On December 10, 1936, Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication allowing him to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. This event caused a constitutional crisis in the British empire.
Wallis Simpson's Background
Wallis was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896. Her father died shortly after she was born, so Wallis and her mother were supported by their somewhat wealthy relatives.
Simpson married her first husband, Earl Winfield, in April 1916. Win was in the US Navy, and the two spent a good amount of time apart. Win was a notorious drinker. He often drank before flying and even crashed his plane into the sea once, although he survived.
During their marriage, rumors spread that Wallis was unfaithful. On one particularly colorful trip to China, she reportedly had an affair with Count Galeazzo Ciano, who would later become Mussolini's son-in-law and Foreign Minister. The affair was said to result in a pregnancy, botched abortion, and Wallis's infertility. However, all claims were denied, so no one really knows. Either way, the two divorced in 1927.
Shortly after her divorce, Wallis met and dated an American shipping executive named Ernest Aldrich Simpson, who was already married. Simpson left his wife, and he and Wallis were married on July 21, 1928. It was during this marriage that Wallis met Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales.
Wallis Simpson & Edward VIII
The two were entangled in an affair almost immediately, despite Edward VIII's other mistresses. Edward's relationship with his parents deteriorated throughout the courtship period because they disapproved of it.
When King George died on January 20, 1936, Edward VIII was set to take over the throne. However, his relationship with (still-married) Wallis caused an uproar in the country. Under moral and social grounds, British rule could not accept the marriage because Simpson had been married and divorced twice, making her unfit to be queen.
In November 1936, King Edward VIII and Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin met to discuss the relationship. When Edward expressed his desire to marry Simpson, Baldwin responded that it would not be acceptable to the Church of England and the people. He gave Edward three options—leave Simpson, marry against his Prime Minister's official wishes, or abdicate.
Edward knew that going against Baldwin's wishes would cause havoc in the government, so he chose to abdicate.
His title was returned to a prince on December 11, 1936.
Edward VIII Married Wallis Simpson
One month after Wallis's second divorce was finalized, Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson got married on June 3, 1937. The pair stayed together for 35 years until Edward VIII's death.