In 1936, the remarkable happened: a kind acceded to the throne, but abdicated before his coronation in order to marry the divorcee Wallace Simpson.
This year is the 80th anniversary of the brief reign of King Edward VIII. The events surrounding his reign and subsequent abdication are among the most remarkable and controversial in modern British history. Edward’s desire to marry an American divorcee, Mrs Wallace Simpson, threatened to bring scandal to the monarchy, and so he voluntarily abdicated - the only time this has ever happened in our history - handing his throne to his younger brother King George VI. All this in just twelve short months!
In January of 1936 King George V died and his son acceded to the throne becoming King Edward VIII. Edward was romantically involved with a married American woman, Mrs Wallis Simpson, and in October of 1936 she was granted a divorce from her husband. It became clear that the new king wished to marry her, against the advice of many of his many advisor's who did not believe that Edward, as head of the Church of England, should marry a divorced woman. All attempts to find a solution failed and so, on 10th December, Edward signed an instrument of abdication. The following day, after broadcasting to the nation and the empire to explain his actions, he left for Europe. Edward’s brother became King George VI.
Edward abdicated before his coinage could be struck. There had been considerable delays because the whole coinage was being redesigned. Additionally, the king took a very personal interest in his portrait and, had he not abdicated, could have caused a second scandal!
Edward VIII’s relationship with Mrs Simpson is what led to his abdication and is primarily what history remembers him for. However, had he come to the throne and coinage been struck for use in Britain and her empire, there would have been yet another scandal to emerge.
Since the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 tradition held that each monarch would face an alternate direction to his or her predecessor. King George V, father to the new king Edward VIII had faced left and so Edward was destined to face right. However, Edward had very strong views on his portrait and believed strongly that the features of the left hand side of his face were superior to those on his right. When the Deputy Master of the Royal Mint met with the king in April 1936 and showed him a wax model of his portrait facing right the king insisted that he should be depicted facing the other way.
The Deputy Master was in a difficult situation: on the one hand, the king was entitled to request to be depicted in whichever way he thought best. On the other, stood centuries of tradition which would abruptly end. The Deputy Master then asked the artists to transfer the features of the left hand side of the kings face to a right-facing portrait, but Edward VIII was unmoved - he insisted on facing left. And so, the abdication of King Edward VIII in November 1936 saved a British tradition from upset - his successor and younger brother King George VI did indeed face left, thus continuing the tradition which remains to this day.
To this day, King Edward VIII remains one of the real problems for anyone attempting to assemble a royal portraiture gallery of coins: his is one of the greatest royal tales in recent times and yet there are no coins available with his portrait.
If you are interested in learning more about Kind Edward VIII please call our specialised team of agents for free on 0800 6340300 - or click HERE to see the full Edward VIII pattern set!
Patterns - fascinating trail motifs for new coins
In creating new coins a mint will often take more than one design through to the first stage of production. If a design is never adopted then the examples struck for assessment are known as ‘Patterns’. The only British ‘coins’ of King Edward VIII are Patterns as he abdicated before any coins could be put into production.
Patterns are among the most fascinating of all numismatic items – the designs that ‘might have been’, motifs that might have shaped our nation in a different way to those that were eventually struck. For this reason, Pattern, coins are a subject of considerable fascination and have a widespread following. Now, a new set of designs has been struck, incorporating a finely detailed portrait of King Edward VIII on the obverse, and some of the most important British coin motifs on the other. To find out more about this unique set, click here.
By Nick Hart
Source: London Mint Office