The royal wedding that rocked the world

Edward and Mrs Simpson before their romance became common knowledge

It was low key and discreet, a million times removed from the grandeur of a usual Windsor wedding. Yet the marriage that took place, on this day in 1937, is among the most famous of all royal unions. Edward, Duke of Windsor wed Wallis Simpson in a short ceremony in France. It was a royal wedding that rocked the world.

Just a year earlier, the idea of Edward marrying in a French castle as a royal duke was unthinkable. But the a year earlier, his relationship with twice divorced American Wallis Simpson was still all but a secret to many in Britain. Edward, then, was a king and an emperor, the golden haired boy born in the reign of Victoria as a guarantee of her dynasty into the third generation. From the moment he arrived, Edward had been destined for a crown. The only marriage anyone had imagined for him was a very royal one indeed, with a princess as a bride, an abbey as the setting and all the carraiges needed for a wedding fit for a king.

When news broke that he wanted to marry Mrs Simpson, the shock was huge. For Wallis, with two marriages behind her already, wasn't queen material. Not then, anyway. The fact that Edward VIII chose her over his kingdom turned their relationship into one of the most controverisal royal stories of all time.When they finally said 'I do', on June 3rd 1937, the world watched. It was the final chapter in a romance that had seemed unthinkable just a year before.

The marriage took place in the Chateau de Cande, near Tours, loaned to them for the occasion by a French millionaire. None of the groom's family was present and his mother, Queen Mary, had taken umbrage at the date chosen - June 3rd had been the birthday of Edward's father, George V, who had said before his death that his eldest son and heir would ruin himself within a year. The service was conducted by Robert Anderson Jardine, a clergyman from the north of England who had volunteered for the role when the Church of England refused to sanction the marriage. The bride wore a dress by Mainbocher in Wallis blue but although she became a duchess, there was no HRH for Wallis, a decision that rankled with her and her husband for deades afterwards.

Perhaps at some point in the weeks before the Abdication, Edward and Wallis had dreamed that this marriage would be one written in the history of kings, set at Westminster Abbey with the bride in white and leaving as a queen consort. The reality was so different, it was hard to fathom then. Eighty years on, Edward and Wallis continue to confuse and divide. They are seen as either an epic royal romance or arch schemers. Their later years did nothing to rehabilitate their reputations. And yet while