The Abdication Crisis

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  • Created by: Pip Dan
  • Created on: 20-09-17 15:50

During the relativity unstable time of the Great Depression in Britain and the political struggles abroad which would plunge the world into WWII; political stability at home was vital. The National Government was able to meet this standard; however, the Abdication Crisis of 1936 questioned whether the monarchy could.

When George V died on January 20, 1936, his eldest son Prince Edward became King Edward VIII. He had become the most public and best-known heir to the throne since his grandfather, Edward VII. But, unknown to the British public, some years before his accession he had fallen in love with an American, Wallis Simpson, who was then married to a British subject, Ernest Simpson. Their marriage was becoming highly unstable due to both parties in the relationship taking a lover. Mrs and Mr Simpson’s marital problems became public knowledge resulting in the government speculating on the rapidly developing relationship between Edward and Mrs Simpson.

This came to a head in October of the same year, when Edward rented a house for Mrs Simpson. After which Baldwin confronted Edward and asked him to hide his relationship because it was not approved of by the government. However, things full escalated when the Simpsons were granted a decree nisi, allowing them to get divorced within a year. Edward spoke to Baldwin and proclaimed that he wished to marry Wallis. If he could not marry her and maintain his position on the throne, he said that he was ‘prepared to go’.

The idea that Edward marry Wallis, and remain King, was heavily criticised by many areas of British society. Baldwin himself, his cabinet, the Church of England, most of the Royal Family and the bulk of public opinion throughout the Empire was opposed the marriage. Abdication seemed to be the only viable option. On December 10, 1936, after days of wild newspaper speculation about the constitutional crisis, the king abdicated. He could not, as he said in his famous radio speech on December 11, 1936, continue to perform his duties without the support of the ‘woman I love’, and he left the throne to his…

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