The royal 'I Quit!': Famous abdications

If kings and queens are able to savor the best things in life, why shouldn't they get to give up the throne, too?

By CNN staff and Breeanna Hare

Published February 6, 2020

Illustrated London News

Abdication -- the act of formally giving up duties as a monarch -- isn't traditional. But it happens more often than you might think.

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King Edward VIII of the UK

Take, for example, the first British monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne: King Edward VIII, seen here delivering his abdication speech in 1936.

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Edward wanted to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson (pictured) -- an act that would break the rules of the Church of England.

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He chose to give up the throne, marry Simpson and become the Duke of Windsor, sending shock waves through British society.

There have been a number of more recent abdications around the world, as well. Here are five other monarchs who've said, "I quit!"

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Emperor Akihito of Japan

Emperor Emeritus Akihito became the first Japanese monarch to abdicate in 200 years when he stepped down from the throne in April 2019. He'd expressed concerns that his health and age would affect his ability to rule.

Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

King Juan Carlos I of Spain

In June 2014, a 76-year-old King Juan Carlos I announced that he was stepping down because it was "time to hand over to a new generation." He served as Spain's monarch for nearly four decades.

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Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

In 2013, after ruling for three decades, Queen Beatrix passed the crown to her son Prince Willem-Alexander. She was the third successive Dutch monarch to abdicate -- knowing it's best to go out on top, historians say.

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King Albert II of Belgium

In July 2013, King Albert II of Belgium gave up his kingship, reportedly over concerns that he was too old to carry out his duties, and passed the throne to his son. He was 79 at the time and had ruled for 20 years.

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Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Emir of Qatar, also abdicated in 2013 and transferred power to his son. His decision to cede power willingly was a first in the modern history of the region; the norm is for Gulf leaders to rule until their death or until circumstances conspire to overthrow them.

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For more royal history, watch CNN Original Series "The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty" Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.