Edward VIII – a brief summary

Prince Edward, the future Edward VIII, was the eldest child of King George V and his wife, Queen Mary of Teck.  Born on 23 June 1894 at White Lodge in Richmond Park, Surrey, he was baptized three weeks later, on 16 July, by the Archbishop of Canterbury.  His given names were Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David – but he was known to his family simply as ‘David’.

Edward was educated at home until he was 13, and then spent two years at Osborne Naval College on the Isle of Wight, before progressing to Dartmouth Naval College.  He did not, however, complete his two-year course at Dartmouth – he left in 1910 when he became Prince of Wales after his father’s ascension to the throne (although his official investiture did not take place on 13 July 1911).   Nonetheless, he did serve as a staff officer in the Grenadier Guards during World War I.

As Prince of Wales (pictured here in 1919), he enjoyed widespread popularity, thanks in large part to his numerous visits to economically deprived areas of the country and his successful trips overseas.  He was also the first in a long line of royals to become a qualified pilot.

However, David had little patience for protocol and the formality of royal occasions greatly bored him, a fact which greatly upset his father.

Edward and Mrs Simpson

David first met Wallis Simpson, who was already on her second marriage, in 1930 and they began an affair soon after.  In a marked departure from his previous romantic entanglements, David became emotionally dependent on his American lover, and was soon thinking of marriage.

David succeeded to the throne as Edward VIII on 20 January 1936, following the death of his father, George V.  However, when it became clear that his position as Supreme Governor of the Church of England made it impossible for him to marry Mrs Simpson, he chose to give up the Crown in favour of the woman he loved.

Edward VIII signed his Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936, and was succeeded by his younger brother, Bertie, who chose the regnal name, George VI.  Edward’s reign had lasted for 325 days and ended before he was officially crowned.

Many within his family, including his mother, viewed David’s actions as an irresponsible and serious dereliction of duty.  He would never be fully forgiven.

The former king married Wallis Simpson (pictured) in June 1937 following her divorce from her second husband.  The pair took on the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The couple spent the rest of their lives living abroad, with the Duke only returning to England to attend certain family occasions, including the funerals of his brother George VI in 1952 and his mother in 1953.

During World War II, the Duke (who, along with his wife, was suspected by some of harbouring Nazi sympathies) was appointed Governor of the Bahamas, a position he retained until 1945.

The latter years of his life were spent living in Paris, where he died of throat cancer on 28 May1972, aged 77. He is buried at Frogmore in the grounds of Home Park in Windsor.

The Duke of Windsor title became extinct upon Edward’s death.

Sinead Fitzgibbon
Read more in The Queen: History In An Hour published by Harper Press