Edward the VIII - Abdication

Was this the best thing that could have happened for the UK?

From my take of it, I don’t think he had the balls for the job. Whether or not he loved Simpson, he used her as a reason to escape the responsibility of being a Monarch.

Add to that, staring down the forces of the Axis powers, I think he was far better placed in some remote location in the Bahamas where he could cover up the murder of Harry Oakes.

His younger brother hated Royal life too and was unprepared for the Crown and he did a decent job at it.

If EVIIIR had remained on the throne, I suspect he would have done an okay job, he did a good job as PoW for 25 or so years.

He and his wife were a little too friendly with the Nazis.

I think you attribute a little too much importance to the role of the figurehead monarch. I mean no disrespect to George VI, who seems to have been a decent man, but it was Winston Churchill, not the king, who stared down the Axis powers. If Edward VIII had been unable to escape his responsibilities, he would have muddled through, just like his brother did.

I would say though, Edward VIII’s more or less open admiration of Hitler and the Nazis, while unable to have influenced actual British policy, would have created a very uncomfortable situation during WWII. To the point I suspect it would have caused a major crisis for the monarchy as an institution.

I tend to “like” the old British monarchy for sentimental reasons, but am a staunch believer in Republican forms of government. I suspect a Nazi sympathizing King during WWII may have been the point at which Britain became a Republic. So in a sense I do think if Edward VIII had not abdicated, he could have done in the monarchy. Not due to his sexual/marital relationships, but his political positions.

My impression is that Edward wanted to be King. And Wallis certainly wanted to be Queen. It was not their initiative to abdicate; they were pushed out by the British government.

I’ve always felt that Edward’s marriage was just an excuse. Edward had his own ideas about the role of the monarchy and felt he was entitled to take a more active role in leading Britain. He wanted to be more than just a symbolic ruler.

Parliament disagreed. But rather than force a huge political struggle over the issue of the power of the monarchy, they shifted the fight to Edward’s marriage and forced him to abdicate over that instead. This removed Edward from power without a political crisis.

The British Parliament tended to manage the monarchy by ensuring that they were foreign. From time to time they went shopping for a King who was prepared to recognise the supremacy of Parliament when the current one stepped out of line. Charles I lost his head because he steadfastly refused to recognise any authority but his own Divine Right of Kings in 1649. James II was too friendly with Catholic powers, so he was replaced with the suitably Protestant Willam of Orange. When his line ran out they had to shopping for another king and found the House of Hanover and the Georges. That line when through a (more or less) steady succession though Victoria whose relatives ended up as monarchs of Germany and Russia. They were thoroughly German, which caused a problem in WWI and the royal family chose to change their family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the more English sounding House of Winsor. The royal family survived WW1 whereas their cousins, with their fondness for absolute monarchy and their friends in the military, did not.

Edward VIII was german speaking and an admirer of Hitler, his wife was reputedly a former lover of Ribbentrop, the aristocratic Nazi foreign minister. They would have been a convenient figures around which Nazi sympathisers in the Establishment would have gathered if the UK would have sued for peace.

UK foreign policy was to let no single foreign power dominate Europe and it was quite clear that things were heading that way and there would be another war with Germany. The nation would need a King as its head of state and one that had clear Nazi sympathies clearly would not do. His brother was thought to be more reliable.

The question was: how to sell this to the public. The moral argument over the legitimacy of marrying a divorcee was a convenient excuse.

The monarchy in the UK know the rules of the game, if they step out of line, they can be replaced. All they have to do is open things, name ships, go on state visits and generally look regal. All the serious politics is take care of by elected politicians.

Republicanism is a bit pointless, it would create an issue of who would be the President and most politicians would be in dread of some of the names that might emerge. The ‘if it ain’t broken - don’t fix it’ principle applies. There are bigger fish to fry.

An overbearing Parliamentary executive is a greater danger to democracy.

I’d be interested to know quite how substantial the links were between Edward VIII and The Nazi’s. It seems as if half the UK population were not as anti Fascistic as they later claimed to be. Was this just an incident where The Nazi’s put out “feelers” to the abdicated King? I suspect there are a lot of claims that have been made about the Edward VIII Nazi links without always having substance. This is not trying to whitewash the man or his possible Nazi leanings. Simply that he was one of many people and organizations in the 1930’s who were not quite as anti Nazi as they subsequently would have liked - The Daily Mail and The BBC for example.

How true is this though, that the divorce was only a pretext to be rid of a Nazi/Germany sympathiser? My question is not of an argumentative variety. I really would like to know more on the subject. Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. Parliamentary or Establishment opinion does not seem to have been overtly anti Nazi at this time. In fact the establishment is usually criticised for not having been anti Nazi enough during the mid to late 1930’s.

This is really quite inaccurate to the point of being untrue; you’re projecting 2014 sensibilities onto a time and place that was different from today.

The idea that Wallis Simpson was nothing but a convenient excuse is just not at all consistent with the facts. She was an absolutely huge problem. Today we think very little of divorce (especially amongst celebrities) but at the time the idea of the King marrying a twice-divorced socialite, with whom he was carrying on when she was still married, was genuinely scandalous. As head of the Church of England, at a time when that mattered a hell of a lot more to people than it does now, it simply would not do Not only was Parliament staunchly opposed to it but many of the Dominions flatly refused the idea as well; because of the Statute of Westminster 1931, they had to sign off on changes to the rules regarding succession.

This isn’t to say he was not already disliked, because he was. Edward was, to be perfectly frank, a fool and a titanic jackass, and almost everyone who knew him was awestruck by the fathomless depths of his stupidity; members of his own family openly mused how things would have been better if Albert/George VI had been born first. His reputation as a jackass doubtless made the Wallis Simpson situation seem more dire, but they would have lived with a jackass. A jackass married to Wallis Simpson, no way.

Not true at all, so far as I can tell. Churchill was very much opposed to the Nazis by 1936, but he supported the idea that Edward should remain King.

This is sloppy phrasing - he could speak German, but he was an English speaker.

Yes, this thought came to me soon after I posted. Churchill had little power in 1936. Though I think his view on Naziism and Edward VIII shows the establishment was not of a unified position on either issue.

Not only that, but Edward was a lot more pro-German than most realize, and was before the Nazis came to power.

Edward and Simpson were a serious security risk because of their close relationship with Nazis like Ribbentrop. The UK Government could not trust Edward to act in a non-political way, which was (and is now) the accepted convention. They were Nazi sympathisers and became involved in intrigues which perplexed UK governments before and especially during WWII. There were damning reports on them by both the UK secrets services and later by the FBI.

These serious political concerns were hidden from the public behind the moral/religious argument that raged over the abdication, this suited all concerned.

The best thing that could have happened for the UK would have been for the Edward and Simpson to be confined to the UK after abdication. Their activities in France, Spain and the Bahamas caused serious problems for UK government and the monarchy.

The fellow was a hopelessly immature drunk who refused to accept the rules which British monarchs are obliged to follow. Mrs Simpson was a bad influence. They were a disaster waiting to happen and the Establishment and, indeed, the rest of the Monarchy were well aware of this.

A story of King who gave up everything for the woman he loved was a very romantic story. But it would be a mistake to imagine that it was simply because of a prejudice against divorce.

Edward would have been a disaster on so many levels at a time when the UK needed a reliable monarch for the testing time ahead. Even his father recognised this, despairing of his son.

Edward was not removed for being pro-Hitler. Many, many high-level officials and politicians in Britain at the time were as much, if not more so, pro-Hitler. What’s more, known opposers of the Nazis, such as Churchill, steadfastly supported Edward’s right to remain King.

Nevertheless he refused to accept the advice of his Ministers, the government of the day - they rightly viewed his proposed marriage to a twice-divorced American of questionable decorum as damaging to the monarchy and the state.

Thing is though, it’s possible he could have remained King and married his future wife if he’d gone about the situation better and more maturely. He presented it to the nation as ‘I’m going to marry this woman with or without your blessing, my subjects, and if I can’t have her then you can’t have me!’.

What he could, and should, have done is thus: "I love this woman but I know I am your King. I do not feel I am capable of living up to the standards you set for me without this woman by my side. If you wish me to abdicate for the good of the country, I shall do so, but it will not be without deep regret for the duty I would be declining.’

Like many pre-war, he admired the Nazis but not necessarily because they were Nazi, but because, like many, he felt extremely guilty for the way the defeated Germans had been treated by the Allies after WW1, and felt that the Nazis were an inevitable consequence of the Allies’ stupidity. At least now, unsavoury as they are, Germany is being respected again, and hey, that stuff they say about the Jews, no smoke without fire, eh?

There were tons of Britishers who thought like this before the war but became the staunchest of patriots when the war broke out. I can’t say for certain that Edward VIII would have been one of them, but I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility.

This is all a confused jumble of things that seem to ignore the timeline. Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, at which point Britain not only was not at war with Germany, but people still considered it rather unlikely (if not unthinkable) such a war would happen. What Edward did AFTER his abdication obviously has nothing to do WITH his abdication.

As Malden points out, ambiguity about the Nazis was not an uncommon thing in Britain in 1936 and Edward would not have even made the UK’s Top 100 Admirers Of Things Nazi, who prior to getting really super murderous were regarded with admiration, with varying degrees of grudgingness, by millions of people who would a few years later be the mortal enemies of all things Nazi. Nobody in 1936 was spoiling for a fight with Germany.

Again I cannot emphasize enough that it is true Edward was a colossal idiot and nobody who knew him though he’d be a good King, but your characterization of the Simpson issue as being nothing more than a convenience is just not true. It is objectively the case that it was a serious problem.

His mother, Mary of Teck, although a great granddaughter of George III, had a German father. She was a German princess by birth and very much a German speaker with deeply German roots. Edward VIII was said to speak, read and write both German and French although not particularly well. In later life he settled in Paris with his wife.

He and his snobby wife were miserable people: lazy, poorly educated, arrogant, nasty, racist, anti-Semitic as well as incredibly ungrateful for their almost unreal privileges. You can’t really say anything nice about either one of them.

Their successors had many less than ideal qualities but it not unreasonable to admire both for their bravery during WWII. Unlike other nearby royals, they stayed in London and endured the bombings with everyone else. George and Elizabeth helped rally the English to fight WWII and served as figures for resistance to Hitler.

Not to knock on HM’s, but Britain was bombed, not invaded. The other royals would have had appointments with Panzer Divisions if they had stayed much longer. Of the WW2 leaders, only Stalin stayed put in a “Guderian at the gates” situation.

Wasn’t Princess Margaret basically told that her potential spouse was unsuitable because he had been divorced and she had to marry someone else if she wanted to keep her royal position? And when Prince Charles finally married the first time, the only acceptable prospects were virgins of the nobility or royalty. A lot has changed in a few years (Prince William could never have married Kate under the rules his father had to follow), but I don’t find it hard to believe that the prospect of the King of England marrying a twice-divorced woman would have been considered extremely problematic in the 1930s.