The world knew the wedding was coming long before the date was announced: when Britain’s King Edward VIII abdicated in late 1936 — becoming Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor — the story of his relationship with a divorced American woman, known as Wallis Simpson, had been brewing for months. As TIME explained back then, the press had mostly given the King the traditional respectfully wide berth on the subject when he came to the throne in early 1936, assuming that he would continue his “private life” as many other royals had done throughout history, but he did not play along by keeping their relationship the necessary semi-secret. Because the King could not marry someone who had been divorced, their relationship would have to end or his reign would. He chose the latter, a shocking enough decision to earn the person behind the choice the title of TIME’s first-ever Woman of the Year.
Even so, there were disputes to be resolved before the couple could move on with their lives. Would the Royal Family recognize the marriage? Would the Duke’s new wife be recognized as a Duchess? Would the couple be permitted to return to the U.K., and if yes would the Duke be able to serve the monarchy in some way?
A compromise of sorts was reached in the middle of 1937, though the Duke of Windsor got little that he wanted, and a date was set: on June 3, 1937 — 80 years ago this Saturday — they’d be married in France.
Though these photographs don’t show the actual ceremony, TIME reported the following week on how it all went:
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