The year 1936 brought many changes within the British monarchy. In January of that year, the first monarch of the House of Windsor, King George V, died and his son, Edward VIII ascended the throne. King Edward VIII though was not destined to rule long. He had a married American mistress – Wallis Warfield Simpson – who was in the process of divorcing her second husband. The King’s choice of sweetheart would soon bring him tumbling down.
The King shocked the nation – already reeling from the King’s scandalous behavior of appearing in the society pages with Mrs. Simpson - by announcing that he planned to marry Mrs. Simpson.
The British people and the government would never have accepted Mrs. Simpson as their queen. Divorced people were not accepted at court, especially ones with two living ex-husbands. Although the King was not forbidden to marry Mrs. Simpson, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin advised him, on religious and political grounds, that he must make a choice between the throne and marrying Mrs. Simpson – or the government would resign.
By December 1936, King Edward had made his decision. He used his power to expedite Wallis’ divorce from Ernest Simpson [divorces took years back then] then, declared to his kingdom – the United Kingdom, Canada, and India - that it was impossible to carry out his duties “without the help and support of the woman I love,” and gave up the throne. Edward became the only monarch in the history of Great Britain to voluntarily abdicate. Edward’s younger brother, King George VI, then ascended the throne. Edward did marry Wallis and they became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, settling in France until World War II began.
The abdication and the subsequent exile to France of the newly titled Duke and Duchess of Windsor turned out to be a gigantic blessing for the UK, because, by September of 1939, Great Britain would declare war on Nazi Germany. It was a good thing King Edward VIII had been replaced with the level-headed King George VI and his queen, Queen Elizabeth (known later as the Queen Mum). They had the good sense to see the threat a Nazi Germany presented and the courage to lead the British people through the terrible bombings of Great Britain by the Nazis. King George VI began his reign as a reluctant king. He was a nervous man with a pronounced stutter who never wanted to rule. But, with Queen Elizabeth by his side, they were able to summon the strength from God and selves to help the British people endure the war and oppose the Nazi regime.
“When war broke out in 1939, George VI and his wife resolved to stay in London and not flee to Canada, as had been suggested. The King and Queen officially stayed in Buckingham Palace throughout the war, although they usually spent nights at Windsor Castle to avoid bombing raids. George VI and Queen Elizabeth narrowly avoided death when two German bombs exploded in a courtyard at Buckingham Palace while they were there.”
So, as history would have it, Great Britain owes an enormous debt to Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, for spiriting the Duke away before he could do any real harm. At the time, it seemed a great sadness for the Duke to have to give up the throne because convention wouldn’t allow for him to be married to the Duchess. But now we know that it would have been a disaster for him to be King during World War II. Because, as it turned out, both he and the Duchess were Nazi sympathizers. They held their wedding ceremony at the Chateau de Cande in Mont, France, the home of Nazi collaborator Charles Bedaux.
Within months, Bedaux had arranged for them to travel to Germany to dine with Adolf Hitler. It was widely believed that Hitler planned to install the Duke back on the British throne after the Germans had conquered England. The Duke was desperate for a kingdom and made no secret of his fondness for fascism. Fortunately,the Duke’s brother, the King, got wind of his brother’s nefarious activities and schemes and, at the start of the War, whisked him and the Duchess off to a British island [the Bahamas] far out in the Caribbean. Had Edward been the British monarch during WWII, not George VI, we might today to looking at a frighteningly different world order.
King George V, the Duke of Windsor’s father, never thought much of his son David. He was disgusted by his son’s playboy ways and inability to grow up and settle down.
The King [George V] was reluctant to see Edward inherit the Crown, and was quoted as saying of Edward [the Duke of Windsor]:”After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in 12 months.”
George V knew his son well. King Edward VIII…or ”David,” the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Windsor, – he had so many names, it can be so confusing - was self-indulgent to the point of self-destruction. King Edward VIII’s reign as monarch was one of the shortest in British history, lasting only 325 days, or about 11 months, one month less than his father had so sagely predicted. Edward never did have a coronation ceremony. He was never crowned king.
Readers, for more on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor on this blog: