the aforementioned articles, which so clearly stated the support for the Cabinet and diminished any opposition as being a threat to the stability of the Empire, The Times, and thus Baldwin, was able to galvanize public opinion in away that would provide for the smooth transition of the Crown into more conservative hands.
While paying lip service to the Crown, in the form of expressing sympathy felt throughout the Empire for the King's position, it seems that the true goal of The Times's coverage of the Abdication "crisis" was to ensure that the situation ended in Edward VIII's abdication and to guarantee that popular support was behind the Government. Of course the fact that the King was content to go and thus did not put up a fight by invoking the resources available to him, having no taste for the constraints of the Monarchy, made Baldwin's job easier. The supreme irony of the entire ordeal, however, is the fact that although The Times kept insisting that no pressure was being placed on the King for a decision, it was precisely this manner of press coverage that was placing pressure on the King and demeaning the prestige of the Crown in general. The purpose of this paper is not to insinuate that there was a conspiracy against the King, although there were many who were glad to see him go. The simple fact is that the American Press induced this "crisis," and The Times used this "crisis" to increase support for the Government and the stability of the Empire. Baldwin merely took advantage of the fact that the King had made up his mind to abdicate a month before the "crisis." In terms of public perception, the Abdication and The Times's coverage thereof, had the effect of reemphasizing the political weakness of the monarchy, while Parliament, using The Times as a political tool, was able to capture public support and thereby insure the stability of the Empire during a time of transition.
1 Michael Bloch, The Reign and Abdication of Edward VIII (London, England: Transworld Publishers Ltd., 1990). p. 1.
2 The Times, Friday, December 4, 1936, p. 18.
3 Walter L Arnstein, Britain Yesterday and Today: 1830 to the Present (Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, 1996), p. 228.
9 Edward, Duke of York, A King's Story: Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor (New York, New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1947). p. 280.
10 Lord Beaverbrook, The Abdication of King Edward VIII (London, England: Hamish Hamilton Ltd., 1966). p. 13.
The Abdication – Ireland loses its King
On the 10 th of December the abdication took place and the House of Commons met to discuss the necessary legislation. Batterbee rang Walshe that afternoon to ascertain what the Irish government’s intentions were. Batterbee was greatly perturbed by the lack of information coming from Dublin. The view from Britain, and supported by Walshe, was that if there were an interval between the Commonwealth legislators and the Dáil in passing legislation affecting the Act of Settlement, that during that interval the Free State could be regarded as a completely separate monarchy with a different head of state to the rest of the Commonwealth.
If there were an interval between the Commonwealth legislators and the Dáil in recognising the new King, the Free State would temporarily be a completely separate monarchy – allowing it to abolish the King as head of state.
Dáil Éireann was summoned on the 11 th of December to deal with the issue. De Valera introduced legislation to give effect to the abdication, as far as the Saorstát was concerned to delete from the the Constitution all mention of the King and of the Representative of the Crown, whether under that title or under the title of Governor General and to make provision by ordinary law for the exercise by the King of certain functions in external matters as and when so advised by the Executive Council [Irish cabinet].
The legislation was introduced as Constitution (Amendment No. 27) Bill, 1936 and Executive Authority (External Relations) Bill, 1936.
At one sweep – and largely as a result of events outside of Ireland – the removal of the British monarchy from internal southern Irish politics, the goal of Irish republicans for many decades, had been achieved.
Did Edward VIII's abdication follow constitutional procedures? - History
But over the next few years he fell deeply in love with her, ultimately giving up the throne to marry her.
BBC News Online takes a look at some of the key events leading up to his abdication.
May 1931: Edward and Mrs Simpson meet for the second time
August 1934: Edward takes a party, including Wallis Simpson, on holiday to Biarritz, followed by a cruise along the Spanish and Portuguese coasts. Ernest Simpson is notably absent for the first time.
November 1934: Wallis Simpson attends a party at Buckingham Palace in honour of the Duke of Kent. Edward introduces her to his mother, but the King, George V, is outraged and refuses to meet her.
20 January 1936: King George V dies and Edward succeeds him as King.
May 1936: Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin meets Wallis Simpson for the first time at a dinner hosted by the King, although Ernest Simpson was also there and Baldwin did not realise the significance of her presence.
July 1936: Ernest Simpson, who had been conducting an affair of his own, moves out of the couple's home to his club.
August 1936: Wallis Simpson joins the King and other guests for a cruise along the Yugoslav, Greek and Turkish coasts. Photographs of the King and Mrs Simpson together are widely published in the American and continental press, with much speculation about their relationship.
October 1936: Wallis Simpson installed in house rented for her by the King in Regent's Park
20 October 1936: Stanley Baldwin confronts King for the first time over his relationship with Mrs Simpson. He asks him to conduct the affair more discreetly and persuade her to put off her impending divorce proceedings against her husband, to no avail.
16 November 1936: King sends for Baldwin. He tells him he wants to marry Mrs Simpson. Baldwin says that whoever the King married would have to become Queen, and the British public would not accept Mrs Simpson as such. The King says he is prepared to abdicate if the government opposes his marriage.
25 November 1936: King meets Baldwin again, telling him he wants a morganatic marriage to Wallis Simpson, in which he could still be King but she would not be Queen, merely his consort. This would require new legislation in both Britain and the Dominions, and although Baldwin tells the King this would not be accepted, the King authorises the prime minister to raise the proposal.
27 November 1936: Baldwin raises the issue of a morganatic marriage in the Cabinet, which rejects it outright. It is also then rejected by the governments of the Dominions.
2 December 1936: Baldwin tells the King none of his governments are willing to agree to a morganatic marriage, and that he now has three choices: to finish his relationship with Mrs Simpson, to marry against the advice of his ministers who would then resign, or to abdicate.
The King tells Baldwin he wants to broadcast an appeal to the nation, putting his problem to them. He hopes this might sway public opinion in favour of him marrying and remaining King. Baldwin says such a broadcast would be constitutionally impossible.
9 December 1936: King informs government of irrevocable decision to abdicate.
10 December 1936: King signs Instrument of Abdication, drawn up by his close friend and adviser Sir Walter Monckton. Baldwin announces the news to the Commons.
12 December 1936: Edward's brother proclaimed King George VI. Edward, now Duke of Windsor, leaves England for Austria.
12 May 1937: Coronation of King George VI
3 June 1937: Edward and Wallis Simpson marry in France. She becomes the Duchess of Windsor.
Edward VIII's shock demands after leaving Royal Family revealed amid Meghan and Harry rowLink copied
King Edward: Descendant discusses duchess ‘bagging royal’
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Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have announced their decision to step down as senior roles and their intention to work towards being financially independent. While this move is unprecedented, it has been shown before that living independently is not as simple as it sounds. The Duke of Windsor, as he was known after his abdication, was posted as the Governor of the Bahamas, along with his new wife Wallis Simpson.
However, according to a 2001 article in the Telegraph, he apparently still badgered the Prime Minister with &ldquoendless demands concerning everything from staffing to dental appointments".
In this vein, some royal commentators have asked who will pay for Meghan and Harry&rsquos security when they relocate to Canada.
It has been acknowledged that, at first, they will live off funds from the Duchy of Cornwall &ndash owned by Prince Charles &ndash but it is unclear what true financial independence will look like.
What&rsquos more, it remains to be seen whether there will be the same tension between their new lives and the royal tradition they once occupied.
Meghan and Harry are stepping down as senior royals Edward VIII abdicated to marry Wallis (Image: GETTY)
Winston Churchill unleashed his anger in letters to the Duke (Image: GETTY)
Looking back to Mr Churchill and the Duke of Windsor, there was evidently an ongoing tension between the two of them.
There were angry exchanges prompted by the Duke&rsquos desire to advise the Prime Minister on how to conduct foreign policy.
Mr Churchill bluntly responded that he could not accept advice from someone who had &ldquogiven up the greatest throne in world history&rdquo.
The letters, which were kept secret in 2001 at the request of the Royal Family, were revealed by academics to contain content sensitive to those who were still around at the time.
Meghan and Harry will split their time between Canada and the UK (Image: GETTY)
One said: &ldquoThey are being hidden at the moment because even after all this time this is still a sensitive subject.
&ldquoMembers of the Royal Family were alive at the time and still have strong feelings about the events surrounding the abdication.
&ldquoThe whole issue is like a festering wound.&rdquo
The Queen Mother, for example, was still alive back in 2001 and she was known to have strong opinions about the abdication crisis.
George VI with Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother) and princesses (Image: GETTY)
She is said to be have been furious that the Duke had turned their lives upside down with his decision, throwing her and her husband Prince Albert, later King George VI, into the driving seat.
She was also said to have had great disdain for Mrs Simpson, calling her &ldquothat woman&rdquo and &ldquothe lowest of the low&rdquo.
Nevertheless, some working on the archives have revealed that Mr Churchill &ldquotook umbrage&rdquo with the Duke&rsquos demands and that there was an element of frostiness and &ldquohostility&rdquo between the two of them in private.
This came despite Mr Churchill&rsquos public displays of support for the royal.