On the 20th January 1936, Edward VIII became King of England after his father, King George V died. Later that year, on the 10th December he abdicated - having not yet been crowned - in a speech to the British public saying: "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love."
In 1931, a friend of Edward's, Thelma Furness, introduced him to an American woman named Wallis Simpson at a party in London. Simpson was then in her second marriage after having divorced her first husband to be able to marry her second, Ernest Simpson. Following that meeting, Edward and Simpson proceeded to have a serious relationship. When Edward ascended to the throne in January 1936, it was assumed that this relationship would end. However, the pair were seen together on a Mediterranean cruise that summer. It then became clear that they intended to marry. But the match was not approved of by either the Church of England, the government or many Britons. Simpson had been divorced once (twice after she divorced Ernest Simpson in October 1936) and both her husbands were still alive, it was therefore condemned by many for her to remarry; even more so for the King, who as head of the Church of England, ought to follow their customs. As a result, when Edward announced to Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin that they intended to marry, he was told that the government would not accept the marriage and that the people too would not be happy with Simpson as their queen. So, he suggested three options going forward:
- Royal Marriage: Edward and Mrs. Simpson marry each other and she becomes Queen.
- Morganatic Marriage: Edward and Mrs. Simpson marry each other, but Mrs. Simpson does not become Queen and receives another courtesy title instead.
- Abdication: Edward abdicates and is no longer King. He would then be able to marry Mrs. Simpson without having to think of the opinion of the people and the government anymore.
As Edward was King of Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa as well as England, the Prime Ministers of these countries would need to approve his decision. He came to the decision of a morganatic marriage, but this was not approved of by the other governments, so he had to abdicate instead. The Instrument of Abdication was signed on the 10th December 1936, making Edward the only British monarch who had ever voluntarily abdicated. He became the Duke of Windsor, and his brother George took to the throne. The couple married in France in June 1937, creating a divide in the Royal family. Wallis Simpson was not accepted by Buckingham Palace until 1968.