The next year the former king married the twice-divorced Wallis Warfield Simpson, who scandalized the nation when she became the Duchess of Windsor. He declared he abandoned the throne for the woman he loved.
Call me a hopeless romantic, but I submit there are parallels here to President Clinton's present-day dilemma. Perhaps the stage is being set for our own president to abdicate the presidency and, while I'm not prepared to say run off with Monica Lewinsky, at least prepare for other life choices.
King Edward evoked the same intense fealty that our own president does. The handsome Prince of Wales created enthusiasm and adulation from his adoring subjects when he toured the country in the 1920s.
At the same time, according to British writer Zara Steiner in The New York Times Book Review in 1991, "he indulged in the monstrous banquet of pleasures the world lay in front of him, leaving his staff in agony of worry about the possibilities of public scandal. His capriciousness and frivolity, drinking and womanizing were already alienating the more conventional courtiers before Wallis Warfield Simpson arrived on the scene."
In spite of his excesses, the King was an unhappy man before he met Mrs. Simpson.
"If only the British public really knew what a weak, powerless misery their press-made national hero was," the prince wrote to his longtime mistress and confidante, Freda Dudley Ward, "they would have a nasty shock and be not only disappointed but damned angry, too."
Dare I discuss the possibility that President Clinton, in his own way, found a degree of happiness with Monica Lewinsky? I was surprised that the President gave her thoughtful little gifts like the brooch and the Black Dog T-shirt. And I'm also struck by the fact that the President was troubled when Monica transferred out of the White House, and he discussed the possibility of bringing her back. And how about the President's efforts to find her a good job in New York?
Also the little signal they had when he wore the tie she gave him tells me there were real feelings between them.
It's true, the President, when he made his four-minute TV address admitting his relationship with Ms. Lewinsky, didn't actually apologize. As he said in Russia last week [and does the press need to hound him about the affair everywhere he goes?], "I made a mistake, said that I regretted it, asked to be forgiven, spent a lot of time with my family in the last couple of weeks, and said I was going back to work."
I suppose what the American people want is for the President to apologize for the shame and dishonor he brought to the presidency. The President, a week after his TV appearance, finally said he was sorry, but he didn't say exactly for what -- and most people thought it was too late. The Duke never apologized for abdicating the throne.
Alas, the poor Duke didn't seem to have found contentment after he found his true love -- or maybe he did. As Ms. Steiner stated: "The Duke of Windsor was, in British parlance, a silly man whom Mrs. Simpson captured and turned without effort into a voluntary servant. As the totally dependent husband, he was monumentally indiscreet, politically shallow and surprisingly avaricious."
And he brooded to the end of his life about his family's refusal to embrace his wife. In a letter to the duchess when his mother, Queen Mary, died in 1953, the duke wrote: "What a smug stinking lot my relations are, and you've never seen such a seedy worn-out bunch of old hags most of them have become."