Abandoned coronation of Edward VIII

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Abandoned coronation of Edward VIII
Date12 May 1937 (1937-05-12) (cancelled)
LocationWestminster Abbey, London, England

The abandoned coronation of Edward VIII was due to take place at Westminster Abbey on 12 May 1937. Preparations had already begun and souvenirs were on sale when Edward VIII decided to abdicate on 11 December 1936. He did this because of opposition from many quarters to his attempt to marry Wallis Simpson, who had previously divorced. His coronation was cancelled as a result of his abdication.


In January 1936, King George V died and his eldest son, Edward VIII, succeeded him as King of the United Kingdom. Edward VIII was unmarried at that time, but the American socialite Wallis Simpson had accompanied him on numerous social occasions in years leading up to 1936; she was married to the shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson and had previously been divorced. The relationship had not yet been reported in the British press.[1]



The Coronation Committee had been delayed when it met for the first time on 24 June 1936; Ramsay MacDonald, the Lord President of the Council, met with the Duke of Norfolk, to discuss the proceedings; MacDonald would chair the Coronation Committee as a whole, and the Duke would chair the executive committee. While Edward VIII was away, cruising on the Nahlin with Wallis Simpson, his brother, Albert, Duke of York (the future George VI) sat in his place on the committees.[2] Edward VIII had initially been reluctant to have a coronation at all (asking the Archbishop of Canterbury whether it could be dispensed with), but conceded that a shorter service would be acceptable; his desire for a lower-key event led to the planned abandonment of the royal procession through London the following day, the thanks-giving service at St Paul's Cathedral and the dinner with London dignitaries.[2]

Archbishop of Canterbury

Although the executive committee was at the direction of the Earl Marshal, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cosmo Lang, was also a driving force behind the preparations for the coronation and many of the decisions in respect to the order of service were made by or with him. Owing to his office, he was a member of both the executive committee and the Coronation Committee, which dealt with the detail and, as such, he attended all of the rehearsals. He tended to take a leading role in the planning process, becoming a key mediator when queries arose, and dealing with questions over how the service should be broadcast by the media.[3]


The King's desire to marry an allegedly unsuitable woman was the public reason for a constitutional crisis that led to his abdication from the throne on 11 December 1936. While plans for the coronation went ahead, this time for a different monarch, thousands of businesses, both large and small, were stuck with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pounds' worth of souvenirs and other memorabilia with Edward's face or monogram on them.

Disposing of memorabilia


Due to the brevity of his reign, both proof and circulation strikes of Edward VIII coinage are extremely rare, and highly desired by numismatists.

While silver coinage was not supposed to be issued until just before the coronation was to take place, the new brass three-penny bit was already being made for introduction early in January 1937, and the entire stock was melted down. The same was done for other coins in Commonwealth realms, although rumours of a Canadian dollar surviving have made the rounds.[citation needed]

Less than a dozen Edward VIII proof sets are believed to have survived.

A few gold sovereigns were released, and the Royal Mint has a collection of pattern designs for Edward's coinage.[4] Four British possessions, British West Africa, British East Africa, Fiji, and New Guinea minted a total of seven low-denomination coins with his name, but not image. Three Indian states, Jodhpur, Jaipur, and Kutch, each produced a coin with his name in the local scripts.[5]

Prior to its introduction, twelve coins were sent out to vending machine manufacturers to calibrate their machines. They were never returned to the mint; six are held in private hands and are worth thousands of pounds. The other six are still missing. An example was put up for at auction in 2013, at an asking price of £30,000.[citation needed]

Postage stamps

United Kingdom

As soon as the beginning of the reign in January 1936, the British Post Office were preparing two issues after the four definitive stamp series that was considered as an "Accession issue". Therefore, works at the Post Office and Harrison & Sons were done for a "Coronation issue" previewed for the 12 May 1937 and a final "Definitive issue".[6] Essays for the former were made with the King wearing different military uniforms, such as the Bertram Park's pictures of Edward VIII wearing the uniforms of the Welsh Guards and Seaforth Highlanders.[7] In March 1936, the King accepted the idea of larger stamps picturing his effigy and castles. However, the abdication ceased all designing efforts despite essays having been made.[8]


The 2 pence red stamp project of Australia used a photograph of the King in uniform. The sole ornaments were the denomination into an oval in the bottom right corner and the red "POSTAGE" bar at the bottom. Printing of this stamp began in September 1936 at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia's printing branch. All operations were stopped with the abdication.[9]

Despite the destruction of the stock and all material needed for the printing, a six x 2-pence red stamp signed corner block is in the hand of a British collector. On 29 September 1936, William Vanneck, 5th Baron Huntingfield, Governor of Victoria, visited the plant and was invited to sign and date one of the finished sheets. In the name of the Commonwealth Bank, printer John Ash offered the sheet to the Governor in October, but had to claim it back on 16 December. The sheet was given back the next day, but the six-stamp corner block bearing the signature was missing. The Governor had already sent it to someone in England and could not retrieve it.[9] The stamps still exist and have sold for hundreds of thousands at auction.[10]


In Canada, the official destruction of Edward VIII stamp dies and proofs happened on 25 and 27 January 1937; some essays were kept in the archives and the two plaster casts were saved by coin engraver Emmanuel Hahn and a postal officer.[11]

Other memorabilia

There are stories of schools retrieving commemorative mugs and plates from students and replacing them with ones for the new king and queen, while many vendors put the "obsolete" items up for sale anyway.[12][13]

See also


  1. ^ "Divorce". Church of England. Archived from the original on 5 February 2011.
  2. ^ a b Strong, Coronation, 2005, pp. 421-422
  3. ^ Beaken, Cosmo Lang: Archbishop in War and Crisis, 2012, pp. 132–133
  4. ^ A Sovereign becomes the most expensive British coin EVER!
  5. ^ King Edward VIII: His Place in Numismatics
  6. ^ A.J. Kirk, King Edward VIII, The Great Britain Philatelic Society, 1974, page 1.
  7. ^ Reproduced in A.J. Kirk, King Edward VIII, The Great Britain Philatelic Society, 1974, page 2.
  8. ^ A.J. Kirk, King Edward VIII, The Great Britain Philatelic Society, 1974, pages 7-8.
  9. ^ a b Lord Vestey and John Michael, Unissued Edward VIII Stamps of Australia (from display to the Society on 11 June 2009, The London Philatelist #1367, Royal Philatelic Society London, July–August 2009, pages 202-3.
  10. ^ Unissued Australia King Edward VIII sells for $123,600 at Phoenix Auctions sale
  11. ^ Paul J. Henry, « The Edward VIII Postage Stamp Essay », The Canadian Philatelist / Le Philatéliste canadien, Royal Philatelic Society of Canada, March–April 1999, pages 56 to 62 ; pdf file on the RPSC website, retrieved on 3 October 2008.
  12. ^ King Edward VIII never had a coronation but you can still buy souvenirs
  13. ^ Memorabilia – Edward Viii – Carter's Price Guide to Antiques and Collectables