* British royalty Edward VIII

British Royalty: Edward VIII (The Duke of Windsor)

Figure 1.--The future Edward VIII and his brother George VI were still wearing dresses in this photograph taken about 1898.

Edward VIII (1894-1972) was the eldest son of George V and and Mary of Teck (Queen Mary). He was the greatgrandson of Victoria. Edward was born Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsoron at White Lodge, Richmond Park, Surrey. He was known within his family as David. He along with his brothers grew up wearing silor suits and kilts. The images of David and his brothers and sisters were circulated more than any other prince and princess becausing of the developing technology of prinfting photographs in magazines and newspapers and the development of the popular penny postcard. He was perhaps the most popular Prince of Wales in English history--certainly in modern British history. His winning personaslity made him a great favorite with a wide range of the British public. It was given that popularity that his decession to abdicate to mary an American divorce was a great shock to the British people.


Queen Mary

Albert's mother is often criticised for being cold and indifferent to her children. This is an harsh assessment, but she clearly was not affectionate with her children. There were times, especially when her husband was not present that she played a more maternal role.

King George V

His father, who also was not expected to be king, was a harsh disciplinarian who because of his naval background was fanatically punctual. He was particularly severe with his two oldest sons, David (Edward VIII) and Albert. Some have even used the term cruel. Many assessments of his father unfairly assess him in modern terms and not in comparison to other turn of the century fathers. Even so, he does seem to have been unduly harsh and always formal with the children.


George V and Queen Mary had 6 children, 5 boys and a girl. They were presented as the model British family. Certainly they did not have the problems the modern English press likes to report with the current royals. They did, of course, have their problems with Edward--eventually resulting in the greatest modern crisis in the monarch. Edward became famous for renouncing the throne to mary a divorced American. His brother Albert who had never been raised to be king, not only inherited the crown, but the great task of leading Britain through the trials of World War II.

Childhood Clothes

Edward VIII was known as David in the family and his father King George V had a narrow range of clothing in mind that he thought suitable for children, basically sailor suits and kilts for special occassions. He and his brothers, however, did wear a variety of other clothing. David as a small boy still wore dresses as that custom persisted until the World War. The subsequent Duke of Windsor and his younger brother (George VI) wore lacy dresses, although not at such advanced ages as their father. While still in the nursery the boys and Princess Mary wore tussore smocks. They were not often photographed wearing them, perhaps because the King did not believe they were formal enough. David by age 5 was wearing very smart short panted sailor suits with ankle socks. There are a lot of pictures of the future Edward VIII and his brother in matching sailor suits and broad-brimmed hats, often with their sister Mary wearing a sailor suit (with skirt) or a smock. David and his brother were done up in kilts a great deal. Usually in Higland kilts, but also when they were younger in white kilts worn with their middy blouses. David wore some of his dresses and sailor kilts with short whitevsocks. As a younger boy he appeared in sailor suits with short pants and ankle socks. But this only occurred when he was quite a young boy. David and his brothers wore their kilts with large, stiff Eton collars and bow ties. His fther and uncle wore virtually identical outfits about 30 years earlier.

Hair Styles

The children of Queen Victoria anf Edward VIII all had long hair even after breeching. This was a question faced by many Victorian and Edwardian mothers, whether to breech their sons first or cut their hair first. King George V and Queen Mary definitely did not like long hair on boys. This probably was the King's preference as Victorian mothers often liked to keep their sons in long curls. I do not, however, know for sure. I do know that the King intervened and took a great interest in the boys' clothes. All of George V's sons had short hair cuts at a fairly young age and thus were photographed in short boyish hair while still wearing skirt kilts with their sailor suits. I'm also not sure what Queen Victoria thought of this David's father and grandfather each had their curls cut well after breeching.

Nannies and Governors

The children were very closely supervised by nannies and other staff. David was especially fond of Lala (Charlotte Bill). He, Albert, and Mary were as much as possible cooped up in a small nursery with Lala. Their younger brothers appear to have had more success in escaping the nursery to a much greater extent. His father, Queen Mary, and Queen Victoria were constantly telling Lala what to do and irrittingly complaining with David did not behave correctly. Later he wascared for "the faithfull" Frederick Finch.

Relationship with Parents

David complained that he had a miserable childhood. His major complaints concern his father. David did not get along with this father who was very severe with them. According to some sources Edward was actually terrified of his father. When his brother Bertie (George VI) was born, Edward asked his father where the baby came from. His father answered that he flew in through the window. When Edward asked what happened to his brother's wings, his father answered that he chopped them off. Edward was understandably terrified. As the boys got older, King George's idea of fatherhood was to lecture the boys relentlessly for any imperfections. Their father was also very strict about posture and deportment. Once when he saw David with his hands in the pockets of his sailor suit, ordered all the pockets sewn shut. We have not yet developed informatio on David's relationship with his mother. The letters between David and his parents have been saved. They are notable for the complete absence of affection. Their parents letters sounded more like an account of state functions that would seem more suitable for the Times. Their father reportedly berated them both because of their poor academic performance. Edward complained that their tutors had never taught him anything. He hated the constant belittlement by his father and did not grieve when he died.

Relationship with Siblings

Bertie was of course very close as child with his older brother David. As older boys they drifted apart. This was in part because as an older boy he refused to always defer to David. It is notable, for example, when David as Prince of Wales made trips around the Empire to help popularize the monarchy and relations wth the mother country, the future Lord Mounbattn was chosen as a comanion and not Bertie. He was, howver, a frequent visitor to Berie's home after Bertie mairred. He was the Princess Elizabeth's fvorite uncle. He would play games with her. Then one day she was to later write, "He stopped coming." We have no information at this time on David's relations with his sistervand other brothers.


David and his younger brother Albert, as well as their sister Mary, were born into rather startlingly different circustance. More children were to come, but these three older children grew up in the nursery together and were very close to each other. Their great grandmother Queen Victioria was still alived and continued to live in an evironment of mourning and gloom. This could not have been more drasticalyy different than the world of their grand parents the Prince and Princess of Wales who lived in a world of lights and spcial elegance. Both, but especially the Princess of Wales loved to spoil and dote on the children. Than their was their own parents, Prince George and Princess Mary. Their father believed in a rather plain life and insisted on strict discipline for the children.



Edward (David) and Bertie were educated at home by a tutor--apparently not very successfuly. The first school they went to was the Royal Naval College at Osborne. Almost all of the boys there were well used to the give and take of school life. Many had boarded at other schools. David and Bertie were, however, totally un prepared by their home tutoring.

Royal Navy Cadets

The first school the boys attended was the Royal Naval School at Osborne. Neither boy was used to dealing with other children and had quite a hard time of it. They were reportedly relentlessly hazed by the other cadets. Their classmates would rub ink in Edward's blond hair. Once they put Edward VIII in a window seal and pretended to guillotine him by closing the window.

Prince of Wales

David was the first Prince of Wales to be invested in 300 years. It was made into quite an event. David was invested Prince Edward of Wales at Caernarvon Castle in Wales, July 1911. He was about 17 at the time. The ceremonial costume consisted of a white tunic with a proliferation of pleats and ruffles, a white jabot of lace (worn at the neck), a navy blue belt with sword, white tights, and slippers with rosettes. Note that he wears the garter (signifying that he is a Knight of the Garter) around his right leg below the knee. A subordinate knightly order with tassels encircles his other leg. At his investiture, he was horrified at the costume. He was still a naval cadet at the time. He complained of what the other cadets would say if they saw him dressed like that.

Figure 2.--The newly crowned King Edward VII is shown here during 1902 with his grand children (Edward, Arthur (George VI), Henry, and Mary. The kilt was a favorite of the royal family. Notice the younger prince (Henry) wears a reffer jacket with a kilt skirt. The princess wears a sailor suit, another royal favorite, showing how the style had also been adopted by the girls.

Interest in Clothes

After wearing very traditional sailor suits and kilts as a boy, Edward as a young man, became a real clothes horse--presumably in reaction to those traditional clothes boyhood clothes. The Windsor knot his name after him. He became the Duke of Windsor after abdicating because he wanted to marry--horrors of horrors--an American. The Duke writes in his book, A Family Alnumn, of his interest in clothes. He describes correspondence between Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the importance of dressing correctly:

In other words, clothes make the prince at least in the eyes of the people. So early an introduction to the art to say nothing of the morality of costume must certainly have contributed to my grandfather's emergence in later life as the best-dressed of princes, in this respectrivalling, but in no way imitating, his dandyish predecessor, King George IV. Such a principle used sometimes to tempt me to wonder, when I myself emerged from childhood to a relative maturity, whether in the eyes of certain sections of the Press I was not more of a glorified clothes-peg than the heir-apparent. Nevertheless, my great-grandmother's homily expresses sentiments with which I cordially agree and have endeavoured, in my own modest way, to put into practice. In this context, let it not be assumed that clothes have ever been a fetish of mine. Rather have I be-come, by force of circumstances and upbringing, clothes-conscious. My position as Prince of Wales dictated that I should always be well and suitably dressed for every conceivable occasion. And how varied those occasions have been!

David explains that the restraint of his chilhood clothes, not to mention the adults of the era, caused an interest in costume offering a greater freedom. It also left him open to experiment with fashion. In this he incurred reprimands from the Palace. But it the uncrowned Edward VIII that abolished the frock coat for wear at Court.

World War I

Edward served during the First World War, causing much concern to his superiors as he was always trying to get to the front line. He was undoubtedly affected by the War as he sat in a safe staff position while so many were killed.

Clothing Styles

After World War I, the Prince of Wales was probably more watched by fashion expers that any other sinfle individual. He thus had an enormous impact on popular fashion trends. He helped to popularize the voluminous plus-four knickers. Later as Duke of Windsor, his clothing continued to be closely followed. He popularized the tab collar in America. While the tab collar is now considered an American style, actually it was first worn by the Duke of Windsor on a visit to the United States.

Post-war Era

After World War I Edward proved to be an emensely popular Prince of Wales. He travelled extensively throughout the Empire and beyond on epic voyages. He also played hard, socially as well as sportingly, often putting himself recklessly at risk. He became better known and loved than any previous royal figure. He found royal appearances taxing and continued to be constantly criticised by his father. He was enormously popular with the British public. His good lokks and charmed gave him a carisma lacking in the rest of his family. Much has been written about his politics. Some believe he wanted to play amore active role in politics han was permitted by the unwritten British constitution. He seem like many in the 1930s to have lost faith in democrcy. Among his friends were British Fascist Oswald Mosley. Some even say that he was a NAZI sympethizer. Given his personal polulariuty, these sentiments appear to have caused concern with Prime Minister Baldwin who was all to willing to force his abdication when the opportunity presented itself.


Edward was born and bred to be the King of England. He served in France with the army during World War I (1914-18). The courtly Prince of Wales was in the 1930s the world's most eligible bachelor, attracting adoring females wherever he ventured. The press at the time followed his every move. Yet his 20s and 30s passed with no bride. He was popular with the Britiish people, despite his rather capricious life style. He toured areas of Britain such as Wales, hard hit by the Great Depression. Many of his subjects view him as more sympathetic to their plight than th Government. Unmarried still at age 41, he was widely perceived as a charming gadabout, weak-willed and incapable of making up his mind. His grand nephew Prince Edward writes, "It is almost impossible to describe the sense of shock, disbelief and betrayal that swept not just Britain but the rest of the Empire over a matter of weeks when news leaked out of his affair with American diorcee Wallis Simpson.


The King of England is head of the Church of England and defender of the faith. Divorce was not approved by the Church. Here Edward was seeking to develop a divorcee about to get v second divorce. Edward had little regard for Prime Minister Baldwin. The Prime Minister feined concern and advised the King to seek the Government's advise. Under the British Constitution, he king is obligated to follow the Governments advise when he requests it. The Government advised aginst the mairrge, leaving Edward no options. Baldwin while stressing divorce as the major issue, is believed this as a pretext for removing Edward who he considered dangerous. Edward on December 11, 1936, in a radio broadcast that reached millions, the newly proclaimed King announced the unthinkable. 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, he said, without the help and support of the woman I love. That woman was preceived by many Brits as a domineering, scheeming woman, made worse because she was an American. Plans for Edward's coronation, upset by the abdication, were left in place for his brother George VI. In May 1936 while riding back from an army parade in Hyde Park, Edward survived an assassination attempt made by an Irish journalist who was angry at the Home Secretary. The would-be killer, George McMahon, pulled out a gun, which came loose during a struggle with police and fell under the King's horse. The police retrieved the gun and Edward kept on riding.


Edward married Wallis in 1937 at Chateau de Cande, Monts, France. Wallis was shunned by the royal family creating great bitterness between Edward and hif family. Financial squables caused further difficulties. He was 43 years old at the time of the mairrage.

Appeasememt and World War II

A great deal is known about Edward and Hitler and none of it reflects very well on either the Duke or his wife, Mrs. Simpson. It needs to be sressed that there is no sign he approved of what Hitler ultimately did, but even before the War, there was plenty of information for a resonable person to be disgusted with Hitler and the NAZIs. We know that David (his family name) before the death of his father to have been very critical of Britain. He seems to have had no understanding of Britain;'s momentous place in history. His disatifaction seems to have been primarily the restruictions placed on him private life rather than political or historivcal issues. He particularly resented the disapproval of his father because of his licentious life style, namely affairs with married women and his refusal to settle down and marry even bnthough he was in his 30s. With the onset of the Deprression, he was impressed with Hitler and his seeming ability to restore German national life. We see no disapproval of the end of democracy, murder of opponets, supression of Jews, and ending the rule of law. Even most arch appeasers were disturbed by some or all of these aspects of the NAZI regime--not David. Now we do not know why. Perhaps he was draw toward Fascism ideologically. Or perhaps he was just poorly informed and did not bother to inform hinself about current affairs, prefering the ladies, fashion, and smart dinner parties to reading and substantive discussions. Neither of course are very attractive characteristics in a future monarch. Then of course in short sucession his father died, he became Edeard VIII, and the Gobernment refused to allow him to marry the American divorcee Mrs. Simpson on constitutional grounds (1936). Edward abdicated and went into exile in France. The Royal family essentially abandoned him and refused virtually any contact with Mrs. Simpson or royal status for her. This enfuriated the now Duke of Windsor. His brother's wife, Queen Elizabeth (the mother not the daughter) can only be described as vengeful. Hitler was watching all of this and believed that war could be avoided and an alliance with Britain was possible with the Duke on the throne. David for his part said after the War that his primary goal was to avoid another War which of course was the motivation of most of the appeasers. The Duke showed his lack of appreciation for Hitler's caracter when he sent the F├╝hrer a telegram, urging him to 'do his best for peace.' (September 1939). [Bouverie, p. 2.] One historian goes as far as to accuse of treason, claiming he passed information on the French defenses to a German spy, Charles Eugene Bedaux. [Allen] The evidence, however, is hardly conclusive for such an allrgation. Historians continue, however, to debate the episode. The general consensus is that Edward was a dilatante and terribly ignorant as well as self absorbed, but not a outright traitor. The recently released poyal papers provide a great deal of insught into the Windsor's behavior.

The Duke of Windsor

Although his wildly romantic declaration cost Edward his job and his country, for the King it seemed an even exchange. "She promised to bring into my life somethingthat wasn't there", he explained in his 1951 autobiography. "I was convinced that with her I'd be a more creative and more useful person." Others saw the relationship differently. She was a dominant type, says author Gore Vidal, "and he, having been beaten up by nannies and governesses all his life, needed a strong woman to bawl him out". There were no known children. Mrs. Simpson because of an abortion could not have children. Some believe that Edward himself may have been infertile because of a severe illness contracted at Osbourne while he was a cadet. Edward was known as the Duke of Windsor after his abdication. He published his autobiography, A King's Story" in 1951. The Duke was the subject of a 1965 documentary, A King's Story. The Duke died in 1972 at the age of 78 from natural causes. He is buried at Windsor, Berkshire.


Allen, Martin. Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies (M. Evans, 2002). 312p.

Duke of Windsor. A King's Story.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 2:31 AM 4/6/2020