Edward VIII

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Edward VIII

Edward VIII, 1894–1972, king of Great Britain and Ireland (1936), known in later years as the duke of Windsor; eldest son of George V. He attended the naval colleges at Osborne and Dartmouth and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1911 he was made prince of Wales. During World War I he served as a staff officer in France, Italy, and Egypt. Between 1919 and 1936 he made state trips to the United States, Japan, South America, and the dominions. On the death of his father (Jan., 1936), Edward succeeded to the throne. He enjoyed immense popularity with his subjects until the crisis precipitated by the announcement of his intention to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson (see Windsor, Wallis Warfield, duchess of), an American then suing her second husband for divorce. The government, headed by Stanley Baldwin, opposed the marriage, and the issue developed into a struggle between monarch and cabinet. Edward insisted on his right to marry the woman of his choice, even though her marital background made her unacceptable to the public and the government. The government saw in his challenge to its wishes a threat to constitutional procedure. A proposal that there should be some kind of morganatic marriage came to nothing. Since no resolution seemed possible, the king executed a deed of abdication, ending a 325-day reign as the first English monarch to relinquish his throne voluntarily. On Dec. 11, 1936, Parliament passed a bill of abdication, and Edward's younger brother became King George VI. The ex-king was granted the title of duke of Windsor. On June 3, 1937, he married Wallis Warfield in France. In 1937, on a trip to Germany, he visited Adolf Hitler and other Nazi officials. In World War II the duke went to France as a major general, serving briefly as a liaison officer between British and French headquarters. From 1940 to 1945 he was governor of the Bahamas. After that time he lived in France but traveled a great deal. He died in Paris but was buried at Windsor.

See his memoirs, A King's Story (1951); biography by F. Donaldson (1975).

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