“After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months.”—King George V, referring to his son, Edward
I, Edward the Eighth 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 the 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.—King Edward VIII
In his worried joke, King George V overestimated the length of his son’s reign by a month. George died on January 20, 1936, Edward became Edward VIII, and then 80 years ago today he signed the formal Instrument of Abdication to end his brief reign.
Edward wanted to marry Wallis Simpson, a divorced American woman whose ex-husband was still alive and who was about to divorce her second husband to be with Edward. The Church of England did not approve of second marriages in which a previous spouse was still alive, and since Great Britain’s monarch is the head of that Church, Edward could not act against the Church he was the head of.
Further, having a queen-consort whose ex-husbands were still alive could place the throne in some danger: those ex-husbands, one American and the other British (Ernest Aldrich Simpson), could place demands on the king or claims on the throne via their ex-wife.
If he was going to marry her, he was going to have to quit his job as king. And so he did. His younger brother, George, became George VI, and George’s daughter, Elizabeth, is now queen.
This is a good thing, as many historians—not some, many—have found and shown evidence that Edward rather liked Adolph Hitler’s visions for Germany and would not have opposed a Nazi-governed Great Britain. Some historians have reported that Edward openly fantasized about re-claiming his crown should Nazi Germany successfully take over Great Britain: “After the war is over and Hitler will crush the Americans … we’ll take over … They [the British] don’t want me as their king, but I’ll be back as their leader.”
The government under his younger brother created a title, the Duke of Windsor, for his brother the former king, and appointed him governor of the Bahamas to keep him out of Europe for the duration of the Second World War.
* * * *
Alfred Nobel died on this date in 1896. Damon Runyon died 70 years ago today. Walter Johnson died 70 years ago today. Otis Redding died on this date in 1967. Thomas Merton died on this date in 1968. Ed Wood of Poughkeepsie, New York, died in 1978 on this date. Jascha Heifetz died on this date in 1987. Rick Danko died in 1999 on this date. “This Wheel’s on Fire,” written by Rick Danko and Bob Dylan, sung by Rick Danko and The Band:
Senator Eugene McCarthy died 11 years ago today. Richard Pryor died on this date in 2005.
* * * *
Emily Dickinson was born on this date in 1830. Harold Gould was born on this date in 1923. Douglas Kenney was born on this date in 1946.
* * * *
Peter Michael Goetz is 75. Gloria Loring is 70. Sir Kenneth Branagh is 56 today. Bobby Flay is 52. Meg White is 42. Raven-Symoné is 31.
Follow The Gad About Town on Facebook! Subscribe today for daily facts (well, trivia) about literature and history, plus links to other writers on Facebook.
Follow The Gad About Town on Instagram!
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.