Abdication (from the Latin abdicatio disowning, renouncing, from ab, from, and dicare, to declare, to proclaim as not belonging to one), the act whereby a person in office renounces and gives up the same before the expiry of the time for which it is held. In Roman law, the term is especially applied to the disowning of a member of a family, as the disinheriting of a son, but the word is seldom used except in the sense of surrendering the supreme power in a state.
Probably the most famous abdication in recent memory is that of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom in 1936, who abdicated the British throne in order to marry American divorceť Wallis Simpson, over the objections of the Church of England and the royal family. (See Abdication crisis of 1936.) This was also the first time in history that the British crown was surrendered entirely voluntarily. Richard II of England, for example, was forced to abdicate after the throne was seized by his cousin, Henry Bolingbroke, while Richard was out of the country.
When James II of England, after throwing the great seal into the Thames, fled to France in 1688, he did not formally resign the crown, and the question was discussed in parliament whether he had forfeited the throne or had abdicated. The latter designation was agreed upon, for in a full assembly of the Lords and Commons, met in convention, it was resolved in spite of James's protest "that King James II having endeavoured to subvert the constitution of the kingdom, by breaking the original contract between king and people, and, by the advice of Jesuits and other wicked persons, having violated the fundamental laws, and having withdrawn himself out of this kingdom, has abdicated the government, and that the throne is thereby vacant." The Scottish parliament pronounced a decree of forfeiture and deposition. Among the most memorable abdications of antiquity may be mentioned that of Sulla the dictator, 79 B.C., and that of the Emperor Diocletian, A.D. 305. The following is a list of the more important abdications:
1 Pedro had succeeded to the throne of Portugal in 1826, but abdicated it at once in favor of his daughter.
See also: Lists of incumbents, List of monarchs who lost their thrones or abdicated in the 20th century