The Abdication Of King Edward VIII

Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry the woman he loved. This was actually beneficial to Great Britain. Why?

The monarch has always been an extremely important person in British society. William the Conqueror laid the foundations for English government and the role of the king when he said that under the law the king could do n wrong and that his position continued through his successor. He further stated that the king should be above all political quarrels, as well as isolated from criticism, rivalry or jealousy. The king was supposed to be sacred, one who devoted his life to the good of his subjects.

The support and continuation of the monarchy was of particular importance to those concerned with the protection and constancy of the kingdom. The constitutional monarch, by his mere existence and charisma, guarantees the legitimacy of the existing social order. Because of the great need of the people for such a monarch, the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936""which appeared to be a crisis at the time""was actually beneficial to England, Britain and the Commonwealth.

Edward VIII was bred, born and groomed to be king""to hold a position in which his every move and word would be noted and in which he was expected to overcome his personal desires for the good of his people and country. These were expectations he did not want. As the Prince of Wales, prior to ascending the throne, he was very popular and beloved by the people of Britain and the Commonwealth. He had a friendly and outgoing personality and seemed to have a genuine concern for his people. In what may have been a forerunner of things to come, Edward already appeared to enjoy his recreational pursuits much more than his royal duties. As king, he regularly put his own needs and pleasures before those of his countrymen and nation, thereby demonstrating a lack of the character so necessary for the moral power required for an effective monarchy.

In addition, he spoke without thinking, often sharing classified information with whoever was present. One telling example of his poor judgment is given by the Austrian ambassador, Albert Mensdorff, who spoke with the prince in 1933. He wrote of his amazement that the prince openly stated his sympathies for Nazi Germany. Edward also announced that, due to the communist threat, Britain would also ultimately uphold the beliefs of the Nazis. The prince said he wanted no more war but, if it should come to that, Britain must win and that meant siding with the Germans, not the French. The ambassador asked Edward his opinion on ending the National Socialist dictatorship, but the prince did not reply. Mensdorff got the impression that he hadn't really given much serious thought to the ideas they had been discussing. Nevertheless, Edward did not seem to be shy about airing his views of Germany.

Another bad fault of Edward's was that he left confidential paperwork lying out in the open where anyone could see it and he was frequently very unwise in his choice of friends. Edward seemed to live only for himself, rather than his kingdom, essentially ignoring the duties he was raised to perform. The public engagements, which were part of royal life, had become quite tedious and boring to Edward, even before he was king, and his boredom had become noticeable to those around him.

In fact, Edward possessed an immaturity of outlook which he never outgrew. He always tended to look at others as a young child might, setting a boundary between himself and those with similar viewpoints on the one hand, while putting those who had power and authority""and their supporters""in the category of "the opposition."

Once he met Wallis Simpson, that was it. He wanted her and would let nothing stand in his way""even the throne. They met at a dinner party on January 30, 1934. She was married""her second marriage""to an American businessman living in London. The prince was in love and that love became his grand passion, though Wallis was not immediately smitten. Wallis began their relationship as a simple flirtation, but it soon grew into something more powerful.

Once he became king, Edward's overwhelmingly intense passion for her, combined with his determination to marry her and, if possible to make her his queen, was to influence his every action throughout his short reign. His business methods were careless and on at least one occasion he avoided a meeting with a private secretary by climbing out a window and running away across the garden; he wanted to keep an appointment with Mrs. Simpson instead. Unfortunately for him, Wallis Simpson was not considered suitable enough to be the consort of a king, let alone queen. She was married to her second husband and, to make matters worse, was an American. But Edward didn't care. He was determined to make her his wife. To make matters worse, Mrs. Simpson seemed to have an excessive amount of influence upon the king. Her influence was noted by many associates and even the media became aware of the power she seemed to have over him. Even as she led Edward into wild spending sprees, she saw to it that he dismissed several of his servants for rather trivial infractions, such as paying too much for bath soap. Moreover, she captivated the king to the extent that he became careless and unconcerned about more serious matters, including Britain's secrets of state. Edward not only left important documents lying about for any curious eyes to see, but he often mislaid them. British officials stationed in Berlin were shocked when high-ranking Germans claimed to know all of Britain's secrets, thanks to the king's carelessness. And he did appear to become careless about everything""except Mrs. Simpson.

When Edward was away from Mrs. Simpson, however, his entire personality seemed to deflate. He turned away from his friends and became a solitary, brooding figure, unlike the personable, outgoing man they had known in earlier times. He seemed to be one particular kind of man at those times when the influential figure of the stylish Mrs. Simpson was at his side. However, his personality appeared to undergo a complete transformation, turning him into a completely different person when she was not there. When Edward was in Mrs. Simpson's company, he became assertive and demanding. He took control of situations, often being in opposition to his ministers. They considered him to be wayward in many of his opinions and found him extremely difficult to handle and come to agreement with. In many situations, he antagonized his personal staff. This made working with and counseling the king very difficult, almost impossible.

Nevertheless, the king was determined to marry Wallis and so divorce proceedings were begun. On November 16, 1936, Edward met with the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, as well as with his mother, Queen Mary. He wanted to announce his intention of marrying Wallis as soon as her divorce was final. They were not amused and replied that it was out of the question. But Edward was determined to find a way to make Wallis the Queen of England. But he had miscalculated. The Church of England, the majority of his Cabinet and his own family were against his marrying Mrs. Simpson. A severe constitutional crisis was the result of Edward and Baldwin taking their sides and digging in their heels. In the end, Edward was given three choices by Baldwin and his ministers. He could renounce Mrs. Simpson and be crowned King of England. He could go ahead and marry Mrs. Simpson, against the advice of all his ministers, and thereby force their resignations. Or he could abdicate the throne. The king, furious at being placed in such a position by his prime minister, announced that he would marry Mrs. Simpson at all costs, even if it became necessary to abdicate the throne. He was adamant that he would never give up the woman he loved and needed so much, even if it meant sacrificing the very position to which he had been born. And so, Edward VIII placed his personal desires above the good of the empire, and abdicated his throne in December 1936.

Even after Edward VIII""now the Duke of Windsor""and Wallis Simpson were married, he continued with the behaviors which made him so unsuitable to be king. At a time when the Nazi power in Germany was growing more powerful, Edward continued to consort with Nazi sympathizers, even going so far as to visit Nazi Germany as Hitler's special guest. During World War II, while the rest of the royal family was working hard to do their part for the war effort, Edward spent many of the war years quibbling about what he considered to be personal affronts against his and Wallis's position of importance. They often appeared to be more concerned with the privileges to which they felt entitled.

So, in reality, the abdication of Edward VIII was indeed beneficial to England. Had he remained on the throne, his pro-German feelings and disinterest in his duties might have played a part in the outcome of the war. The English people needed inspiration and encouragement, and Edward VIII would probably not have been able to give it to them.

© High Speed Ventures 2011