Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11, 1936 – Edward VIII of England Crowned

After a scandalous summer, Edward VIII would stand in Westminster Abbey in December to receive the Crown and swear to uphold the laws of England, Scotland, and the Empire as well as serve as Defender of the Faith. He had reigned since the death of his father, George V, that January, and a suitable amount of time of mourning had passed to engage in the celebration of a new monarch. It would be a change of obedience to tradition from Edward’s notorious shirking, such as his insistence on facing left on coins to show the part of his hair instead of following the usual alternating of the direction faced with every new monarch.

In the minds of many, there was concern that Edward, Prince of Wales, would be suitable for king at all. He had lived a good royal childhood, but Alan Lascelles, his private secretary during the ‘20s and ‘30s, wrote “for some hereditary or physiological reason his normal mental development stopped dead when he reached adolescence.” He carried on many affairs, some with married women, and caused great concern from his father and the prime minister. In 1930, George V gave Edward a house at Fort Belvedere, where he would meet the woman that would forever change his life, Mrs. Wallis Simpson. The American had divorced her first husband, Earl Spencer, in 1927, and was currently married to Ernest Simpson. Despite the marriage, Edward fell in love with her, and she with him, which caused scandal to arise so much that the King and Prime Minister had them followed by secret police.

When the king died on January 20, 1936, Edward ascended the throne and immediately continued scandal. He observed the proclamation of his ascension alongside the still-married Mrs. Simpson, criticized the Government by saying “something must be done” upon visiting the struggling miners of South Wales, and suggested to some that he meant to marry the divorcée Mrs. Simpson, which would be morally unacceptable as the leader of the Church of England.

Everything in Edward’s life changed again on July 16, 1936, as he was horseback riding near Buckingham Palace. On Constitution Hill, Jerome Brannigan, an Irishman, produced an envelope for the King. Inside were letters, photographs, and various papers showing that Mrs. Simpson had been seeing, and doing more, with other men. The King became furious, and police escorted Brannigan away. While some modern historians suspect the documents were fabricated by MI5, they were treated as genuine at the time. Edward immediately broke relations with Mrs. Simpson through a letter and refused to receive her despite the many times she asked. In an action that had shown shocking discipline for the man who had left Oxford without a degree, the King searched through little-used law until he found grounds to banish Mrs. Simpson from Britain and the whole of the Empire. She would move to France and later be married to writer and painter Henry Miller for her third marriage.

Following his split from Mrs. Simpson, Edward became what those close to the royal family described as “a hard man.” He threw himself into the work of the king and made good on his note that “something must be done”, pushing for new socialist systems being integrated into Britain. His policies on the colonies were initially indifferent, then forcefully paternal, such as famously saying that there were "not many people in Australia" and he didn’t care for their opinion.

Most famously in his reign was his relationship with German Fuhrer Adolph Hitler. Edward had seemed an admirer of Hitler’s, and many of Edward’s programs at overcoming the Depression in Britain mirrored those of the Third Reich. In 1938, however, upon Hitler’s desire for expansion into Czechoslovakia, the King forbade Prime Minister Chamberlain to give expansionist Germany a single inch. The French Government sought peace at the expense of imperialism, but Edward refused, even if it meant war. He had observed the trenches in WWI and noted that he did not want war, but he would be willing to risk military action in order to protect the world from predators. He wrote then-MP Winston Churchill, “I was promised peace once before, and I was betrayed. Never again will I or my country ascribe to vague promises from those who shall not keep them.”

War did erupt in 1939 with Hitler’s military occupation of the Sudetenland , and Edward had made certain that the British Armed Forces were ready with years of preparation and military buildup. Using allied Poland and Belgium as launching grounds, the expeditionary forces caught Hitler in a pincer move along with French forces from the Saarland. The Fuhrer was found dead in his bunker after the taking of Berlin in 1941, apparently from suicide.

After the war, Britain regained its position as leader among world affairs. Edward would spend the rest of his reign putting out the fires of Communism and independence in various parts of the empire. After years of strenuous work, he died in 1962 at age 67. Having never married, he would be succeeded by his niece, Queen Elizabeth II.

In reality, Edward VIII abdicated on December 11, 1936. Jerome Brannigan had approached him with a pistol, supposedly out of aiding MI5 sort out an international plot on the king’s life. Facing great political pressure, he decided to leave the crown for true love. He would marry Wallis June 3, 1937, be considered pro-Nazi, and continue to spark scandal until the Duke of Windsor’s death in 1972.


  1. on Today in Alternate History in the reversal Abdication, Redux Edward VIII's written abdication notice is witnessed by British Prime Minister Arnold Hiller .. who had forced him out join the posts of Head of State and Head of Government become Great Britain's National Leader.

  2. I can see him turning on Mrs. Simpson if he thought her unfaithful, but deserting his best bud Adolf? Mmm...probably not.


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