01 July, 2008
The Duke of Windsor
Edward VIII, later The Duke of Windsor was King of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions beyond the Seas, and Emperor of India from the death of his father, George V, on 20 January 1936, until his abdication on 11 December 1936. He was the second monarch of the House of Windsor, his father having changed the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1917.
Before his accession to the throne, Edward VIII held the titles of Prince Edward of York, Prince Edward of Cornwall and York, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, and Prince of Wales. As a young man he served in World War I, undertook several foreign tours on behalf of his father, and was associated with a succession of older married women.
Only months into his reign, Edward forced a constitutional crisis by proposing marriage to the American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Although legally Edward could have married Mrs. Simpson and remained king, his various prime ministers opposed the marriage, arguing that the people would never accept her as queen. Edward knew that the ministry of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin would resign if the marriage went ahead; this could have dragged the King into a general election thus ruining irreparably his status as a politically neutral constitutional monarch. Rather than give up Mrs. Simpson, Edward chose to abdicate, making him the only monarch of Britain, and indeed any Commonwealth Realm, to have voluntarily relinquished the throne. He is one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British history, and was never crowned.
After his abdication he reverted to the style of a son of the Sovereign, The Prince Edward, and was created Duke of Windsor on 8 March 1937. During World War II he was at first stationed with the British Military Mission to France, but after private accusations that he held pro-Nazi sympathies, was moved to the Bahamas as Governor and Commander-in-Chief. After the war he was never given another official appointment and spent the remainder of his life in retirement.
On 28 May 1972 the Duke died at his home in Paris from throat cancer.