|Birth Day:||June 23, 1894|
|Death Date:||May 28, 1972 (age 77)|
|Birth Place:||Surrey, England|
|Height:||in centimeters - N/A|
|Weight:||in kg - N/A|
The King of the United Kingdom for eleven months in 1936 who abdicated his throne so that he could wed an American divorcee. He was succeeded by his younger brother Albert, better known as King George VI, and he is one of the shortest-reigning monarchs in British and Commonwealth history.
As per our current Database, Edward VIII died on May 28, 1972 (age 77).
He served in the British Armed Forces during World War I and went on a variety of foreign tours for his father.
Edward was born on 23 June 1894 at White Lodge, Richmond Park, on the outskirts of London during the reign of his great-grandmother Queen Victoria. He was the eldest son of the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). His father was the son of the Prince and Princess of Wales (later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra). His mother was the eldest daughter of Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge and Francis, Duke of Teck. At the time of his birth, he was third in the line of succession to the throne, behind his grandfather and father.
He was baptised Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David in the Green Drawing Room of White Lodge on 16 July 1894 by Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury. The names were chosen in honour of Edward's late uncle, who was known to his family as "Eddy" or Edward, and his great-grandfather King Christian IX of Denmark. The name Albert was included at the behest of Queen Victoria for her late husband Albert, Prince Consort, and the last four names – George, Andrew, Patrick and David – came from the patron saints of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. He was always known to his family and close friends by his last given name, David.
Initially, Edward was tutored at home by Helen Bricka. When his parents travelled the British Empire for almost nine months following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, young Edward and his siblings stayed in Britain with their grandparents, Queen Alexandra and King Edward VII, who showered their grandchildren with affection. Upon his parents' return, Edward was placed under the care of two men, Frederick Finch and Henry Hansell, who virtually brought up Edward and his brothers and sister for their remaining nursery years.
Edward was kept under the strict tutorship of Hansell until almost thirteen years old. Private tutors taught him German and French. Edward took the examination to enter the Royal Naval College, Osborne, and began there in 1907. Hansell had wanted Edward to enter school earlier, but the prince's father had disagreed. Following two years at Osborne College, which he did not enjoy, Edward moved on to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth. A course of two years, followed by entry into the Royal Navy, was planned.
Edward automatically became Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay on 6 May 1910 when his father ascended the throne as George V on the death of Edward VII. He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester a month later on 23 June 1910, his 16th birthday. Preparations for his future as king began in earnest. He was withdrawn from his naval course before his formal graduation, served as midshipman for three months aboard the battleship Hindustan, then immediately entered Magdalen College, Oxford, for which, in the opinion of his biographers, he was underprepared intellectually. A keen horseman, he learned how to play polo with the university club. He left Oxford after eight terms, without any academic qualifications.
Edward was officially invested as Prince of Wales in a special ceremony at Caernarfon Castle on 13 July 1911. The investiture took place in Wales, at the instigation of the Welsh politician David Lloyd George, Constable of the Castle and Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Liberal government. Lloyd George invented a rather fanciful ceremony in the style of a Welsh pageant, and coached Edward to speak a few words in Welsh.
When the First World War broke out in 1914, Edward had reached the minimum age for active service and was keen to participate. He had joined the Grenadier Guards in June 1914, and although Edward was willing to serve on the front lines, Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener refused to allow it, citing the immense harm that would occur if the heir apparent to the throne were captured by the enemy. Despite this, Edward witnessed trench warfare first-hand and visited the front line as often as he could, for which he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. His role in the war, although limited, made him popular among veterans of the conflict. He undertook his first military flight in 1918, and later gained a pilot's licence.
By 1917, Edward liked to spend time partying in Paris while he was on leave from his regiment on the Western Front. He was introduced to Parisian courtesan Marguerite Alibert, with whom he became infatuated. He wrote her candid letters, which she kept. After about a year, Edward broke off the affair. In 1923, Alibert was acquitted in a spectacular murder trial after she shot her husband in the Savoy Hotel. Desperate efforts were made by the Royal Household to ensure that Edward's name was not mentioned in connection with the trial or Alibert.
Edward's youngest brother, Prince John, died at the age of 13 on 18 January 1919 after a severe epileptic seizure. Edward, who was 11 years older than John and had hardly known him, saw his death as "little more than a regrettable nuisance". He wrote to his mistress of the time that "[he had] told [her] all about that little brother, and how he was an epileptic. [John]'s been practically shut up for the last two years anyhow, so no one has ever seen him except the family, and then only once or twice a year. This poor boy had become more of an animal than anything else." He also wrote an insensitive letter to his mother which has since been lost. She did not reply, but he felt compelled to write her an apology, in which he stated: "I feel such a cold hearted and unsympathetic swine for writing all that I did ... No one can realize more than you how little poor Johnnie meant to me who hardly knew him ... I feel so much for you, darling Mama, who was his mother."
Edward visited poverty-stricken areas of Britain, and undertook 16 tours to various parts of the Empire between 1919 and 1935. On a tour of Canada in 1919, he acquired the Bedingfield ranch, near Pekisko, Alberta, and in 1924, he donated the Prince of Wales Trophy to the National Hockey League. In 1929 Sir Alexander Leith, a leading Conservative in the north of England, persuaded him to make a three-day visit to the County Durham and Northumberland coalfields, where there was much unemployment. From January to April 1931, the Prince of Wales and his brother Prince George travelled 18,000 miles (29,000 km) on a tour of South America, steaming out on the ocean liner Oropesa, and returning via Paris and an Imperial Airways flight from Paris–Le Bourget Airport that landed specially in Windsor Great Park.
In 1919, Edward agreed to be president of the organising committee for the proposed British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park, Middlesex. He wished the Exhibition to include "a great national sports ground", and so played a part in the creation of Wembley Stadium.
Though widely travelled, Edward shared a widely held racial prejudice against foreigners and many of the Empire's subjects, believing that whites were inherently superior. In 1920, on a visit to Australia, he wrote of Indigenous Australians: "they are the most revolting form of living creatures I've ever seen!! They are the lowest known form of human beings & are the nearest thing to monkeys."
George V favoured his second son Albert ("Bertie") and Albert's daughter Elizabeth ("Lilibet"), later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II respectively. He told a courtier, "I pray to God that my eldest son will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne." In 1929, Time magazine reported that Edward teased Albert's wife, also named Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), by calling her "Queen Elizabeth". The magazine asked if "she did not sometimes wonder how much truth there is in the story that he once said he would renounce his rights upon the death of George V – which would make her nickname come true".
In 1930, George V gave Edward the lease of Fort Belvedere in Windsor Great Park. There, he continued his relationships with a series of married women, including Freda Dudley Ward and Lady Furness, the American wife of a British peer, who introduced the prince to her friend and fellow American Wallis Simpson. Simpson had divorced her first husband, U.S. naval officer Win Spencer, in 1927. Her second husband, Ernest Simpson, was a British-American businessman. Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales, it is generally accepted, became lovers, while Lady Furness travelled abroad, although the prince adamantly insisted to his father that he was not having an affair with her and that it was not appropriate to describe her as his mistress. Edward's relationship with Simpson, however, further weakened his poor relationship with his father. Although his parents met Simpson at Buckingham Palace in 1935, they later refused to receive her.
King George V died on 20 January 1936, and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. The next day, accompanied by Simpson, he broke with custom by watching the proclamation of his own accession from a window of St James's Palace. He became the first monarch of the British Empire to fly in an aircraft when he flew from Sandringham to London for his Accession Council.
On 16 July 1936, Jerome Bannigan, alias George Andrew McMahon, produced a loaded revolver as Edward rode on horseback at Constitution Hill, near Buckingham Palace. Police spotted the gun and pounced on him; he was quickly arrested. At Bannigan's trial, he alleged that "a foreign power" had approached him to kill Edward, that he had informed MI5 of the plan, and that he was merely seeing the plan through to help MI5 catch the real culprits. The court rejected the claims and sent him to jail for a year for "intent to alarm". It is now thought that Bannigan had indeed been in contact with MI5, but the veracity of the remainder of his claims remains open.
On 16 November 1936, Edward invited Prime Minister Baldwin to Buckingham Palace and expressed his desire to marry Simpson when she became free to remarry. Baldwin informed him that his subjects would deem the marriage morally unacceptable, largely because remarriage after divorce was opposed by the Church of England, and the people would not tolerate Simpson as queen. As king, Edward was the titular head of the Church, and the clergy expected him to support the Church's teachings. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Gordon Lang, was vocal in insisting that Edward must go.
Edward duly signed the instruments of abdication at Fort Belvedere on 10 December 1936 in the presence of his younger brothers: Prince Albert, Duke of York, next in line for the throne; Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester; and Prince George, Duke of Kent. The document included these words: "declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately". The next day, the last act of his reign was the royal assent to His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. As required by the Statute of Westminster, all the Dominions had already consented to the abdication.
On 12 December 1936, at the accession meeting of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, George VI announced he was to make his brother the "Duke of Windsor" with the style of Royal Highness. He wanted this to be the first act of his reign, although the formal documents were not signed until 8 March the following year. During the interim, Edward was universally known as the Duke of Windsor. George VI's decision to create Edward a royal duke ensured that he could neither stand for election to the British House of Commons nor speak on political subjects in the House of Lords.
Letters Patent dated 27 May 1937 re-conferred the "title, style, or attribute of Royal Highness" upon the Duke, but specifically stated that "his wife and descendants, if any, shall not hold said title or attribute". Some British ministers advised that the reconfirmation was unnecessary since Edward had retained the style automatically, and further that Simpson would automatically obtain the rank of wife of a prince with the style Her Royal Highness; others maintained that he had lost all royal rank and should no longer carry any royal title or style as an abdicated king, and be referred to simply as "Mr Edward Windsor". On 14 April 1937, Attorney General Sir Donald Somervell submitted to Home Secretary Sir John Simon a memorandum summarising the views of Lord Advocate T. M. Cooper, Parliamentary Counsel Sir Granville Ram, and himself:
The Duke married Simpson, who had changed her name by deed poll to Wallis Warfield, in a private ceremony on 3 June 1937, at Château de Candé, near Tours, France. When the Church of England refused to sanction the union, a County Durham clergyman, the Reverend Robert Anderson Jardine (Vicar of St Paul's, Darlington), offered to perform the ceremony, and the Duke accepted. George VI forbade members of the royal family to attend, to the lasting resentment of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Edward had particularly wanted his brothers the Dukes of Gloucester and Kent and his second cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten to attend the ceremony.
In October 1937, the Duke and Duchess visited Nazi Germany, against the advice of the British government, and met Adolf Hitler at his Berghof retreat in Bavaria. The visit was much publicised by the German media. During the visit the Duke gave full Nazi salutes. In Germany, "they were treated like royalty ... members of the aristocracy would bow and curtsy towards her, and she was treated with all the dignity and status that the duke always wanted", according to royal biographer Andrew Morton in a 2016 BBC interview.
In May 1939, the Duke was commissioned by NBC to give a radio broadcast (his first since abdicating) during a visit to the World War I battlefields of Verdun. In it he appealed for peace, saying "I am deeply conscious of the presence of the great company of the dead, and I am convinced that could they make their voices heard they would be with me in what I am about to say. I speak simply as a soldier of the Last War whose most earnest prayer it is that such cruel and destructive madness shall never again overtake mankind. There is no land whose people want war." The broadcast was heard across the world by millions. It was widely seen as supporting appeasement, and the BBC refused to broadcast it. It was broadcast outside the United States on shortwave radio and was reported in full by British broadsheet newspapers. On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the Duke and Duchess were brought back to Britain by Louis Mountbatten on board HMS Kelly, and Edward, although an honorary field marshal, was made a major-general attached to the British Military Mission in France. In February 1940, the German ambassador in The Hague, Count Julius von Zech-Burkersroda, claimed that the Duke had leaked the Allied war plans for the defence of Belgium, which the Duke later denied. When Germany invaded the north of France in May 1940, the Windsors fled south, first to Biarritz, then in June to Francoist Spain. In July the pair moved to Portugal, where they lived at first in the home of Ricardo Espírito Santo, a Portuguese banker with both British and German contacts. Under the code name Operation Willi, Nazi agents, principally Walter Schellenberg, plotted unsuccessfully to persuade the Duke to leave Portugal and return to Spain, kidnapping him if necessary. Lord Caldecote wrote a warning to Winston Churchill, who by this point was prime minister: "[the Duke] is well-known to be pro-Nazi and he may become a centre of intrigue." Churchill threatened the Duke with a court-martial if he did not return to British soil.
In July 1940, Edward was appointed Governor of the Bahamas. The Duke and Duchess left Lisbon on 1 August aboard the American Export Lines steamship Excalibur, which was specially diverted from its usual direct course to New York City so that they could be dropped off at Bermuda on the 9th. They left Bermuda for Nassau on the Canadian steamship Lady Somers on 15 August, arriving two days later. The Duke did not enjoy being governor and privately referred to the islands as "a third-class British colony". The British Foreign Office strenuously objected when the Duke and Duchess planned to cruise aboard a yacht belonging to a Swedish magnate, Axel Wenner-Gren, whom British and American intelligence wrongly believed to be a close friend of Luftwaffe commander Hermann Göring. The Duke was praised for his efforts to combat poverty on the islands, although he was as contemptuous of the Bahamians as he was of most non-white peoples of the Empire. He said of Étienne Dupuch, the editor of the Nassau Daily Tribune: "It must be remembered that Dupuch is more than half Negro, and due to the peculiar mentality of this Race, they seem unable to rise to prominence without losing their equilibrium." He was praised, even by Dupuch, for his resolution of civil unrest over low wages in Nassau in 1942, even though he blamed the trouble on "mischief makers – communists" and "men of Central European Jewish descent, who had secured jobs as a pretext for obtaining a deferment of draft". He resigned from the post on 16 March 1945.
Many historians have suggested that Hitler was prepared to reinstate Edward as king in the hope of establishing a fascist Britain. It is widely believed that the Duke and Duchess sympathised with fascism before and during the Second World War, and were moved to the Bahamas to minimise their opportunities to act on those feelings. In 1940 he said: "In the past 10 years Germany has totally reorganised the order of its society ... Countries which were unwilling to accept such a reorganisation of society and its concomitant sacrifices should direct their policies accordingly." During the occupation of France, the Duke asked the German forces to place guards at his Paris and Riviera homes; they did so. In December 1940, the Duke gave Fulton Oursler of Liberty magazine an interview at Government House in Nassau. Oursler conveyed its content to the President in a private meeting at the White House on 23 December 1940. The interview was published on 22 March 1941 and in it the Duke was reported to have said that "Hitler was the right and logical leader of the German people" and that the time was coming for President Franklin D. Roosevelt to mediate a peace settlement. The Duke protested that he had been misquoted and misinterpreted.
The Allies became sufficiently disturbed by German plots revolving around the Duke that President Roosevelt ordered covert surveillance of the Duke and Duchess when they visited Palm Beach, Florida, in April 1941. Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg (then a monk in an American monastery) had told the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the Duchess had slept with the German ambassador in London, Joachim von Ribbentrop, in 1936, had remained in constant contact with him, and had continued to leak secrets.
Author Charles Higham claimed that Anthony Blunt, an MI5 agent and Soviet spy, acting on orders from the British royal family, made a successful secret trip to Schloss Friedrichshof in Germany towards the end of the war to retrieve sensitive letters between the Duke of Windsor and Adolf Hitler and other leading Nazis. What is certain is that George VI sent the Royal Librarian, Owen Morshead, accompanied by Blunt, then working part-time in the Royal Library as well as for British intelligence, to Friedrichshof in March 1945 to secure papers relating to the German Empress Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria. Looters had stolen part of the castle's archive, including surviving letters between daughter and mother, as well as other valuables, some of which were recovered in Chicago after the war. The papers rescued by Morshead and Blunt, and those returned by the American authorities from Chicago, were deposited in the Royal Archives. In the late 1950s, documents recovered by U.S. troops in Marburg, Germany, in May 1945, since titled The Marburg Files, were published following more than a decade of suppression, enhancing theories of the Duke's sympathies for Nazi ideologies.
The Duke's allowance was supplemented by government favours and illegal currency trading. The City of Paris provided the Duke with a house at 4 route du Champ d'Entraînement, on the Neuilly-sur-Seine side of the Bois de Boulogne, for a nominal rent. The French government exempted him from paying income tax, and the couple were able to buy goods duty-free through the British embassy and the military commissary. In 1952 they bought and renovated a weekend country retreat, Le Moulin de la Tuilerie at Gif-sur-Yvette, the only property the couple ever owned themselves. In 1951, the Duke had produced a ghost-written memoir, A King's Story, in which he expressed disagreement with liberal politics. The royalties from the book added to their income.
The royal family never fully accepted the Duchess. Queen Mary refused to receive her formally. However, Edward sometimes met his mother and his brother, George VI; he attended George's funeral in 1952. Queen Mary remained angry with Edward and indignant over his marriage to Wallis: "To give up all this for that", she said. In 1965 the Duke and Duchess returned to London. They were visited by Elizabeth II, his sister-in-law Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, and his sister Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. A week later, the Princess Royal died, and they attended her memorial service. In 1967 they joined the royal family for the centenary of Queen Mary's birth. The last royal ceremony the Duke attended was the funeral of Princess Marina in 1968. He declined an invitation from Elizabeth II to attend the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969, replying that Prince Charles would not want his "aged great-uncle" there.
In June 1953, instead of attending the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, his niece, in London, the Duke and Duchess watched the ceremony on television in Paris. The Duke said that it was contrary to precedent for a Sovereign or former Sovereign to attend any coronation of another. He was paid to write articles on the ceremony for the Sunday Express and Woman's Home Companion, as well as a short book, The Crown and the People, 1902–1953.
In 1955 they visited President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House. The couple appeared on Edward R. Murrow's television-interview show Person to Person in 1956, and in a 50-minute BBC television interview in 1970. That year President Richard Nixon invited them as guests of honour to a dinner at the White House.
In the 1960s the Duke's health deteriorated. In December 1964 Michael E. DeBakey operated on him in Houston for an aneurysm of the abdominal aorta, and in February 1965 Sir Stewart Duke-Elder treated a detached retina in his left eye. In late 1971, the Duke, who was a smoker from an early age, was diagnosed with throat cancer and underwent cobalt therapy. On 18 May 1972, Queen Elizabeth II visited the Duke and Duchess of Windsor while on a state visit to France; she spoke with the Duke for fifteen minutes, but only the Duchess appeared with the royal party for a photocall as the Duke was too ill.
On 28 May 1972, ten days after the Queen's visit, the Duke died at his home in Paris, less than a month before his 78th birthday. His body was returned to Britain, lying in state at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. The funeral service took place in the chapel on 5 June in the presence of the Queen, the royal family, and the Duchess of Windsor, who stayed at Buckingham Palace during her visit. He was buried in the Royal Burial Ground behind the Royal Mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at Frogmore. Until a 1965 agreement with the Queen, the Duke and Duchess had planned for a burial in a cemetery plot they had purchased at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, where the Duchess's father was interred. Frail, and suffering increasingly from dementia, the Duchess died in 1986, and was buried alongside her husband.
In the view of historians, such as Philip Williamson writing in 2007, the popular perception in the 21st century that the abdication was driven by politics rather than religious morality is false and arises because divorce has become much more common and socially acceptable. To modern sensibilities, the religious restrictions that prevented Edward from continuing as king while planning to marry Simpson "seem, wrongly, to provide insufficient explanation" for his abdication.
At the end of the war, the couple returned to France and spent the remainder of their lives essentially in retirement as the Duke never held another official role. Correspondence between the Duke and Kenneth de Courcy, dated between 1946 and 1949, emerged in a US library in 2009. The letters suggest a plot where the Duke would return to England and place himself in a position for a possible regency. The health of George VI was failing and de Courcy was concerned about the influence of the Mountbatten family over the young Princess Elizabeth. De Courcy suggested the Duke buy a working agricultural estate within an easy drive of London in order to gain favour with the British public and make himself available should the King become incapacitated. The Duke, however, hesitated and the King recovered from his surgery.
Edward abdicated from the throne in order to marry American divorcee and socialite, Wallis Simpson.
|#1||Prince George, Duke of Kent||Brother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#2||Prince John of the United Kingdom||Brother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#3||Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester||Brother||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#4||George VI||Brother||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||56||King|
|#5||George V||Father||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||70||King|
|#6||Edward VII||Grandfather||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||68||King|
|#7||Queen Victoria||Great-grandmother||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||81||Queen|
|#8||Mary of Teck||Mother||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||85||Historical Personalities|
|#9||Duke of Kent||Nephew||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#10||Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon||Niece||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#11||Queen Elizabeth II||Niece||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||$64.5 million||94||Historical Personalities|
|#12||Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood||Sister||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|#13||Wallis Simpson||Spouse||$1 Million - $2 Million (Approx.)||N/A||89||Political Wife|
Currently, Edward VIII is 128 years, 8 months and 25 days old. Edward VIII will celebrate 129th birthday on a Friday 23rd of June 2023. Below we countdown to Edward VIII upcoming birthday.