The Abdication of King Edward VIII: a study of estrangement between an adult son and elderly mother

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Abstract

In this article the Abdication of King Edward VIII of Great Britain and his estrangement from the dowager Queen Mary are reconsidered as prototypes of intergenerational conflict arising from a collision of values between an adult child and an elderly mother. Historical materials on the Abdication and other respected secondary sources, including biographies of key individuals, were consulted, and the limited sociological and clinical literature on estrangement between elderly parents and adult children was referenced. Although estrangement was perpetuated by the rigid and incompatible positions taken up by both the former king and his widowed mother, the elderly Queen Mary, it was the latter who suffered the greater emotional consequences of the permanent separation that followed the Abdication. Most accounts of the Abdication have put forward views of the conflict of values at its centre that emphasise the vulnerability of the elderly mother. The clinical narrative supports a characterisation of estrangement as a subtype of bereavement with particular relevance to the geriatric population.

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