House of Windsor -- Reigned: 1936 (Abdicated)
Edward VIII, eldest son of George V and Mary of Teck, was born June 23, 1894. He married an American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, abdicating the throne after reigning a scant eleven months. The couple failed to produce children; Edward died in 1972.
Rumors concerning Edward's attachment to Mrs. Simpson circulated before the death of George V. The situation came to the brink of constitutional crisis with Edward's accession: The Church of England (of which he was the head) censured divorce, Parliament refused to grant Wallis any title, the populace was opposed to having a twice-divorced woman as the King's consort and English law had no precedent for a wife of the king with no title or official capacity.
Had Edward pressed the issue, the constitutional monarchy would be irrepreparably damaged; he chose to abdicate rather than mar the image of the monarchy. He was created Duke of Windsor, married Wallis and relished in social life. There is speculation and circumstantial evidence that he was a liaison to Hitler's Germany, but hard proof of the link has yet to surface.
Edward's situation had similarities with several different monarchs. He had the second shortest reign in English history, the shortest being that of his namesake, Edward V. The only other adult bachelor to succeed the throne was William II. The precedent of marrying a divorced woman was set by Henry II's marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine. He left the throne in the same manner as James II, abdication in face of popular opposition.
Edward was immensely popular when he came to throne; his widow, the Duchess of Windsor, lamented his abdication after his death: "He might have been a great King; the people loved him."
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