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The prince of hope who became his dynasty’s despair: the birth of Edward VIII

His birth secured the succession in a way the British royal family had never known before. When Mary, Duchess of York delivered a healthy boy on June 23rd 1894 she ensured that her royal dynasty had three heirs in direct line to the throne. But the baby who arrived that day would take the crown from ultimate security to compete crisis. Today is the 125th anniversary of the birth of Edward VIII, the king who abdicated for love.

Nothing of the impact he would have could have been imagined on the June day he arrived. The birth of a prince was the best possible news his family could have hoped for. Heading that dynasty was Queen Victoria who had just celebrated the 57th anniversary of her accession. First in line to her throne was Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and grandfather to the new arrival. Following him in the succession was his own second son, George, Duke of York who was papa to the baby boy whose birth was being celebrated. George’s first child ensured that Victoria now had three generations of heirs to wear, in turn, her crown.

The baby was born at White Lodge in Richmond Park, the home of his maternal grandparents, Francis and Mary Adelaide of Teck. Queen Victoria was among the first visitors to the house following the delivery.

The little prince would become a king and an emperor, head of a realm on which ‘the sun never set’. By the time he was christened, on July 16th 1894 in the Green Drawing Room of White Lodge, he had been given a suitably symbolic name.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury and soon took centre stage in an historic image where Queen Victoria held her great grandson while flanked by her son and grandson, one monarch with her three heirs. The baby, always known to his family as David, was soon joined by siblings in the royal nursery of his parents’ favourite home, York Cottage at Sandringham. But the baby grew into a most unconventional heir.

Victoria was long dead by the time her great grandson fell in love with an divorcee and decided to give up the throne to marry Wallis Simpson. But misgivings about his temperament and his willingness to take on the role to which he had been born had surfaced in his childhood.

However, on that June day no one celebrating his birth could have seen how his royal story would unfold. Instead, they revelled in a regal moment that wouldn’t be seen again for over a century. A monarch with three direct heirs and the guarantee of a dynasty for many years to come.

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