"I, Edward, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and my descendants." These words were spoken by Edward VIII, the only British monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne.
Edward VIII, later known as Edward, duke of Windsor, was the eldest child of George, duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck. He was born June 23, 1894 in Richmond, Surrey, England. With his father's accession on May 6, 1910, Edward became heir to the throne.
From ages 13 to 17, Edward trained at the naval preparatory college at Osborne, then attended the Royal Navy College. In addition, he was schooled at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. During World War I, Edward served as a staff officer in the Army?s Grenadier Guards. After the war, Edward traveled extensively throughout the British empire as a goodwill ambassador, and his popularity was great. In 1932, Edward instituted several occupational policies to battle growing unemployment, which also increased his popularity.
Edward lived in an 18th century home called Fort Belvoir, which was given to him by his father, King George V. He enjoyed the privacy of "the Fort" and became an expert on gardening, especially roses. Through his small, private circle of friends who visited him at the Fort, Edward met Wallis Warfield Simpson. At the time, she was married to Ernest Simpson, but by 1934, Edward considered himself "deeply in love."
Soon after, on January 20, 1936, George V died, and Edward was proclaimed king. Edward was determined to marry the now-separated Mrs. Simpson, and he attempted to gain the royal family's acceptance of the relationship. However, Edward's family, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, and British political leaders were opposed to a marriage. Through government pressure of the press, the relationship was kept secret from the British public until December 2, when the entire matter was revealed. Cries for abdication began the next day.
Edward submitted his abdication on December 10, and announced it to the public during a radio address the next evening, saying "I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love." On December 12, after Edward had already departed for Austria to stay with friends, his brother, now King George VI, named him the duke of Windsor.
Mrs. Simpson's divorce became final several months later, and the two were married on June 3, 1937. They lived in France until the outbreak of World War II, at which time Edward accepted the governorship of the Bahamas offered to him by Winston Churchill. Edward remained in the Bahamas until the end of the war. Still, the division between he and his family was not yet remedied.
While living in Paris after the war, Edward returned only twice to Great Britain; in 1952, after the death of his brother, George VI, and in 1953, after the death of his mother, Queen Mary. He was not formally invited to an official public ceremony until 1967, when he and Simpson, now the duchess of Windsor, were invited to the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to his mother, Queen Mary.
For the rest of his life, Edward lived with Wallis in both Paris and the United States. He died in Paris on May 28, 1972. She died in Paris nearly 14 years later on April 24, 1986. The duke and duchess were buried side by side within the grounds of Windsor Castle.
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