Edward VIII abdicates After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and theChurch of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson. On the evening of December 11, he gave a radio address in which he explained, “I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” On December 12, his younger brother, the duke of York, was proclaimed King George VI. Edward, born in 1894, was the eldest son of King George V, who became the British sovereign in 1910. Still unmarried as he approached his 40th birthday, he socialized with the fashionable London society of the day. By 1934, he had fallen deeply in love with American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson, who was married to Ernest Simpson, an English-American businessman who lived with Mrs. Simpson near London. Wallis, who was born in Pennsylvania, had previously married and divorced a U.S. Navy pilot. The royal family disapproved of Edward’s married mistress, but by 1936 the prince was intent on marrying Mrs. Simpson. Before he could discuss this intention with his father, George V died, in January 1936, and Edward was proclaimed king. The new king proved popular with his subjects, and his coronation was scheduled for May 1937. His affair with Mrs. Simpson was reported in American and continental European newspapers, but due to a gentlemen’s agreement between the British press and the government, the affair was kept out of British newspapers. On October 27, 1936, Mrs. Simpson obtained a preliminary decree of divorce, presumably with the intent of marrying the king, which precipitated a major scandal. To the Church of England and most British politicians, an American woman twice divorced was unacceptable as a prospective British queen. Winston Churchill, then a Conservative backbencher, was the only notable politician to support Edward. Despite the seemingly united front against him, Edward could not be dissuaded. He proposed a morganatic marriage, in which Wallis would be granted no rights of rank or property, but on December 2, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin rejected the suggestion as impractical. The next day, the scandal broke on the front pages of British newspapers and was discussed openly in Parliament. With no resolution possible, the king renounced the throne on December 10. The next day, Parliament approved the abdication instrument, and Edward VIII’s reign came to an end. The new king, George VI, made his older brother the duke of Windsor. On June 3, 1937, the duke of Windsor and Wallis Warfield married at the Château de Cande in France’s Loire Valley. For the next two years, the duke and duchess lived primarily in France but visited other European countries, including Germany, where the duke was honored by Nazi officials in October 1937 and met with Adolf Hitler. After the outbreak of World War II, the duke accepted a position as liaison officer with the French. In June 1940, France fell to the Nazis, and Edward and Wallis went to Spain. During this period, the Nazis concocted a scheme to kidnap Edward with the intention of returning him to the British throne as a puppet king. George VI, like his prime minister, Winston Churchill, was adamantly opposed to any peace with Nazi Germany. Unaware of the Nazi kidnapping plot but conscious of Edward’s pre-war Nazi sympathies, Churchill hastily offered Edward the governorship of the Bahamas in the West Indies. The duke and duchess set sail from Lisbon on August 1, 1940, narrowly escaping a Nazi SS team sent to seize them. In 1945, the duke resigned his post, and the couple moved back to France. They lived mainly in Paris, and Edward made a few visits to England, such as to attend the funerals of King George VI in 1952 and his mother, Queen Mary, in 1953. It was not until 1967 that the duke and duchess were invited by the royal family to attend an official public ceremony, the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Queen Mary. Edward died in Paris in 1972 but was buried at Frogmore, on the grounds of Windsor Castle. In 1986, Wallis died and was buried at his side. 1872 Buffalo Bill Cody makes his first stage appearance Already appearing as a well-known figure of the Wild West in popular dime novels, Buffalo Bill Cody makes his first stage appearance on this day, in a Chicago-based production of The Scouts of the Prairie. Unlike many of his imitators in Wild West shows and movies, William Frederick Cody actually played an important role in the western settlement that he later romanticized and celebrated. Born in Iowa in 1846, Cody joined the western messenger service of Majors and Russell as a rider while still in his teens. He later claimed to have worked for the famous Pony Express, during which time he allegedly completed the third longest emergency ride in the brief history of that company. During the Civil War, Cody joined forces with a variety of irregular militia groups supporting the North. In 1864, he enlisted in the Union army as a private and served as a cavalry teamster until 1865. Cody began to earn his famous nickname in 1867, when he signed on to provide buffalo meat for the workers of the Eastern Division of the Union Pacific Railroad construction project. His reputation for skilled marksmanship and experience as a rapid-delivery messenger attracted the attention of U.S. Army Lieutenant General Philip Sheridan, who gave Cody an unusual four-year position as a scout-a testament to Cody’s extraordinary frontier skills. Cody’s work as a scout in the western Indian wars laid the foundation for his later fame. From 1868 to 1872, he fought in 16 battles with Indians, participating in a celebrated victory over the Cheyenne in 1869. One impressed general praised Cody’s “extraordinarily good services as trailer and fighter… his marksmanship being very conspicuous.” Later, Cody again gained national attention by serving as a hunting guide for famous Europeans and Americans eager to experience a bit of the “Wild West” before it disappeared. As luck would have it, one of Cody’s customers was Edward Judson, a successful writer who penned popular dime novels under the name Ned Buntline. Impressed by his young guide’s calm competence and stories of dramatic fights with Indians, Buntline made Cody the hero of a highly imaginative Wild West novel published in 1869. When a stage version of the novel debuted in Chicago as The Scouts of the Prairie, Buntline convinced Cody to abandon his real-life western adventures to play a highly exaggerated version of himself in the play. Once he had a taste of the performing life, Cody never looked back. Though he continued to spend time scouting or guiding hunt trips in the West, Cody remained on the Chicago stage for the next 11 years. Buffalo Bill Cody was the hero of more than 1,700 variant issues of dime novels, and his star shone even more brightly when his world-famous Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show debuted in 1883. The show was still touring when Buffalo Bill Cody died in 1917.