“The most serious decision of my life” – Edward VIII

Edward VIII (1894-1972), King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and Emperor of India (January 20-December 11, 1936), later known as the Duke of Windsor. He fell in love with an American woman, Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson, then married to her second husband. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin counseled Edward, as king and head of the Church of England, to remove all cause for the rumors. Then Mrs. Simpson was granted a divorce. The king confided to Baldwin that he intended to marry Mrs. Simpson even if it meant his abdication. A morganatic marriage was proposed, but the cabinet was unwilling to accept this compromise.

Therefore, the king abdicated in favor of his brother, the Duke of York, who became King George VI. Edward received the title Duke of Windsor and married Mrs. Simpson.

On December 11, 1936, Edward VIII announced his abdication in a radio broadcast. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) relayed his valedictory speech to almost every Commonwealth country. This is the full transcript of the speech, in which he explained that his intention to marry an American divorcee, Wallis Warfield Simpson, had made it impossible for him to continue as king.

Valedictory Speech

At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.

A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.

You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.

And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.

I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.

Duke of Windsor and wife, on their wedding day

This decision has been made less difficult to me by the sure knowledge that my brother, with his long training in the public affairs of this country and with his fine qualities, will be able to take my place forthwith without interruption or injury to the life and progress of the empire. And he has one matchless blessing, enjoyed by so many of you, and not bestowed on me – a happy home with his wife and children.

During these hard days I have been comforted by her majesty my mother and by my family. The ministers of the crown, and in particular, Mr. Baldwin, the Prime Minister, have always treated me with full consideration. There has never been any constitutional difference between me and them, and between me and Parliament. Bred in the constitutional tradition by my father, I should never have allowed any such issue to arise.

Ever since I was Prince of Wales, and later on when I occupied the throne, I have been treated with the greatest kindness by all classes of the people wherever I have lived or journeyed throughout the empire. For that I am very grateful.

I now quit altogether public affairs and I lay down my burden. It may be some time before I return to my native land, but I shall always follow the fortunes of the British race and empire with profound interest, and if at any time in the future I can be found of service to his majesty in a private station, I shall not fail.

And now, we all have a new King. I wish him and you, his people, happiness and prosperity with all my heart. God bless you all! God save the King!


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