December 11th 1936: Edward VIII abdicates

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Edward VIII (1894 – 1972) – Despite never being crowned, this is the portrait of him in his coronation clothes

On this day in 1936, Edward VIII’s abdication of the throne of Great Britain became effective. The King abdicated due to his intention to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice divorced American socialite. The Church of England did not allow divorced people to remarry and thus Edward could not marry Simpson and keep the throne. He abdicated the throne after only 326 days, making him the only British monarch to have voluntarily renounced the throne since the Anglo-Saxon period. Edward VIII was never officially crowned King.

 

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Wallis Simpson (1896 – 1986)

Edward was succeeded by his younger brother Albert, who became King George VI. George VI’s daughter Elizabeth currently rules as Queen Elizabeth II.

 

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George VI (1895 – 1952) – the artist painted over the original portrait of Edward VIII for his brother’s coronation portrait.

 

The abdication caused a great constitutional crisis and time of instability in Britain. It is interesting to wonder what would have happened had Edward remained on the throne, for only three years into George VI’s reign, World War Two broke out. The reluctant King proved to be an excellent wartime monarch, uniting the British people and providing people with a symbol of hope. His daughter Elizabeth II was also become a beloved Queen. We will never know if Edward and his children would have served as admirably.

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