The Mother-Son Relationship From Hell: Queen Mary & Edward VIII

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The relationship between Edward VIII and his mother, Mary of Teck, is perfectly illustrative of not only the significance of a generational gap, but of how differing views on duty and happiness can be enough to drive a wedge between parent and child. In the case of Edward VIII, or “David” as he was known to his family, and Mary, their relationship was complicated by how each viewed the function of the monarchy itself. Theirs is hardly the first unhappy parent-child relationship in the Royal Family’s history, but it is one that feels more poignant thanks to how recently it unfolded, how much more we know about it and the fact that it was not devoid of natural affection.

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The York Children

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We’ve discussed before the strange tradition of strife between sovereign and heir that George I brought with him to Britain when the House of Hanover was established in 1714. It’s a pattern that has carried through subsequent generations in some form or another, though mercifully today it looks quite different than it did in centuries past. As of when the future George V began his family with Mary of Teck in the 1890s, family dynamics were certainly not as political or dire as they were when George II was waging war against his father as Prince of Wales or his son as king, but they also weren’t particularly warm and fuzzy. Indeed, George and Mary were tough parents and the patterns set out in the formative years of their children, two of whom would become kings, dictated how the monarchy unfolded through the 20th century.

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George, Marina & the 1934 Royal Wedding

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Back in August we covered the premature death of Prince George, the Duke of Kent in 1942 while flying an airplane during World War II, but today we’re going to cover a slightly happier time in his life: his marriage to Princess Marina of Greece. Marina’s introduction to the House of Windsor in 1934 and her continued residence in England with her children during her widowhood meant that when Prince Philip married the future Queen Elizabeth in 1947, there was yet another senior member of the Royal Family with strong ties to the Greek Royal Family.

Glamorous, strong-willed and loyal, Marina was a popular figure in her day, residing in Kensington Palace and carrying out engagements on behalf of the monarch. In her time, she saw four reigns and represented one of the last matches between two “royals” the Windsors saw.

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The Abdication Crisis of 1936

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Eighty-one years ago today King Edward VIII signed an instrument of abdication to step down from the throne, an act witnessed by his three younger brothers. On December 10, 1936, Edward had been on the throne for less than 11 months following the death of his father, George V, and his time in the top job had been a series of actions that lost him the trust of much of his government, horrified his family and broken any number of traditions that had once been taken for granted. His last task would come the next day when he issued royal assent for the declaration of abdication.

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The Duke & Duchess of Windsor’s Wedding 80 Years Later

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It was a modest affair. The bride, for her third trip down the aisle, wore blue crepe. The only note of ostentation was a large diamond and sapphire brooch. Though perhaps the other note was the groom himself, the Duke of Windsor, eldest son of King George V and Mary of Teck, the former King Edward VIII.

The couple were wed at the Chateau De Cande in Monts, France, a glamorous setting by anyone’s standards except, perhaps, their own. It was a far cry from the pomp and ceremony of Westminster Abbey, the setting they would likely have chosen were they any other royal pair. But Edward was less than six months away from having abdicated the throne, an unprecedented act to have undertaken by choice, and one to which he was driven by the simple fact that Britain would never have accepted Wallis Simpson as queen.

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Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood

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If ever there was a 20th century English princess that did things “correctly,” it would be George V’s daughter, Princess Mary. I say this mainly because the extent of what we don’t know about her could fill a book. She lived a life devoted to public duty, supporting her father, her brothers, Edward VIII and George VI, and later her niece, Queen Elizabeth. Today, however, marks the anniversary of her wedding to Henry Lascelles, Earl of Harewood in 1922, and so we’ll take this opportunity to take a quick look at her life.

Mary was born on April 25, 1897 to George, Duke of York and his wife, Mary of Teck, Duchess of York at York Cottage on the Sandringham estate in Norfolk. She was her parents’ third child, joining her elder brothers, Princes Edward and Albert in the York nursery. At the time of her birth her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was still on the throne and her father was second in line to the throne, making her position mirror that of Princess Charlotte today. Notably, she was christened Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, however Queen Victoria apparently proposed naming her “Diamond” in honor of her Diamond Jubilee which took place that year, marking her 60th year as queen.

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England’s Most Awkward Dinner Party

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On July 9, 1936 King Edward VIII hosted his second official dinner at his residence, Fort Belvedere. In attendance were his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of York, Winston Churchill, and his long-time “companion,” Mrs. Wallis Simpson sans her husband, Mr. Ernest Simpson. The event was published in the Court Circular, which caused a bit of a stir because it made it appear as though, by socializing with them, the Yorks were condoning Edward’s relationship with Wallis.

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That Time Edward VIII Watched the Proclamation of His Kingship…With Wallis Simpson

 

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On January 21, 1936, this happened. Now, I only recently found this out, having given it literally no amount of thought, but monarchs don’t watch the formal proclamation of their accession. In Edward’s case, he not only did it, but he did it publicly from a window in St. James’s Palace next to none other than his  long-time, still-married companion, Wallis Simpson. #Scandal. Well, sort of.

Edward’s father, George V, died on January 20 at Sandringham House in Norfolk after a 25-year reign. Edward was 43, unmarried, childless and had, in certain circles, a reputation for being a bit of playboy, particularly if the women in question were married.

At the time that he became king, his relationship with Wallis Simpson wasn’t well-known to the public – thus, seeing them together wouldn’t raise alarm bells for most people. But it certainly did for those who knew who Wallis was, particularly members of Edward’s government, his family and his courtiers. As Edward was about to find out, what had been tolerated for the throne’s heir, would emphatically not be for its king.

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