Political turmoil, celebrity scandal, shock-resignation… no, it’s not my review of 2016, but a snapshot of events eighty years ago.
Yes, eighty years ago this weekend Edward VIII rocked the nation – and the empire – by surrendering his throne for love.
His niece Elizabeth was just ten years old at the time, but his actions changed the course of her life. As the new Netflix series The Crown explores, she effectively became a new person overnight. No longer just ‘Lilibet’, but a daughter of the king, a future queen.
A December day, a king leaves his throne, a life is transformed.
And what of Mrs Simpson? Here was a woman whose life choices barred her from marrying the man she loved. Widely treated with suspicion and hostility, labelled forever with the name of one of her past mistakes, how must she have felt when she realised he really was going to give up everything – power, privilege, prestige – for her?
Did she feel guilt, horrified that it had come to this? Did she feel humbled, unworthy of such a sacrifice? Did she feel utterly secure, knowing that she was loved beyond all imagining?
How do you feel? Because of course, we’re all both Lilibet and Wallis, aren’t we? Jesus Christ, the King of kings left his throne, his majesty and his glory for love of us. Unlike Edward, of course, this King was not driven by earthly desires. He did not shirk his duty or abandon the path laid out for him. His love was not self-seeking, and did not ignore the counsel of his advisors, yet it did change everything.
He left his throne for us, whose life choices barred us from unity with him. And in doing so, he changed our destiny – making us joint-heirs to the throne, sons and daughters of the King, future rulers over a mighty kingdom.
A December day, a King leaves his throne, a world is transformed.
I don’t know how Wallis Simpson handled the new life she had been given, beyond the fact that this, her third marriage, did last. Elizabeth, however, has lived her new identity with faithfulness and dedication, inspired and sustained by her own love for the other King whose sacrifice of love changed not just her life, but her eternity.
The babe in the manger is a poignant reminder of who we are, and what King Jesus gave up for us.