The Scandalous Story of How King George VI Became King

Her Majesty The Queen spent her first ten years assuming she would live her life as a "minor" royal. But all that changed when her uncle, King Edward VIII, decided he didn't want to rule Britain without the love of his life beside him.

VARIOUS George VI (14 December 1895 – 6 February 1952) was King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 until his death. He was the last Emperor of India and the first Head of the Commonwealth. Pictured before his 1937 coronation.Universal History Archive/Shutterstock

Queen Elizabeth II was born the eldest child of Prince Albert, Duke of York. The “Duke of York” title is traditionally given to the second son of the reigning monarch, and such was the case with Elizabeth’s father. “Bertie,” as he was known, was the second son of the King George V. The King’s eldest son was Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David who’d always been known to friends and family as “David” and who was made Prince of Wales on his 16th birthday. Here’s how the most famous royals got their titles.

In January 1936, King George V died, and David succeeded to the throne as King Edward VIII. It was exactly as everyone expected it to be, including Prince Albert, his wife (Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon), and their two daughters (Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret). There was one hitch, however, and that was that two years earlier, the now-King Edward VIII had begun an affair with the American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, who was still married to her second husband.

The royal family, who had disapproved of the affair from the outset, were now confronted with the newly ascended King Edward’s intention to marry the soon-to-be-twice-divorced Mrs. Simpson, whom the foreign press quoted as saying, “Soon I shall be Queen of England.” Even as the British press refrained from reporting on the continuing affair of the now-King Edward, a crisis was heating up in Parliament: If the King were to marry Mrs. Simpson without abdicating the throne, government would be forced to resign, as is customary in Great Britain in the event of a stalemate with the monarch (who actually has all these very real powers in Britain).

By December 1936, even the British public knew of the scandal. Mrs. Simpson fled Britain for France, while members of the royal court pressured her to renounce the King. But neither she nor the King were to be deterred. To prevent further upheaval, King Edward VIII officially abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936. These are the 11 other royal scandals that rocked the world.

On December 11, 1936, Prince Albert, Duke of York, ascended as King George VI. Edward was created His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor, and in 1937, married Mrs. Simpson. She became The Duchess of Windsor, albeit without the “HRH” styling (at least, officially; apparently, her friends called her “Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Windsor”). And then-Princess Elizabeth, being the elder daughter of the King, suddenly found herself heir to the throne. Next, don’t miss these 23 rarely seen photos of the royal family.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.