The Abdication of Edward VIII

Texts of the Messages, Speeches and Documents Recording the Renunciation of the Throne

January 15 1937

The Abdication of Edward VIII

Texts of the Messages, Speeches and Documents Recording the Renunciation of the Throne

January 15 1937

The texts are published by courtesy of The Canadian Press

The Message of Abdication.

On December 10, 1936, in the British House of Commons, Premier Stanley Baldwin handed to the Speaker the message from King Edward VIII announcing his decision to abdicate the throne.

I HAVE determined to renounce the throne.

After long and anxious consideration I have determined to renounce the throne to which I succeeded on the death of my father and I am now communicating this, my final and irrevocable decision.

Realizing as I do the gravity of this step, I can only hope that I shall have the understanding of my peoples in the decision I have taken and the reasons which have led me to take it.

I will not enter now into my private feeling, but I would beg that it should be remembered that the burden which constantly rests upon the shoulders of a sovereign is so heavy that it can only be borne in circumstances different from those in which I now find myself.

I conceive that I am not overlooking the duty that rests on me to place in the forefront public interest when I declare that I am conscious that I can no longer discharge this heavy task with efficiency or with satisfaction to myself.

I have accordingly this morning executed an instrument of abdication in the terms following:

I, Edward VIII, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas, King and Emperor of India, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately.

In token whereof I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of December, 1936, in the presence of the witnesses whose signatures are subscribed.

Signed, Edward R.I.

My execution of this instrument has been witnessed by my three brothers, their Royal Highnesses the Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent.

I deeply appreciate the spirit which has actuated the appeals which have been made to me to take a different decision and I have before reaching my final determination most fully pondered over them.

But my mind is made up. Moreover further delay cannot but be most injurious to the peoples whom I have tried to serve as Prince of Wales and as King and whose future happiness and prosperity are the constant wish of my heart.

I take my leave of them in the confident hope that the course which I have thought it right to follow is that which is best for the stability of the throne and Empire and happiness of my people.

I am deeply sensible of the consideration which they have always extended to me both before and after my accession to the throne and which I know they will extend in full measure to my successor.

I am most anxious that there should be no delay of any kind in giving effect to the instrument which I have executed and that all necessary steps should be taken immediately to secure that my lawful successor, my brother. His Royal Highness the Duke of York, should ascend to the throne., Edward R.I.

Mr. Baldwin*s Speech.

The speech of Right Honorable Stanley Baldwin to the House of Commons, December 10, 1936, following the reading of the King's message.

I HAVE to move that His Majesty’s most gracious message be now considered.

No more grave message has ever been received by Parliament and no more difficult and, I might almost say, more repugnant task has ever been imposed upon the Prime Minister.

I will ask the House, which I know will not be without sympathy for me now, to remember that in this last week I have had little time in which to compose a speech for delivery today.

And so I must tell what I have to tell, truthfully, sincerely and plainly, with no attempt to dress up or to adorn, and I shall have little or nothing to say in the way of comment or criticism, of praise or blame.

I think my best course today and one that the House would desire is to tell them so far as I can what has passed between His Majesty and myself and what has led up to the present situation.

I would like to say at the start that His Majesty as Prince of Wales has honored me for many years with a friendship which I value and I know that he would agree with me in saying to you that it was not only a friendship but between man and man a friendship of perfection.

I would like to tell the House when I begin that when I said “Good-by” on Tuesday night at Fort Belvedere we both knew and felt and said to each other that that friendship, so far from being impaired by discussions this last week, bound us more closely together than it ever had and would last for life.

Now, sir, the House will want to know when it was that I had my first interview with His Majesty.

I may say that His Majesty has been most generous in allowing me to tell the House the pertinent part of the discussion that took place between us.

As the House is aware, I had been ordered, in August and September, to take a complete rest which, owing to the kindness of my staff and consideration of all my colleagues I was able to enjoy fully, and when October came, although I had been ordered to take a rest that month, I felt I could not in fairness to my work take a further holiday and I came, as it were, on half time before the middle of October.

I was then, for the first time since the beginning of August, in a position to look into things.

There were two things that disquieted me at that moment.

There was coming into my office a vast volume of correspondence mainly at that time from British subjects and American citizens of British origin in the United States, all expressing perturbation and uneasiness on what was then appearing in the American press.

I was aware also that there was in the near future a divorce case coming on, the results of which made me realize that possibly a difficult situation might arise later.

I felt it was essential that someone should see His Majesty and warn him of the difficult situation that might arise later if occasion w'as given for continuation of this kind of gossip and criticism—that might come if this gossip and criticism spread from the other side of the Atlantic to this country.

I thought in the circumstances there was only one who could speak to him and talk the matter over with him and that man was the Prime Minister.

I felt doubly bound to speak, as it was my duty as I conceived it to the country and my duty to him, not only as a counsellor but as a friend.

I consulted—I am ashamed to say it, but they have forgiven me—none of my colleagues.

I happened to be staying in the neighborhood of Fort Belvedere about the middle of October and ascertained that His Majesty was leaving his house on Sunday, the 18th of October, to entertain a small shooting party at Sandringham and that he was leaving Sunday afternoon.

I telephoned from my friend’s house Sunday morning and found he (the King) had left earlier than expected.

In these circumstances I communicated with him through his secretary and stated I desired to see him.

It was the first and only occasion on which I was the one who asked for an interview.

I said I desired to see him and that the matter was urgent.

I told him what it was and I expressed my willingness to go to Sandringham, Tuesday, the 20th, but I said I thought it would be wiser, if His Majesty thought it fit, to see him at Belvedere because I was anxious at that time that none should know of my visit and that the first talk should be in complete privacy.

His Majesty replied he would motor back Monday, October 19, to Belvedere and that he would see me Tuesday morning and on Tuesday morning I saw him.

I may say before I proceed to give any details of the conversation that an adviser of the Crown can be of no possible service to his master unless he tells him at all times the truth as he sees it.

Whether that truth be welcome or not; and let me say here as I may say several times before I finish, that during those talks—when I look back—there is nothing I have not told His Majesty of which I felt he ought to be aware, but never has His Majesty shown any signs of offense, of being hurt at anything I have said to him, and the whole of our discussions have been carried through with an increase, if possible, of that mutual respect and regard in which we stood.

I told His Majesty I had two great anxieties—the effect of the continuance of criticism of the King that at the time was proceeding in the American press, and the effect it would have in the Dominions and particularly Canada, where it was widespread, and the effect it would have in this country. That was first.

I reminded him of what I have often told him and his brothers in the years past and that’s this:

The Crown in this country through centuries has been deprived of many of its prerogatives, but today, while that is true, it stands for far more than it ever had done in its history.

The importance of its integrity is beyond all question far greater than it has ever been, being as it is not only the last link of Empire that is left but a guarantee in this country, so long as it exists in that integrity, against many evils that have affected and afflicted other countries.

There is no man or woman in this country to whatever party they may belong who would not subscribe to that, but while this feeling vastly depends on the respect that has grown up in the last three generations for the Monarchy, it might not take so long in the face of the kind of criticism to which it was being exposed to lose that power far more rapidly than it was built up, and, once lost, I doubt if anything could restore it.

Now that was the basis of my talk on that aspect and I expressed my anxiety and then my desire that such criticisms should not have cause to go on.

I said that in my view no popularity in the long run would be weighed against the effect of such criticism.

I told His Majesty that I had looked forward to his reign as a great reign in a new age. He has so many of the qualities which are necessary to it.

I told him I had come naturally, and wanted to talk it over with him as a friend. Perhaps I am saying what I should not say here—I did not ask His Majesty whether I might say this-—but I will say it, because I do not think he would mind, and I think it illustrates the basis on which our talks have been held.

He said to me, not once, but many times during these many, many hours we have had together, especially toward the end, he said to me: “You and I must settle this matter together. I will not have anyone interfering.”

Well, I then pointed out the danger of the divorce proceedings; that if a verdict was given in that case which left the matter in suspense for some time, that period of suspense must be dangerous, because then everyone would be talking, and when once the press begins, as it must begin some time in this country, a most difficult situation would arise for me and for him, and there might well be the danger which both he and I have seen through all this, and one of the reasons why he wanted to take this action quickly was that there should not be sides taken and factions grow up in this country where no faction ever ought to exist.

It was on that aspect of the question that we talked for an hour and I went away glad that the ice had been broken.

My conscience at that moment was clear and for some little time we had no further meetings.

I begged His Majesty to consider all that I said. I said that I pressed him for no kind of an answer but would he consider everything'that I had said. The next time I saw him was November 16.

That was at Buckingham Palace. By that date the decree nisi was pronounced in the divorce case and I felt it my duty on that occasion—His Majesty had sent for me—I felt it my duty to begin the conversation and I spoke to him for a quarter of an hour on the question of marriage.

Again you must remember my cabinet hadn’t been in this at all.

I reported to about four of my senior colleagues the conversation at Belvedere.

I saw him Monday, the 16th, and I began by giving him my view on a possible marriage.

I told him I did not think that a particular marriage was one that would receive the approbation of the country.

That marriage would have involved a lady becoming queen and I did tell His Majesty once that I might be a remnant of the old Victorians, but my worst enemy could not say this of me—that I did not know what the reaction of the English people would be to any particular course of action.

I told him that so far as they went I was certain that that would be impracticable.

I cannot go further into the details but that was the substance and I pointed out to him that the position of the king’s wife was different from the position of the wife of any citizen of the country.

It was part of the price the king has to pay. His wife becomes the queen. The queen becomes the queen of the country and therefore in the choice of the queen the voice of the people must be heard.

It is the truth expressed in those lines which may come to the minds of the many of you.

“His will is not his own, for he himself is subject to his birth. He may not, as unvalued persons do, carve for himself, for on his choice depends the safety and the health of the whole state.”

And then His Majesty said to me, and I had his permission to tell you this, that he wanted to tell me something that he had long wanted to tell me.

He said: “I am going to marry Mrs. Simpson and I am prepared to go.”

I said: “Sir, that is most grievous news and it is impossible for me to make any comment on it today.”

He told the Queen that night. He told the Duke of York and the Duke of Gloucester the next day and the Duke of Kent, who was then out of London, either on Wednesday or Thursday, and for the rest of that week so far as I know he was considering that point.

He sent for me again on Wednesday, the 25th of November.

Meantime, the suggestion had been made to me that a possible compromise might be arranged to avoid those two possibilities that had been seen, first in the distance and then approaching nearer and nearer.

The compromise was that the King should marry and that Parliament should pass an act enabling the lady to be the King’s wife without the position of Queen.

I saw His Majesty on Wednesday, Nov. 25. He asked me if that proposition had been put to me and I said, “Yes,” and he asked me what I thought of it.

I told him that I had given it no considered opinion but if he asked me my first reaction it was that Parliament would never pass it.

I said that if he desired I would examine it formally. He said he did so desire.

Then I said it will mean my putting it formally before the whole cabinet and communicating with all the Prime Ministers of the Dominions and asked if that was his wish.

He told me that it was and I said I would do it.

On December 2, he asked me to see him. and again I had intended asking for an audience later that week because some enquiries I had thought proper to make had not been completed.

But they had gone far enough to show me that neither in the Dominions nor here would there be any prospect of such legislation being accepted.

His Majesty asked me if I could answer his question. I gave him the reply that I was afraid it was impracticable for those reasons, and I do want the House to realize this.

His Majesty said he was not surprised at that answer. He took my answer without question and he never referred to it again.

I want you to put yourselves in His Majesty’s place and realize what his feelings are and to know how glad he would have been had this been possible.

There was no formal decision of any kind until I come to the history of yesterday, but when we finished that conversation I pointed out that possible alternatives had been nulled and it had really brought him into a position when he would be placed in a grievous situation between two conflicting causes in his own heart, either complete abandonment of the project on which his heart was set and remaining ás the King, or doing as he intimated to me he was prepared to do in the talk which I have reported, and of going and, later, contracting that marriage if possible.

In the last days from that date until now that has been the struggle in which His Majesty has been engaged.

We had many talks discussing the aspect of this limited problem, the House must realize—and it is difficult to realize—that His Majesty is not a boy.

He looks so young that we all thought of him as our Prince, but he is a mature man with a wide and great experience of life and the world.

He always had before him three motives which he repeated in the course of conversation at all hours and again and again: That if he went he would go with dignity, that he would not allow a situation to arise in which he could not do that; and that he wanted to go with as little disturbance to his ministers and his people as possible.

He wished to go in such circumstances that the succession of his brother would be made with as little difficulty as possible and I may say that any idea to him of what might be called a king’s party was abhorrent.

He stayed down at Belvedere because he said he was not coming to London while these things were in dispute because of the cheering crowds. I honor and respect him for the manner in which he behaved at that time.

I have something which I think will touch the House. I have here a pencilled note sent to me by His Majesty this morning and I have his authority for reading it.

It is just simply in pencil, and it says:

“The Duke of York and the King have always been on the best terms as brothers, and the King is confident that the Duke will deserve and receive the support of the whole Empire.”

Now, sir, I would say a word or two on the King’s position. The King cannot speak for himself. The King has told us that he cannot carry, and does not see his way to carry, those almost intolerable burdens of kingship without a woman at his side, and we know that this crisis, if I may use the word, has risen now rather than later from that very frankness of His Majesty’s character which is one of his many attractions.

It would have been perfectly possible for His Majesty not to tell me this at the date when he did, and not to have told me for some months to come. But he realized the damage that might be done in the interval by gossip and rumors and talk, and he made that declaration to me when he did on purpose to avoid what he felt might be dangerous, not only here but throughout the Empire, to that very moral force of the Crown which we are all determined to sustain.

He told me his intention and he has never wavered from it. I want the House to understand that. He felt it was his duty to take into anxious consideration all representations that his advisers might give him, and not until he had fully considered them did he make public his decision.

There has been no sign of conflict in this matter. My efforts during these last days have been directed, as have the efforts of those most closely around him, in trying to help him make the choice which he has not made, and we have failed, and the King has made his decision to take this moment to send his gracious message because of his confident hope that by that he will preserve the unity of this country and the whole Empire and avoid those factious differences that might so easily have arisen.

These last days have been days of great strain. It was a great comfort to me and I hope it will be to the House when I was assured, before I left him Tuesday night, by that intimate circle that was with him at the Fort that evening, that I had left nothing undone that I could have done to move him from the decision at which he had arrived.

While there is not a soul among us who will not regret this from the bottom of his heart, there is not a soul here today that wants to judge.

We are not the judges. His Majesty has announced his decision.

He has told us what he wants us to do and I think we must close our ranks.

At a later stage this evening I shall ask leave to bring in the necessary bill so it may be read for the first time, printed, and made available to the members.

The House will meet tomorrow at the usual time, 11 o’clock, when we shall take the second reading and the remaining stages of the bill. It is very important it should be passed into law tomorrow and I shall put on the order paper tomorrow a motion to take the private members’ time and suspend the four o’clock rule.

Now I have only two other things to say. The House will forgive me for saying now what I should have said a few minutes ago. I have told the House that yesterday morning when the Cabinet received the King’s final definite announcement, officially, they passed a minute and, in accordance with it, I sent a message to His Majesty which he has been good enough to allow me to read.

Mr. Baldwin, with his humble duty to the King:

1. This morning Mr. Baldwin reports to the Cabinet his interview with your Majesty yesterday, and informed his colleagues your Majesty then communicated to him informally your firm and definite intention to renounce the throne.

2. The Cabinet received the statement of His Majesty’s intention with profound regret and wished Mr. Baldwin to convey to His Majesty immediately the unanimous feeling of His Majesty’s servants.

The ministers, reluctant to believe His Majesty’s resolve is irrevocable, still venture to hope before His Majesty pronounces any formal decision. His Majesty may be pleased to reconsider the intention which must so deeply distress and so vitally affect all His Majesty’s subjects.

3. Mr. Baldwin is at once communicating with the Dominion Prime Ministers for the purpose of letting them know His Majesty now has made to him an informal intimation of His Majesty’s intention.

Edward replied:

The King received the Prime Minister’s letter of December 9, 1936, informing him of the views of the Cabinet.

His Majesty has given the matter his further consideration, but regrets he is unable to alter the decision.

My last words on that subject are that I am convinced that where I failed no one could have succeeded. Those who know His Majesty best would know what that means.

This House today is a theatre that is being watched by the whole world and let us conduct ourselves with that dignity that His Majesty himself has shown in this hour of his trial. And, whatever be our regret at the contents of the message, let us fulfill his wishes to do what he asks and do it with speed and let no word be spoken today that the speaker or utterer of that word may regret in days to come.

Let no word be spoken that causes pain to any soul and let us not forget today the revered, beloved figure, Queen Mary. Think what all this time has meant to her and think of her when we have to speak, as speak we must during this debate.

We have, after all, as guardians of democracy in this little island, to see that we do our work to maintain the integrity of monarchy, that monarchy which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is now the sole link of the whole Empire and guardian of our freedom. Let us look forward and remember our country and the trust reposed by our country in this, the House of Commons, and let us rally behind the new King. Let us rally behind him and help him.

Whatever the country may have suffered by what we are passing through may soon be repaired and we may take a hand again in trying to make this country a better country for all the people in it.

Edward’s Farewell.

At 10 o’clock on the night of December 11, 1936, at Windsor Castle, Edward, introduced as “ His Royal Highness Prince Edward,” spoke by radio to the peoples of the Empire.

AT LONG LAST I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withold 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 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 25 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 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.

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 to 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 have never been any constitutional differences between me and them and between me and Parliament.

Bred in the constitutional traditions 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.

In the early hours of the morning of December 12, Edward sailed from Portsmouth on board a destroyer. That afternoon he landed at Boulogne and entrained for Vienna, proceeding to the castle of Baron Eugene de Rothschild at Enzesfeld, Austria.

One of the first acts of the new monarch, King George VI, was to bestow upon Edward the title of Duke of Windsor.

Queen Mary's Message.

On the night of December 11, 1936, Mary, the Queen Mother, issued a message to the nation and the Empire.

I HAVE been so deeply touched by the sympathy which has surrounded me at this time of anxiety that I must send a message of gratitude from the depths of my heart.

The sympathy and affection which sustained me in my great sorrow less than a year ago have not failed me now and are once again my strength and stay.

I need not speak to you of the distress which fills a mother’s heart when I think that my dear son has deemed it to be his duty to lay down his charge and that the reign which had begun with so much hope and promise has so suddenly ended.

I know that you will realize what it has cost him to come to this decision; and that, remembering the years in which he tried so eagerly to serve and help his country and Empire, you will ever keep a grateful remembrance of him in your hearts.

I commend to you his brother, summoned so unexpectedly and in circumstances so painful, to take his place.

I ask you to give to him the same full measure of generous loyalty which you gave to my beloved husband and which you would willingly have continued to give to his brother.

With him I commend my dear daughter-in-law who will be his Queen. May she receive the same unfailing affection and trust which you have given to me for six and twenty years.

I know that you have already taken her children to your hearts. It is my earnest prayer that in spite of, nay through, this present trouble, the loyalty and unity of our land and empire may by God’s blessing be maintained and strengthened. May He bless and guide you. 

Mary R.

Abdication Bill.

Text of the abdication bill filed in the House of Commons, December 10, 1936.

A BILL to give effect to His Majesty’s declaration of abdication and for the purposes connected therewith. Whereas His Majesty by his royal message of the 10th day of December in this present year has been pleased to declare that he is irrevocably determined to renounce the throne for himself and his descendants, and has for that purpose executed an instrument of abdication set out in the schedule to this act, and has signified his desire that effect thereto should be given immediately :

And whereas following upon the communication to his dominions of His Majesty’s said declaration and desire, the Dominion of Canada, pursuant to the provisions of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster of 1931, has requested and consented to the enactment of this act, and the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and the Union of South Africa have assented thereto :

Be it therefore enacted by the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:

1. Immediately upon Royal assent being signified to this Act, the instrument of abdication executed by his present Majesty on the 10th day of December, 1936, set out in the schedule to this Act, shall have effect, and thereunder His Majesty shall cease to be King and there shall be a demise of the Crown, and accordingly the member of the Royal Family then next in succession to the throne shall succeed to all rights, privileges and dignities thereunto belonging.

2. His Majesty and his issue, if any, and descendants of that issue, shall not alter His Majesty’s abdication or have any right, title or interest in or to succession to the throne, and section one of the act of settlement shall be construed accordingly.

3. The Royal Marriages Act of 1772 shall not apply to His Majesty after his abdication, and not to the issue, if any, of His Majesty or descendants of that issue.

This act may be cited as His Majesty’s Declaration of Abdication Act of 1936.

The attached schedule read:

I, Edward VIII, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas, King, Emperor of India, do hereby declare my irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for myself and for my descendants, and my desire that effect should be given to this instrument of abdication immediately.

In token whereof I have hereunto set my hand this tenth day of December, 1936, in the presence of witnesses whose signatures are subscribed.

Edward R. I. signed at Fort Belvedere in the presence of Albert, Henry and George (the King’s three brothers).

Proclamation of George VI.

On the morning of December 12, 1936, the Duke of York was proclaimed King as George VI.

WHEREAS, by the instrument of abdication, dated the 10th day of December instant, his former Majesty Edward VIII did declare his irrevocable determination to renounce the throne for himself and his descendants, and the said instrument of abdication now has taken effect whereby the Imperial Crown of Great Britain, Ireland and all other of his former Majesty’s dominions now solely and rightfully come to the high and mighty Prince, Albert Frederick Arthur George;

We, therefore, the Lords spiritual and temporal of this realm, being here assembled with these of His Majesty’s Privy Council, with numbers of other principal gentlemen of quality, with the Lord Mayor and aldermen and citizens of London, do now hereby with one voice and consent of tongue and heart, publish and proclaim :

That the high and mighty Prince, Albert Frederick Arthur George, is now become our only lawful and rightful liege lord, George VI, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the seas. King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, to whom we do acknowledge all faith and constant obedience, with all hearty and humble affection, beseeching God, by whom kings and queens do reign, to bless the Royal Prince, George VI, with long and happy years to reign over us.

Given at St. James’ Palace, this 12th day of December, in the year of our Lord, 1936.