Trivia Minute October 26, 2015

203: Wallis Simpson and the Abdication of Edward VIII

by Marcus Michelson
"Wallis Simpson and Prince 1935" by Photographer unknown - Published in Life, 14 December 1936, p. 37. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wallis_Simpson_and_Prince_1935.jpg#/media/File:Wallis_Simpson_and_Prince_1935.jpg
Edward, Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson in 1935 before their marriage. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1936, Wallis Simpson was granted a divorce from her second husband, Ernest Aldrich Simpson, setting up the British constitutional crisis that led to the abdication of King Edward VIII.

Here are some things you may not have known about Wallis Simpson and the abdication crisis.

Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in 1896 in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, a popular summer resort among those looking to escape the summer heat of Baltimore. Her father died of tuberculosis before her first birthday. Her uncle paid for her to attend the most expensive girls school in the state, where she excelled in the classroom.

She married her first husband, a navy pilot in 1916. They divorced 11 years later. She married her second husband, a shipping executive, one year later and moved to London. In 1931, through a friend, Mrs. Simpson met Edward, Prince of Wales. Soon after, her husband began to suffer financial troubles. In 1934, Simpson became the Prince’s mistress, which was confirmed by his staff catching them in the act.

The Prince began neglecting his official duties to spend time with Mrs. Simpson, and showered her with money and jewelry. In 1936, King George V died and Edward ascended to the throne as Edward VIII. The King is required to be in communion with the Church of England as its Supreme Governor. At the time the church did not allow the remarriage of people with living ex-spouses. On October 27, 1936, Simpson’s divorce from her husband was granted.

Edward tried to negotiate a way to remain king and marry Wallis Simpson, however the prime ministers of the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa rejected all of the King’s proposals. Defeated, the King signed the Instrument of Abdication on December 10 1936, leading to his brother George VI ascending to the throne.

Edward was created Duke of Windsor after his abdication, and Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor upon their marriage on June 3, 1937. She was not allowed to be called “Her Royal Highness,” and was instead referred to as “Her Grace.” Later that year, the couple met with Adolf Hitler in pre-war Germany. After the war, she and the Duke became friends with Oswald Mosley, the founder of the British Union of Fascists. The couple were widely believed to have been Nazi sympathizers.

The Duke of Windsor died of cancer in 1972 at age 77. Wallis Simpson died in 1986 at the age of 89.

Our question, Edward VIII reigned for less than a year, one of the shortest reigns in British history. His niece, Queen Elizabeth II is the longest-reigning monarch, and his great-grandmother, Victoria, was the second-longest reigning monarch. Who was the third-longest reigning monarch?

Today is Flag Day in Greece, Independence Day in Turkmenistan and Navy Day in the United States. Unofficially, it’s also American Beer Day. It’s the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt, poet Dylan Thomas and actor John Cleese.

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