The accession of King Edward VIII

Eighty years ago this week, the nation mourned the passing of King George V. His death, just before midnight on 20th January 1936, was followed the next day by the proclamation of the accession of King Edward VIII. Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was born on 23 June 1894, the eldest child of the then Duke and Duchess of York, later George V and Queen Mary. Within the family he was always known as David.

Louis Mountbatten and Edward VIII in the garden at Adsdean, (Mountbatten’s home near Portsmouth) before a royal visit to the city, June 1936 [MB2/L20/1]

Louis Mountbatten and Edward VIII in the garden at Adsdean, (Mountbatten’s home near Portsmouth) before a royal visit to the city, June 1936 [MB2/L20/1]

Edward was a popular Prince of Wales who gained celebrity status in the 1920s. He was charming and colourful – enjoyed nightclubbing, point-to-point racing, and golf – activities which he balanced with many royal and charitable duties. He was highly respected for his work with ex-servicemen’s associations and working men’s clubs in this country. Internationally, he undertook several royal tours which were hugely successful, attracting vast crowds and publicity worldwide. In the spring of 1920 he travelled on HMS Renown to Australia and New Zealand with his young cousin, Louis Mountbatten, who acted as his A.D.C. and companion on the tour.

The scale of the welcome they received on the Prince’s birthday at Sydney was staggering – 8,000 children gathered at the Sydney cricket ground to wish him ‘Many Happy Returns’:

[MB2/N5/104, 23 June 1920]

[MB2/N5/104, 23 June 1920]

The close friendship between the cousins can be traced through many photographs in the Mountbatten collection. Louis accompanied Edward on another royal visit to India and Japan in 1921-2 and shortly after their return, the Prince acted as best man at Mountbatten’s wedding to Edwina Ashley. Naval service and royal duties intervened in the following years but in September 1936, they were relaxing together at Balmoral:

[MB2/L19/p.17 from left to right: Edward VIII; Mountbatten; Esmond Harmsworth; Mrs Rogers; Wallis Simpson; Gladys Buist; and Edwina Mountbatten, in the grounds of Balmoral]

[MB2/L19/p.17 from left to right: Edward VIII; Mountbatten; Esmond Harmsworth; Mrs Rogers; Wallis Simpson; Gladys Buist; and Edwina Mountbatten, in the grounds of Balmoral]

After his abdication in December 1936, Edward took the title HRH the duke of Windsor, and was to spend much of his life abroad; Mountbatten continued to pursue his naval career, acting as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, during WWII, and rising subsequently to be First Sea Lord and Chief of the Defence Staff.

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