12th May 1937 was the day when King George VI, current monarch Queen Elizabeth II’s father, was anointed as the King of England. This day was originally set for his elder brother’s coronation King Edward VIII, but he abdicated the throne 6 months before this day.
King George VI was the second son to King George V and Queen Mary. Being the younger sibling, he was never expected to inherit the throne. According to the succession act of the UK the eldest son of the ruling monarch shall be the first in line to the throne, even in the case of the eldest son having elder sisters. Only in the case when the ruling monarch has only female heir then the eldest daughter shall be the heir apparent to the thrown.
His elder brother King Edward VIII took over the throne on 20 December 1936. Within months into his reign, a constitutional crisis shook the British Empire when Edward proposed an American two-time divorcee Wallis Simpson. Like the Monarch, Edward was also the nominal head of the Church of England, which then did not allow people to remarry in the church if their former companions were still alive. Also, the people of the country will not accept Simpson as their Queen. The drew opposition from governments of the United Kingdom and the dominions of the British Commonwealth. Edward knew that if he went ahead with the marriage, the then government of the United Kingdom would resign making way for a general election. This will thus forever ruin his status as a neutral head of the state.
Edward had three options: give up the idea of marriage; marry against the advice of his ministers; or abdicate. He didn’t want to give up Simpson nor did he want his government to resign.
He chooses to abdicate, which paved the way to his younger brother George to the British Throne. He married Wallis Simpson.
Abdicated King Edward VIII with his wife Wallis Simpson. Following the abdication, they became the Duchess and Duke of Windsor (Image: GETTY)
12th May 1937 was the date that was officially set for Edward’s coronation ceremony. But due to his abdication, George’s coronation took place on the same date. His crowing was seen by many as a return to normalcy after the abdication crisis. The public sentiment was welcoming to the new King George VI, the royal family, and more importantly to the then 11-year-old heir-apparent, Princess Elizabeth.
Edward’s father, King George V had correctly predicted his son’s abdication. In a letter to his then Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, the old King George had written: “After I am dead, the boy will ruin himself in twelve months”. He was also known to say that he prayed to God that Edward shouldn’t marry and have children and that nothing should come between his second son, King George VI, and his granddaughter Queen Elizabeth. And the rest is history.
King George VI died of lung cancer after years of heavy tobacco use in 1952, aged 52. His daughter took over the throne and is now the longest-reigning monarch of British history.