When Edward the Eighth announced his Abdication, the British people were, literally; stunned. The news, first broken by a Scots reporter with an eye for the extraordinary news that the new King was ‘too busy’ to attend the opening of a new hospital, scooped the world with the printed story that Edward the Eighth, the King who was at that moment planning his Coronation; was in fact meeting a twice-divorced American woman whom he had been ‘involved with’ for over four years. The following furore, heightened by a Church whose leaders who had been silently discouraging of the liaison, but who were now emboldened to speak out against this American divorcee; a Government and a peculiarly compliant Media, newspapers and a docile BBC who suddenly were, literally, unleashed to tell, the story of their uncrowned King who was determined to go ‘His’ own way. The Government told the King that his plans for marriage were unacceptable, this was backed by the Archbishop of Westminster as leader of the Anglican Faith to the Head of that church, and he then had to decide: either give up Mrs. Simpson, whose figurative tentacles were wrapped around his penis; or Abdicate.
As everyone knows, he chose Wallis, and Abdication, over a Crown and a Nation whose very image of the playboy King had been so rudely, and abruptly, broken into shards and dust! He made great play of the ‘fact’ that his brother, the Duke of York, had received the training and education to enable him to receive the Crown on his shoulders instead of the man who was jacking it all in because he could not have his own way. The deep hatred which sat in the heart and mind of Elizabeth, George Sixth’s Duchess and now, of course, his future Queen towards the woman who, in her own mind, had persuaded Edward to betray his country was everlasting, bitter and subsuming. She flatly refused to meet or receive her enemy, now of course her sister-in-law, she refused to even countenance the attribution, normal to her station in life of ‘Her Royal Highness’, and of course so coveted by Edward, now Duke of Windsor, and that deep hatred lasted her own long life. When her husband, George the Sixth, died, she allowed the Duke of Windsor to be invited to attend the funeral, but pointedly, the Duchess was not mentioned.
But times change, and memories mellow. As the Queen celebrates her Seventieth Anniversary, it is notable that her Uncle David’s portrait has been hung in the National Portrait Gallery, albeit pictured in uniform when in service during WW1; an omission which was notable for many, many years. The Queen’s own mother would probably have burned the painting, rather than ever have it displayed during her lifetime, as she blamed the abdication for her own beloved husband’s early death through taking on the Monarchy instead of being allowed to be ‘the Spare’.