Why did Edward VIII abdicate?

First I’ll say I don’t know beans about the rules of royalty.

But here goes: Edward VIII married a commoner. Apparently that was something he could not do and remain king. Why? If I’m the king, for example, why can’t I say, “I’m the king, and this is what I’m going to do.” Did it violate any Parliamentary laws, or just royal protocol? In the latter case, I’d just have to tell them, “Sorry, buds, this is the new protocol.”

IIRC, Mrs Simpson was also divorced.

The divorce, apparently, is what put the kibosh on the whole thing.

Just to amplify-the King/Queen of England is the spiritual leader of the Anglican church. The Anglican church does not recognize divorce and would not recognize his marriage to a divorcee. It would be rather like, if Catholicism allowed priests to marry, and the Pope wanted to marry a divorcee; he would have to go to a Protestant church for that marriage, as the church he runs would not perform or recognize such a ceremony. Obviously, this wouldn’t go over very well …

Yes, he, as King and head of the Church of England, could not marry a divorced woman (a divorced * American * woman no less). That would not do. He was told so in so many words from the Prime Minister (Balfour?) The real royal protocol is the King (or Queen) does what he’s told. The real interesting thing will be if Charles ascends to the throne and marrys Camila, essentially getting away with what his Grand-uncle couldn’t.

It’s hard to imagine, now, what a shocking thing divorce was. (That she was American, and pretty roundly disliked by everyone who ever met her except Edward VIII didn’t help, of course.) As king, he held a special position in the Anglican church, which was not keen on divorce. And, at the time, there was a great big Empire, much of which was even more conservative than Britain about that kind of stuff. Just wasn’t gonna happen.

Anyway, as mentioned, it was the divorce, not being a “commoner”, that was the deal-breaker.

This has always struck me as amusing, given that the Church of England pretty much came into being because one self important king wanted a divorece. Pope said “No”, so he sulked and made up his own church.:slight_smile:

He wanted an annulment.

there’s nothing to prevent the King from marrying a commoner (the pool would be rather small if there was). Under the Royal Marriages Act, 1752 he may not marry a Catholic, though, nor may any of the members of the Royal Family within the prohibited degrees of proximity to the Succession. (These days, if they do they must waive their rights of succession). They cannot marry without the King’s permission, either.
The religious objections to marrying a divorced women were rather stronger though. In particular the political establishment objected to him marrying this divorced woman, who was widely disliked in British upper-class society. The Prime Minister, Baldwin, indicated that his government would resign and there would have to be a General Election on the issue of the marriage.

Only if you’re an absolute monarch, I would imagine, which Edward VIII was NOT.

Another interesting thing to note, though, is that Edward never really wanted to be King in the first place-if you read biographies of him, he always dreaded it, and it’s my opinion that if it hadn’t been Wallis Simpson, it would have been something else.

Of course, in the good old days he could’ve just had Wallis’s ex-husband killed, making her a widow and thus eligible for marriage.
Damn you, Oliver Cromwell!

When did the Anglican church turn anti-divorce? Wasn’t it founded just to allow Henry VIII to divorce?

it always was. The legal fiction was that Henry’s marriage to his dead brother’s fiance was outside the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, and so had no validity.

But Wallis’s ex-husband was an American, and like any good American would have a gun to keep the King of England out of his face.

Yeah, an annulment is different than a divorce. Divorce says the marriage was consecrated, but now that agreement is being rescinded. Given that marriage is a sacrement, some sects believe you can’t simply rescind a sacrement. It would be like saying God made a mistake in blessing the union. Annulment literally means the marriage never happened. Yes, there was a ritual of consecration, but it was due to human error; God never OK’ed the deal. In Henry’s case, the Pope was the only person with the vested power to make such a judgement, being God’s mouthpiece on Earth, and so forth. In the Pope’s (read: God’s) estimation, Henry was married, and that was that.

Henry said “Eff you, I’m the King, dammit, and I’m gonna make my own church that will let me annul this marriage and have another one.”

I suppose it’s a better alternative; anulment vs., say, decaptitation. That way nobody dies if you’re shooting blanks or getting only daughters, for instance. Of course, once the English Catholic vs. Protestant thing hit the fan soon afterward, a lot of heads rolled anyway.

There is no such thing as “King Of England”. Hasn’t been for centuries.

What became of this couple anyway? Where did they live, die, kids?

Edward, now styled Duke of Windsor, left for France where he married Wallis Simpson. In 1940 the couple left for England, via Spain & Portugal. Attempts were made by the German secret service to woo him, without sucess. Edward was packed off to be Governor of the Bahamas, more to keep him out of England as much as anything. After the war they returned to France where they continued to live until Edward’s death in 1972. His wife lingered on until 1996.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_VIII_of_the_United_Kingdom

I’ve generally had the impression that if the government hadn’t very largely seen HRH Edward VIII as a very large pain in the posterior who was to be tactfully kept from gumming up the works, they would have figured out some way to accomodate his wishes regarding his marriage. Perhaps via some sort of Morganatic marriage, although Edward himself wasn’t too keen on that idea, apparently.

Edward was sympathetic to Hitler, not just that he was widely considered a ninny. That would have been disastrous during the war that was already widely expected. The Simpson marriage was certainly convenient for the rest of the family and for the government, as it provided a good pretext to get him out of the way. Note that he didn’t have a role in the wartime leadership and wasn’t even allowed to stay in Britain - he accepted a kind of exile in Bermuda, and later in France, and was only trotted out for the most formal occasions afterward.

He may not even have understood that a way could have been found, or necessary legislation passed, to keep the throne too if he had insisted. It also helped politically that he hadn’t yet been crowned.

I think I agree with Bill Bryson when he says Wallis Simpson “always seemed like an unlikely choice of shag”.

My answer to the question would just echo the above, so I thought I’d say that instead.