Thursday, September 21, 2006

Good evening, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101. I’m terribly sorry about the lack of an installment last week – due to some rather severe technical difficulties, I was unable to record anything at all. However, British History 101 is back in full swing this week, and I’m glad you’ve tuned in to listen.
Throughout the course of history, it has been quite rare that a ruler will give up their power willingly. Tonight, we’ll take a look at one of those events – the abdication of King Edward VIII. This man, who went from being “Edward VIII, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India,” to the much simpler (and shorter) “His Royal Highness the Duke of Windsor,” was at the center of one of England’s most scandalous events during the 20th century.
George V of England died on 20 January 1936, thus passing the throne on to his son Edward. Edward took on the customary Roman numerals immediately, and was proclaimed (but not crowned) king the next day. Edward broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of himself as king from a window of St. James’ Palace – while a bit unnerving, this breach of protocol is not what gave the nation and Edward’s ministers pause. What was most troubling was Edward’s companion during the proclamation – Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the (still married) woman that Edward had apparently fallen in love with. Edward’s desire to marry Simpson became quite clear when divorce proceedings between Wallis and her husband were brought to Ipswich Crown Court.
Even with Simpson getting a divorce, the situation posed a problem not seen since the days of Henry VIII. British kings since the time of Henry have taken the title Defender of the Faith, and as such the reigning monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England – the Church which did not permit divorced people to remarry in a church while their ex-spouses were still alive. Simpson, with her latest divorce, had two ex-spouses at the time – both of whom were still living. On these grounds, marriage to Simpson was impossible.
More worrisome than the legal and constitutional ramifications of marriage to Simpson was the divorcee’s background. Many saw Wallis as a sex fiend and claimed she held supreme power over Edward via her powers of seduction. It was also known to Edward’s ministers (although not Edward himself) that Wallis had two other lovers while involved with Edward – a married car mechanic and a salesman named Guy Trundle. It has come to light since then that Wallis had yet another lover – Edward Fitzgerald, the Duke of Leinster, who aside from being a peer was also one of King Edward’s closer friends. Simpson disgusted the public in general – especially the public living in her hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. Americans weighed in with their opinions of Wallis, suggesting many terrible things about her – that she had been a prostitute in Baltimore, that she was a “gold digger,” a lesbian (looked down upon by the world at that time), transsexual, and recipient of an abortion. Furthermore, the United States’ FBI reported that Simpson had an affair in 1936 with the German Reich’s Ambassador to Britain, Joachim von Ribbentrop. This led the governments of both the United States and the United Kingdom that Simpson was a Nazi sympathizer – undoubtedly, a terrible thing for the King of Britain to get involved in. While the validity of these claims will most likely never been known for sure, they do an excellent job of portraying the public opinion of Ms. Wallis Simpson in 1936.
Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom under Edward, made it clear that were Edward to marry Wallis, the members of the government under the king would all resign. Baldwin thus presented three options to Edward in handling the situation: 1) Marry, and Wallis Simpson would become Queen (which Edward would not do, as the government would resign); 2) Marry, and Wallis would receive a lesser title than Queen (known as a morganatic marriage); 3) Abdicate, and marry Wallis. Upon review, all but one of Edward’s prime ministers throughout the empire rejected the first two options – they would all resign if he chose either one.
With this in mind, Edward chose the third option – he would have to abdicate. On 10 December 1936, in the presence of his brothers Prince Albert, Duke of York, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and Prince George, Duke of Kent, King Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication at his home at Fort Belvedere. The following day, Edward committed his last act as King when he gave royal assent to the legislative document acknowledging his leaving of the throne, His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act 1936, thus removing himself as monarch from all the dominions of the Kingdom – except for the Irish Free State. It is an oddity that, because of the way the government worked with the Irish Free State, Edward remained King of Ireland for a day, waiting for the Irish to pass the External Relations act which acknowledged his abdication a day after he did so throughout the rest of the Kingdom.
Edward passed the crown on to his brother Albert, the Duke of York, who immediately became King George VI (whose daughter, we should all know, was Princess Elizabeth). With this, his new title was Prince Edward, until George made him Duke of Windsor soon after – with the provision that “his wife and descendants, if any, shall not hold said title or attribute” – Edward would not pass on his title.
The night that the Declaration of Abdication Act 1936 was signed, Edward made a broadcast to his former Kingdom. The most famous quote from this broadcast is, “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.”
Edward, Duke of Windsor, married his love on 3 June 1937 at Chateau de Candè, Monts, France, where Edward was in exile. Because the Church of England refused to perform the ceremony, the Reverend Robert Jardine of Yorkshire offered to marry the couple in a church ceremony. King George forbade anyone from the royal family from attending the wedding, and told Edward that he would cut off his customary royal allowance if he returned to Britain without an explicit invitation from the king.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor visited Germany that year, on a personal invitation from Adolf Hitler. They then settled in France, where they lived for two years until Germany invaded France, before fleeing to Spain and then Portugal. With Wallis’ alleged affair with the German ambassador and the Duke’s defeatist attitude toward the new war in Europe, it was decided that the pair needed to be kicked out of Europe. A British warship carried them to the Bahamas, where Edward was installed as Governor. It is thought by some that Edward and Wallis were Nazi sympathizers, and that they were shut away in the Bahamas so as to get them away from the war and thus minimize the chance that they would act on their sympathies.
Edward, Duke of Windsor and the proclaimed but never crowned King of Great Britain, died in May 1972 in Paris of throat cancer. He was buried at Frogmore near Windsor Castle, where Wallis joined him in the late 1980s. The man who, at one time, was known as the Prince Edward, Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland,” died a blemish on the Windsor family and the shame of a nation. It would be difficult to say that he was missed.
As past listeners know, I’ve been having a lot of trouble with the British History 101 blog. The problem has been corrected, although I hope this is only a temporary fix. The blog’s address is much the same as the old one, but with hyphens inserted; it’s now located at I understand it’s a terribly cumbersome URL but with the extremely limited budget of British History 101, my domain choices are quite limited. I hope you’ll update your bookmarks and continue to enjoy the blog as much as before!
I received an email this week from Jane in California with her compliments on the show (thank you, Jane!), and she brought a startlingly obvious yet fascinating thought to light. Jane points out that with the beginning of printed text, the printing process (and thus the reception of content) was controlled by geography – people grouped together because, simply, books were available. It didn’t really matter what the books were about; as long as someone was able to read them, people would gather and hear whatever was contained in the text. However, with the development of podcasts, people are now able to gather according to the content itself – if someone knows what they want to learn about, they can hop onto the Internet and find exactly what they’re looking for. We see clusters of people sharing the same thoughts and ideas because they’re able to find each other, whereas before you learned whatever the guy next to you was learning because that’s all there was around. Jane suggested that perhaps there is a parallel between the development of the printed word and the now-podcasted word. Some excellent food for thought, to say the least; drop me a line if you have anything you’d like to pitch in on this issue, and it would be nice if we could continue this discussion in future episodes. Thanks again, Jane.
That’s it for this episode. If you’d like to look back over our discussion of Edward, check out my blog at for a transcript of this and, in the future, every other episode – unfortunately I’m not technically savvy enough to import the archived transcripts from the old blog. Send suggestions, questions, comments, rants, and raves to Our music tonight is “Angelus ad Virginem,” performed by Briddes Roune and available on Magnatune is an independent online record label that equally shares all revenue from album sales with their hand-selected artists while allowing them to retain full rights to their works. Visit for great music at low prices and support the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until next week, my best to you all, and have a great night. Thanks for listening, and I can’t wait to learn with you again.

I was wondering do you happen to know where I may get a copy of the FBI report which states Wallis Simpson was a Nazi spy, or a web/blogg address that may have the details.
Tony Mitchell.
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