Edward VIII Abdicates the Throne

Edward VIII (1894-1972) became King of England upon the death of his father, George V, on January 20, 1936.

Nearly 42-years-old and a bachelor, Edward then made known his desire to marry an American woman named Wallis Warfield Simpson, whom he had known since 1931. He sought the approval of his family, the Church of England, and the political establishment to marry her, but met with strong opposition. She had been married twice before and her second divorce was still pending.

The love affair and possible royal marriage resulted in sensational newspaper headlines around the world and created a storm of controversy, but did not sway Edward. On December 10, 1936, King Edward VIII submitted his abdication and it was endorsed by Parliament the next day. He thus became the only British monarch ever to resign voluntarily.

The speech below is from December 11th, when Edward publicly announced his decision via radio to a worldwide audience.

His younger brother, George VI, took the throne and immediately gave Edward the title, Duke of Windsor. The Duke and Simpson were married in France on June 3, 1937 and lived in Paris. During World War II, Edward served as governor of the Bahamas. He died in Paris on May 28, 1972. His wife died there, April 24, 1986.

At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.

A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.

You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.

I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.

This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the empire. And he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me -- a happy home with his wife and children.

During these hard days I have been comforted by her majesty my mother and by my family. The ministers of the crown, and in particular, Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration. There has never been any constitutional difference between me and them, and between me and Parliament. Bred in the constitutional tradition by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.

Ever since I was Prince of Wales, and later on when I occupied the throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of the people wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the empire. For that I am very grateful.

I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden. It may be some time before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and empire with profound interest, and if at any time in the future I can be found of service to his majesty in a private station, I shall not fail.

And now, we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all! God save the King!

Edward VIII - December 11, 1936

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