Edward VIII abdicated the English throne after discussion with his Prime Minister.

Edward informed Baldwin that he would abdicate if he could not marry Simpson. Baldwin then presented Edward with three choices: give up the idea of marriage; marry against his ministers' wishes; or abdicate.[50] It was clear that Edward was not prepared to give up Simpson, and he knew that if he married against the advice of his ministers, he would cause the government to resign, prompting a constitutional crisis. He chose to abdicate.

Quoted from Wikipedia in order to establish context; the wikipedia text includes references & citations not reproduced here.

  • Were the procedures used to force Edward VIII to renounce the throne legitimate? Were there established precedents and procedures?
  • Were there procedures which would have allowed Edward to retain the throne?
  • To what extent were there covert, unstated objections to Edward? (e.g. "sympathy for Germany" is frequently cited). Is this a conspiracy theory, or is there any real evidence to support this contention?
  • 1
    What constititutes "force." Did someone hold a gun to his head and say,"Abdicate, or else?" No. Did a bunch of people tell him, "England won't follow a king with a divorced wife?" Probably. A non-trivial question might be, "Did Edward VIII's abdication "follow established procedurs or was there a constitutional/legal way for him to keep his throne?
    – Tom Au
    Aug 30, 2013 at 12:36
  • 2
    @PurplePilot The question has now (by Mark) been edited into a completely different, and useful question. Aug 31, 2013 at 7:42

2 Answers 2


The UK has a constitution, but it was not constructed systematically in the way of most modern written constitutions, and it can be extended when necessary. The abdication of Edward VIII caused some significant precedents to be set. There were no established procedures, because nothing like this had ever happened before.

His ministers and other influential people convinced him that he could not marry Wallis Simpson and retain public support. Modern standards of behaviour are rather different, so it may seem strange.

  • The monarch is Head of the Church of England, which is still unwilling today to marry divorced people whose spouses are still alive. Therefore, he could not marry Simpson under the aegis of the church of which he was the figurehead.
  • Many of the people who had met Simpson were very unimpressed by her. Being American was not a social advantage in upper-class England of the time, and many people thought she was after money and power, rather than loving the king. They seem to have been wrong about that, but it was the feeling at the time.
  • The monarch needs public support. The British are well aware that the monarchy is an anachronism, and somewhat silly. If the monarchy is not popular, its contradictions in the modern day become much more obvious.

His renunciation of the throne was legal, in the sense that there was no law against it. It did not take legal effect until Parliament had passed His Majesty's Declaration of Abdication Act 1936. He actually continued to be monarch until that act came into effect, which happened when he gave Royal Assent to it, and thereby ceased to be monarch. All of this happened the day after he had renounced the throne: Parliament can act quickly when everyone agrees that's a good idea. Each realm of which he was King had to pass its own act to give effect to the abdication, which is why he was King of Ireland for a day longer than anywhere else. If any future UK monarch abdicates, the procedure will presumably be similar.

To retain the throne, he would have had to abandon his plans to marry Mrs Simpson, and he was unwilling to do that. He could have remained unmarried and kept her as a mistress, but she would not have had a social position along with him. He also had an implied duty to father an heir, and she was a bit old for that in 1936.

There was a covert objection to Edward VIII, among those who knew him. He had the maturity of a teenager, entirely self-centred and caring only for his own pleasures and desires. My source for this is the diaries of "Tommy" Lascelles who was Private Secretary to Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II. George V had regarded Edward as poorly suited to being king and hoped that it would end up with "Bertie" (George VI) and his daughter Elizabeth, as actually happened.

The story that he was in favour of Nazi Germany has a distinct problem. If he was, why was he picked out of his exile in France and attached to the British Military Mission to France? It's very plausible that he was impressed by the glamour and displayed power of Nazism, but that's different from being a traitor.

Looking at the original version of the question, there are no established ways in the UK to persuade or pressure a monarch to abdicate. In the post-Victoria era, if a monarch lost public support completely, their choices would be to tough it out, which may well end the monarchy entirely, or to abdicate. Since Edward VIII was mainly interested in his own pleasures and desires, abdication was presumably the easier course for him.

  • 2
    Someone edited this question to pervert meaning. I did not ask about constitution. I asked whether he was forced out from throne. Please read the non-edited version of the question.
    – Anixx
    Nov 11, 2016 at 0:04
  • I'm sorry, but I don't know how to get access to that. I was responding to your claim that the UK does not have a constitution. Nov 11, 2016 at 0:08
  • 1
    click the "edited" link under the question and see all the versions. The original question did not have the word "constitution" at all.
    – Anixx
    Nov 11, 2016 at 0:13
  • @Anixx: Added a paragraph about that. Jun 15, 2018 at 15:11

Edward was presented by his minsters with three unpalatable choices, and he choose abdication from the list.

As there was no threat of physical violence, of insurrection, of violation of the King's peace, or of commitment of any other felony, it was constitutional. In England constitutional essentially amounts to whatever competent individuals agree to do without any felonious activity, or threat thereof.

  • I do not know, who put here the word "constitutional". It was not it my question and I think it is stupid to ask about constitutionality in UK (of course his abdication was legal, and UK has no constitution).
    – Anixx
    Sep 1, 2013 at 7:50
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    I think you've oversimplifing. Bagehot has written books on the constitution. Here is a very brief discussion of the constitution. @PurplePilot has already weighed in. The Constitution of UK is a non-trivial subject. Why did you ask the question if you have no doubt about the legality of the act?
    – MCW
    Sep 3, 2013 at 16:07
  • @Mark C. Wallace see the original question. I was asking whether he was forced to abdicate.
    – Anixx
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:43
  • Then perhaps I owe you an apology - I intended the edit to be helpful; based on the responses here, I thought I had been helpful. With respect to the original question, I must be missing something/failing to understand some subtlety in the question. Is there any doubt that he was presented with a choice between crown and Simpson? Whether that constitutes "force" is an opinion. Help me to understand what you want to know.
    – MCW
    Jun 15, 2018 at 20:54

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