[Attributed to Vincenzo Laviosa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

June 3, 1937: A Former King Marries The Love Of His Life

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On June 3, 1937, the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, married Wallis Simpson, an American socialite. This event, held at the Château de Candé in Monts, France, changed the direction of the British monarchy forever.

Edward VIII had ascended to the throne on January 20, 1936, following the death of his father, King George V. However, his reign was short-lived and controversial due to his relationship with Wallis Simpson, who was twice divorced. At that time, marrying a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands was unacceptable for the head of the Church of England, the position Edward held as king. Despite his royal duties and the strong opposition from the British government, church, and public, Edward was determined to marry Wallis.

The situation reached a climax in December 1936 when Edward abdicated the throne, stating in a radio broadcast, “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.” This unprecedented decision made Edward the first English monarch to relinquish the throne voluntarily. His younger brother, George VI, succeeded him.

Following the abdication, Edward was given the title Duke of Windsor. Despite their exile, Edward and Wallis remained committed to their union. The couple faced continued opposition, particularly from the British royal family and the establishment. The Church of England, under which Edward had previously served as the Supreme Governor, refused to sanction the marriage, and the Duke’s request for a civil ceremony in England was also denied.

Thus, the couple wed in a private ceremony in France. The wedding was a modest affair, attended by a few close friends and devoid of any members of the royal family. The ceremony was conducted by Reverend Robert Anderson Jardine, a clergyman who defied the Church of England’s ban on performing the service. Wallis wore a dress by Mainbocher, an American couturier, which was colored in a unique shade that became known as “Wallis blue.”

The marriage of the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson was not just a personal union but a symbolic event that resonated through the 20th century. It highlighted the tensions between individual desire and public duty, challenging the rigid conventions of the time. The couple’s relationship continued to be a subject of fascination and scrutiny, with various interpretations of their roles and personalities. Some viewed Edward as a romantic figure who sacrificed his throne for love, while others saw Wallis as a divisive force who precipitated a constitutional crisis.

After their marriage, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor spent much of their lives in exile, living in various locations, including France and the United States. They remained a popular couple, often seen in high society circles and maintaining friendships with influential figures of the day. However, their relationship with the British royal family remained strained throughout his life.

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