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Edward VIII - JAN-DEC 1936

Key Facts about Edward VIII

The Prince of Wales, who had a non-combatant role in the British Expeditionary forceFrance during World War I, had a natural talent for communication with men in all walks of life. He also had a love of women which became a subject of popular gossip.

After the War, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, he travelled worldwide and charmed everyone he met. At home, he showed concern for victims of the world recession which reached its lowest point in Britain in 1931. The conditions of the people in mining villages and factory towns prompted him to comment that something should be done to improve matters.

This was construed by the Conservative government in office as a political criticism. This made him enemies, whose numbers increased when it became known that the future King was emotionally entangled with a twice-divorced American woman, Wallis Simpson.

Once Edward became King - and head of the Church of England, which did - not permit divorce - the question of his possible marriage to Mrs Simpson became a hugely serious matter for the government. Although few ordinary citizens knew anything about the matter because the newspapers of the day said nothing, there was a great division of opinion among those who did know.

While the government, led by Stanley Baldwin, and the Church opposed him, Winston Churchill and other liberal-minded peers supported him. When the matter became public knowledge, Edward found, to his dismay, that he had the support of the British Union of Fascists. Ordinary citizens were also divided, but the heads of other Commonwealth states were not - they opposed the marriage.

In the end, after less than a year as King, Edward resolved the crisis by abdicating. He signed the abdication agreement, witnessed by his brothers, on 10 December 1936. Given the courtesy title of Duke of Windsor, he left Britain and, apart from a few brief visits, never returned.

When war broke out in 1939 Edward offered his services but a visit his wife had made to Hitler in 1937 and the suspicion that he had fascist sympathizers brought his loyalty into question and prejudiced his appointment to an important war job in Britain. Instead he was offered the Governorship of the Bahamas, a post he filled conscientiously and well, though his unauthorized meetings with Roosevelt were criticized.

After the war the Windsors made their home in Paris. They were unwelcome visitors to Britain and ignored by most of the Royal Family, who felt that his behaviour had discredited them. On his death his wife, the Duchess of Windsor was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace before attending his funeral and burial at the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore in Windsor.

Key Events during the Reign of Edward VIII

Edward VIII succeeds his father, George V, as King in January.

Outbreak of Spanish Civil War.

Germany, under Hitler, reoccupies the demilitarized left bank of the Rhine.

Britain begins to re-arm as political tension increases in Europe and the prospect of military conflict arises.

The Crystal Palace is destroyed by fire.

Maiden voyage of luxury ocean liner, the Queen Mary.

Gatwick Airport opens.

BBC inaugurates the world's first television service in London.

Pinewood Film Studios open. The Jarrow Hunger March begins.

Edward abdicates in December after a reign of only 325 days. His younger brother, the Duke of York, becomes George VI.

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