What did King Edward and Wallis Simpson do after the abdication?

Meghan and Harry are not the first couple to upend royal tradition, Edward and Wallis forever changed the course of history for the Crown

Jade Bremner
Friday 23 April 2021 11:20 BST
Duke of Windsor and Mrs Wallis Simpson on their wedding day at Chateau de Conde, France.
Duke of Windsor and Mrs Wallis Simpson on their wedding day at Chateau de Conde, France. (Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex may have dominated headlines around the world following their recent explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, but they aren't the first royal couple to have moved away from 'The Firm'.

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson - the American actress divorcee whom he famously abdicated to marry - left England in a scandal of their own, following his decision to renounce the throne in 1936.

When Edward was the Prince of Wales he was introduced to Wallis Simpson in 1931, before she divorced British shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Simpson was Wallis' second husband.

Wallis and Edward became lovers in 1934, and Edward succeeded George V on January 1936. The government and crown rejected his proposal to Wallis as the Church of England - of which the monarch was head - at the time did not allow divorced people to remarry in church.

King Edward ruled the British Empire for 324 days, and gave up the throne in December 1936, to be with Wallis.

But what did the couple do next?

Unlike Meghan and Harry, Edward and Wallace decided not to move to Wallis’s native America, but instead set up home in France.

The couple married six months after Edward gave up the throne, tying the knot at the Chateau De Cande, in Monts, France.

In 1937, the pair made a controversial visit to Germany, where they meet Hitler, who was rebuilding his army.

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When the war started their living situation began to become unstable in Europe, the couple left France in 1940, just as German forces began to invade.

Edward and Wallis fled to Portugal before moving to the Bahamas, then a British Crown colony an now a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, where Edward became governor and the pair lived in a lavish home in Nassau.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor later moved back to France, living in Paris in a 14 bedroom house in the Parisian park Bois du Boulogne, between 1946 and 1986.

In 1972, Edward died of cancer, and his widow Wallis died in Bois de Boulogne in 1986. The couple are buried at the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle.

To find out more about the British royal family, tune into The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty, which airs at 8pm on 20 March, on Channel 4

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