In the whole of the monarchy of England/Great Britain only 4 Kings have ever abdicated. These were Edward II in 1327, Richard II in 1399, James VII (II in England but you use the highest regnal number and he was James VII in Scotland) and finally Edward VII on the 11th December 1936. So most of us will have probably a living relative to either lived through this period or knew someone who did.
Edward VIII was born on the 23rd of June 1894 at the White Lodge, Richmond Park, London. He was the first child born to the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). He was the grandson of the King at the time Edward VII. Edward’s full name was Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. Within the family he was known as David.
On Edward’s 16th birthday in 1910 he was created the Prince of Wales after his father ascended to the throne of Great Britain. He was invested as the Prince of Wales at Caernafon Castle in Wales on the 13th July 1911.
Edward attended Naval college (but never graduated) and during WW2 he joined the Grenadier Guards. He wanted to fight but as the heir to the throne this was not allowed. Edward eventually took to flying and became a qualified pilot.
As Edward got older he became known for enjoying life shall we say. He had a string of mistresses, and it is through one of these mistresses, Lady Furness, he met the woman who would change his life and impact greatly on the country as a whole.
In January 1931 Edward was introduced to an American woman by the name of Wallis Simpson.
Wallis Simpson was born in 1894 in Pennsylvania, USA. She was named Bessie Wallis Warfield by her parents Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague. Wallis married her first husband Earl Winfield Spencer in 1916 in Baltimore, USA and the divorced in 1927. She married secondly in 1928 in Chelsea, London to Ernest Aldrich Simpson. It was while she was married to him she began the affair with Edward. In fact it wasn’t until 5 years after she began the affair with Edward that she divorced him. During this period the relationship between Edward and Wallis became somewhat of a scandal for the King and Queen. They had no fondness for Wallis at all and would not accept her as she was a divorcee and under Church of England law a divorcee could not marry in church, and since Edward was heir to the throne he would have needed to marry in church, as the monarch could not marry a divorcee (this has since changed).
The problems for Edward got worse in January 1936. On the 20th January his father King George V died thus making Edward King Edward VIII. When he was proclaimed King of the Realm Wallis was by his side. The couple were seen together a lot and even holidayed together. They famously, or infamously visited Germany and met with Adolf Hitler.
In October 1936 Wallis divorced her second husband and Edward made it known he wished to marry her. Parliament at the time were against such as marriage as marrying after a divorce was against church laws, and as King Edward was head of the Church of England. Also they felt the people would never accept Wallis as Queen. The Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin gave Edward 3 choices. Not marry Wallis, marry her against parliament’s wishes or abdicate.
Edward signed his abdication on the 11th December 1936. Those present were his 3 brother, Prince Albert, Duke of York, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester and Prince George, Duke of Kent. The next day Edward made a radio statement to the nation in which he stated “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love”. On the 13th December Edward and Wallis left England for Austria and he was now known as the Duke of Windsor.
Edward and Wallis finally married in France in 1937 with Wallis then becoming the Duchess of Windsor. The couple stayed together until Edward died in France in 1972 just days after a private visit from his niece, Queen Elizabeth II. Edward was buried at Frogmore, Windsor where Wallis would join him in 1986. The couple never had any children.
So in 1936 Great Britain had 3 monarchs in King George V, King Edward VIII and the newly crowned King George VI who was Edwards’s brother and had been known as Prince Albert, Duke of York. And all for the love of a divorced woman. Now it wouldn’t matter at all!
On the 2nd December 1697 the new St Paul’s Cathedral in London was consecrated after being rebuilt following the great fire of London in 1666. This new building is believed to be the 5th church to stand on this site. If you had any London based ancestors they may have seen the Cathedral being built and have witness the opening day.
The old St Paul’s cathedral was begun in 1087 after the previous building was destroyed by fire. It took until 1240 for the building to be completed and consecrated. The church was built in the gothic style and had features including pointed arches and large window. It’s most impressive feature was said to be the wooden vaulted ceiling. The building was not maintained over the years and by the time of King Henry VIII (1509 -1547) the church was in disrepair. The old St Paul’s suffered during the reformation (1536-1541) when all the iconography and shrines were removed. Then next tragedy to befall the Cathedral came in 1561 when the spire was struck by lightning and destroyed. Then came the year 1666.
During the great fire of London much of London was destroyed by the fire including 87 religious buildings. St Paul’s was gutted in the fire as the wooden ceiling acted as a wick to move the fire throughout the building. The decision was made to rebuild the Cathedral rather than repair.
Once the decision to rebuild was made plans were submitted for the new building. The winning entry came from Christopher Wren, the man who just before the fire was given the job of renovating the old St Paul’s and who was to rebuild many of the other lost churches in London. He was commissioned in 1669. By 1670 the old building was being removed and the site cleared. In 1675 building work began on the new Cathedral. The building wasn’t finished until 1711, but the statues on the outside of the building were not installed until the 1720’s.
St Paul’s Cathedral has some impressive statistics. The building is 158m long, at its widest point the transept it is 75m and the height of the building to the top of the dome is 111m. The dome itself is really impressive with it being the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St Peter’s in Rome, Italy. The diameter of the dome is 34m and you can go up to the base of the dome on what is called the whispering gallery. On this walk way if you stand against the wall and whisper something it can be heard on the other side of the dome perfectly.
The Cathedral has 12 bells and 3 bells for the clock. The largest clock bell is Big Tom which is rung on the death of a member of the Royal Family. It was last rung in 2002 when Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother died.
The final cost of the rebuild was stated in 1719 as £1,095,556 which in today’s terms is about £127,202,268 and would probably have cost millions more.
The Cathedral was hit twice by bombs in WW2 with damage to the alter area and the north transept. It’s survival during the war gave hope to the city that London would survive.
There have been over 200 people buried or commemorated in the crypt of the cathedral. Probably the most famous is that of Sir Christopher Wren himself. His memorial plaque is just genius. It reads ‘Reader if you seek his monument, look around you’. I suppose what better memorial to the man than his own designed Cathedral. Also buried in the cathedral include The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. The funeral of Winston Churchill was also held in the Cathedral.
So St Paul’s Cathedral may not be the main church of London, that’s Westminster Abbey, but it is the one we know the most about as we have pictures and records of it being built. We can see the original plans Wren submitted and can see the records of what was used to build it.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!