The king was forced to abdicate after the British government, the public, and the Church of England were all against his decision to marry a woman who was a divorcee.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 15, 2022. It has since been updated.
King Edward VIII ascended the throne on January 20th, 1936, after the death of his father, King George V. But, the same year, on December 11th, he signed abdication papers and gave up his throne.
He announced it via radio broadcast, declaring, "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," according to PEOPLE.
According to The History Press, the king was forced to abdicate after the British government, the public, and the Church of England were all against his decision to marry a woman who was a divorcee. This woman who he was head over heels in love with was Wallis Simpson, a socialite from Pennsylvania and also a two-time divorcee.
#OnThisDay 85 years ago: Dec 10, 1936: His Majesty King Edward VIII abdicated as King-Emperor to marry Mrs Wallis Simpson …. pic.twitter.com/eNJl0s11Z6— Michael Rhodes (@migrhodes) December 10, 2021
Wallis had apparently behaved very coldly with Edward just a day before their wedding. The day after their wedding, Wallis woke up to find her husband "standing beside the bed with this innocent smile, saying, 'And now what do we do?'," per Daily Mail.
"My heart sank. Here was someone whose every day had been arranged for him all his life and now I was the one who was going to take the place of the entire British government, trying to think up things for him to do," Wallis later told the writer Gore Vidal.
On this day in 1936, King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in order to marry his lover, Wallis Simpson. “EDWARD DECIDES FOR LOVE,” one of the headlines read. Revisit Robert Benchley on the press’s chase for the “greatest news story of our time.”https://t.co/mdwiidToV3— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) December 11, 2021
Wallis' friend Constance Coolidge, who’d also been listening to the broadcast where he gave up his throne, later commented: "Can you imagine a more terrible fate than to have to live up publicly to the legend of a love you don’t feel? To have to face, morning, noon, and night, a middle-aged boy with no other purpose in life than a possessive passion for you?"
It is believed that Wallis had many post-marital affairs. Without her knowledge, her secret meetings were being logged by the British Secret Service, who'd been asked by the Government to keep an eye on both her and the Duke of Windsor.
Rumors have it that Wallis had an affair with an American ambassador in Paris and was dallying with a used car salesman. She also had been in love with Herman Rogers, a businessman during whose second marriage she told his wife, "I'll hold you responsible if anything happens to Herman. He's the only man I've ever loved."
“It was a total mess,” says Andrew Morton, author of Wallis In Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, The Woman Who Changed the Monarchy, said, according to New York Post. “He was utterly adoring, and she had to put on an act, realizing that he had given up the throne of the greatest empire in order to marry a twice-divorced American. If she kicked him to the curb, she’d be the most reviled woman in British history.”
Wallis wanted to end her relationship with Edward when he became King in January 1936, but by then he was so obsessed with her that he threatened to kill himself if she left him. Though the two remained married, she was feeling unfulfilled.
Over the years, numerous friends and acquaintances observed that Wallis was domineering, and treated her husband like an infant, frequently reducing him to tears. This only made the Duke restless and unhappy, Duke's confidant Kenneth de Courcy, shared.
Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII— Helena Ereditsh Dr (@ereditsh) June 24, 2021
When Edward VIII fell in love with American divorcée Wallis Simpson it was an affair shocked a nation and threw Britain's monarch into a constitutional crisis. Due to strong opposition from the church and government over their marriage, Edward pic.twitter.com/xmB7YyqxaU
"Did she love the Duke of Windsor?" he reflected. "I am afraid the sad answer is that she did not… I think he knew it and it was that which induced him to concede his very innermost person to her authority in the hope that love would come."
Ultimately, Edward died in 1972 at age 77, and she in 1986 at 89, after suffering from dementia and living in seclusion.
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Mike McKeown | Daily Express