Bertie and Elizabeth: The House of Windsor

David, born in 1894, was doted upon by his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. Like his father before him, he entered the navy as a young man, joining the Royal Naval College in 1909. When his grandfather, Edward VII, died in May of 1910 and his father became King, he became the heir to the throne.

It is generally agreed that David lacked the somber demeanor and rigorous sense of responsibility needed by a future king. He argued constantly with his father over his socializing and fondness for diversions. They also had furious conflicts regarding David's pro-German views. During the First World War however, David made repeated attempts to go on active service with his regiment but he was denied the opportunity. Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, explained that his capture by the enemy would be problematic (even if his death, with four brothers, wouldn't be).

The beginning of the end came in 1934 when he fell in love with a twice-married American socialite, Mrs. Ernest (Bessie Wallis Warfield) Simpson. Wallis Simpson was viewed skeptically by both British high society and the British public at large. She was still married to her second husband, banker Ernest Simpson, when she began her affair with the Prince.

Edward VIII continued the carefree existence he had led as the Prince of Wales. In most respects he failed to deal with his duties in an acceptable manner and his continued involvement with Mrs. Simpson was an aggravation to all those close to the throne.

At last, the prime minister gave Edward an ultimatum -- he could claim the throne or Mrs. Simpson, but not both. Thus it was that the King of less than a year formally relinquished his kingdom, sorrowfully affirming in a radio broadcast on December 11, 1936, that he had "discharged (his) last duty as King and Emperor."

You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.

But you must believe me when I tell you that 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.

The former King became the Duke of Windsor in an arrangement that had been finalized beforehand and he and Wallis left England in an atmosphere of general animosity. They married in France six months later (once her divorce from Mr. Simpson was final), never to return to a life in England.

The couple traveled to Germany; without securing the permission of the British government, the Duke met with Hitler. (Wallis was unhappy that she had been excluded from this meeting). Parliament sent him to the West Indies as Governor of the Bahamas when the war began. After 1945, with a steady income from the British government but no official role, they lived abroad -- in Paris, the south of France, Florida and New York -- for the rest of their lives.

The Duke died in 1972 and Wallis died in 1986. They are both buried at Windsor.