What Are You Willing To Give Up in the Name of Love? For Edward VIII: The Throne

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor

In the field of romance, we do not usually hear powerful men and world figures giving up everything in the name of love. But in the 20th century, it happened. 

In a circumstance still considered scandalous in the British royal family, the Queen's uncle, King Edward VIII, fell in love with a commoner divorced woman not considered a dignified Queen Consort to a British king.

So controversial, it was considered the biggest constitutional crisis of the British monarchy in the 20th century. Many have wondered if the decision of King Edward VIII to give up the throne was all worth it.

The boy will ruin himself

"After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself within 12 months", King George V of Britain was quoted confiding to then British prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, about his heir, Prince David, the Prince of Wales. 

By then, the king and his wife, Queen Mary, were incensed with the kind of lifestyle their eldest son had followed. 

At 40, he was still single and undecided to settle down, and worst, enamored with married women. 

After his controversial affair with a wife of one of the members of the parliament, Freda Dudley Ward, he began a scandalous love affair with an American commoner, Wallis Simpson.

What made this affair unthinkable in the eyes of the royal family was that Mrs. Simpson had been divorced once and on the brink of divorcing her second husband. 

Within eleven months after his death, King George V's warning sounded like a prophecy. 

Giving up the throne because of love

On the cold morning of December 11, 1936, the world woke up to hear the shocking news of the abdication of the newly ascended British King, Edward VIII. 

He ascended the throne but never crowned. It was unprecedented in the anal of British history because none in its existence ever had a monarch voluntarily gave up the throne in the name of love.

In his speech, the forlorn king emphasized:

"But you must believed me when I tell you that it is impossible for me to carry the burden and responsibilities and discharge my duty as king without the support of the woman I love."

To the outside world, it sounded like the most heartwarming declaration of affection from a love-struck man. But to the royal family, it was an ultimate betrayal to duty and constitution.

To the rest of the world, Edward's action seemed to be the greatest legacy of love, a sacrifice of a man so in love he had no other choice but to give up his worldly riches to be with the woman he dearly loved.

In this season of love, let us ponder on the love story of this British king, his ultimate sacrifices and how he changed the royal tradition of falling in love and marrying someone outside the royal circle. 

The circumstances became the opening window of decision-making by the succeeding royals when it comes to choosing a partner. 

So unique and unconventional that this story became one of the greatest love stories of all time.

How Things Started?

Edward VIII, known as David, the Prince of Wales, before his ascension in January 1936, was the eldest child of King George V and Queen Mary and the paternal uncle of the current British moanrch, Elizabeth II. 

Edward and Wallis

As a future British king, he was expected to marry and find a suitable royal bride. Someone from royalty and nobility, by then no future British monarch ever married a non-aristocratic commoner.

During his time, royals were not permitted to marry a commoner, much more a divorce person, so David was expected to look for a bride within the aristocracy only. In 1935, David was courting a storm of controversy when the news of his secret love affair with Wallis Simpson became known public.

She was everything the royal family despised. An American, a commoner, once divorce and on the brink of separating from her second husband. To the world of aristocracy, she did not deserve the love of a king born to lead the powerful throne on earth.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their wedding day in June 1937

George V did everything in his power to cut the relationship but his son was so besotted with Wallis he declared he would never abandon her. 

In January 1936, George V died, David succeeded as Edward VIII and the headache of the British royal family and the parliament began. The newly-ascended king wanted to marry his lover as soon as her second divorce  became final.

For the royal family, it was pure madness. 

Greatest royal scandal in 20th century

It was considered the greatest royal family scandal in the 20th century.

As a British king, Edward would be the supreme governor of the Church of  England which never  performed a re-marriage between people who divorced, due to the fact that Christian marriages are indissoluble. 

Worst, Wallis was a non-aristocratic commoner. Something never heard from the previous Queen Consorts. 

None in the history of the British monarchy ever had a monarch married a divorcee. The relationship  was met with strong opposition from the royal family and the government.

For nine months, the controversial love affair of the king became the most heated public discussion in Britain and its dominions and threatening to fall into a constitutional crisis.

During the entire controversy, the love-struck king was so alone in his battle. He could not get support from the royal family members who upheld the ancient custom and tradition of marrying only within their circle and those deemed suitable.

The poll was conducted and the result was unanimous. Either abandon Mrs. Wallis Simpson or take the throne. 

The king chose love. And gave up the British throne. 

Upon his abdication, the throne passed to his younger brother, Prince Bertie, Duke of York, who would become King George VI. He was the father of Queen Elizabeth II.

Edward was created Duke of Windsor and was ostracized from the British court forever. On the night of his abdication, he went quietly to Austria and joined Wallis in France after her divorce from her second husband became final.

They married in June 1937 in France.

The harsh consequences for choosing love over duty

The royal family cut their ties to Edward, who would never see England again until 16 years later when he attended the funeral of his brother, King George VI. 

He was also denied of his inheritance and was forced to sell his properties to his younger brother, the new king.

Sandringham and Balmoral estates never automatically pass to the next monarch, these are private properties inherited by the monarch's eldest son. 

But Sandringham and Balmoral customarily belonged to the British crown, thus, Edward as part of the deal, needed to give it up to his brother in exchange of monetary settlement.

In addition, Edward must also renounce the succession rights of his future descendants with Wallis, although this was immaterial because he had no children with the Duchess of Windsor.

The exile and death

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived outside Paris. They were effectively cutoff from the lives of the British royal family. Other than the funeral of King George VI in 1952 and Queen Mary in 1953, the royal family maintained their distance from the disgraced couple.

But judging from history, their union was a happy one. Though abandoned by the royal family, Edward and Wallis lived a fulfilled married life and never once reported to have severe misunderstanding.

The Duke of Windsor was extra protective of his wife. Even fighting with the royal family to honor Wallis with the title she was due. 

Wallis was not accorded with the courtesy style of Her Royal Highness. She was the Duchess of Windsor but never HRH. 

She was only considered as a wife of a British duke not born of royal blood, therefore only styled as "Her Grace", though no one was heard addressing her as "Your Grace" . 

Queen Elizabeth II, Duchess of Windsor and the Queen Mother
during the funeral of the Duke of Windsor in 1972

The animosity between Wallis and the royal family lasted a lifetime. Even after the death of the Duke of Windsor in 1972 she was not treated as a member of the royal family. To them it was the consequence she deserved for creating an acrimonious crisis in 1936. 

The Duke of Windsor died in 1972 from lung cancer in France and was brought to England for the funeral. He was buried at Frogmore in Windsor. While his wife died in 1986 and was buried next to her husband. 

Her tombstone epitaph only read "Wallis, Duchess of Windsor". Devoid of any indication that she was part of the British royal family. 

Charles, Diana, the Queen and Prince Philip at the funeral of Wallis in 1986

So what are you willing to give up and how much sacrifice can you take in the name of love?

For King Edward VIII, the throne, wealth and glory.

Asking if it was all worth it for the king to give up everything to be with the woman he loved. Only history can judge. But based on the Duke of Windsor's life after the throne, he lived happily-ever after with Wallis. Perhaps, a vindication of the love he fought for.

Indeed, one must give up something to take part from another and make it a whole. One must take a highest form of self-sacrifice to prove that love conquers all. 

After all, we live today, we live everyday and not tomorrow or the next day. Life is happening now. So let's live for the moment. 

Whatever life may bring, at least we live for the day. We enjoy the moment we spend with someone we feel comfortable, someone whom we could feel "home".

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