Imagine you fall in love but your boss says you can’t get married. More than that. Your boss says that if you insist on marrying, you’ll have to resign. Scandalous, right?
Well, spare a thought for King Edward VIII of Britain. He lost an empire for love.
But then you might not want to spare a thought for him. He later became a Nazi sympathizer and dreamed of leading England again, not as king but as Hitler’s puppet dictator.
In 1936 Edward became King of England and Emperor of the British Empire. This job lasted only 325 days as he became the only English king in history to voluntarily give up the crown.
It is only quite recently that Queen Elizabeth II speaks publicly with Prince Charles’ second-wife Camilla Parker Bowles. It used to be unthinkable. So imagine what it was like 67 years ago when the King of England himself was having a relationship with a twice divorced American woman.
Stanley Baldwin, the British Prime Minister at the time, tried to convince the king that he was irreparably damaging the Crown by his actions. The King suggested a morganatic marriage.
In a morganatic marriage an aristocratic man marries a common woman on the understanding that she has no rights or titles from the marriage. This is rather like what Hollywood stars do in their prenuptial contracts today.
The idea made the British people even angrier and the King had to choose between Wallis Simpson or the British Empire.
He addressed the nation by radio December 11 1936:
He became the Duke of Windsor and Wallis was granted the title of Duchess. They left England to live in France and travel around Europe. The couple met Adolph Hitler in 1937 and the Duke said that Hitler’s defeat would be a disaster!
Parliament sent him to the Bahamas as Governor when the war began. After 1945, with a steady income from the British government but no official role, the Duke and Duchess lived abroad — in Paris, the south of France and in the United states in Florida and New York — for the rest of their lives. The Duke died in 1972 and Wallis died in 1986. They are both buried at Windsor in England.
It is curious to think that the present monarch Queen Elizabeth II is queen only because of a twice divorced American woman’s ability to turn a crowned head.