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Wallis Simpson (Wikimedia Commons)

The American Woman Who Changed the English Monarchy

Long before Meghan Markle ever did

Kassondra O'Hara
Nov 25, 2020 · 8 min read

Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in 1896 in the cottage of a resort that lay across the lines of both Pennsylvania and Maryland. At least this is what has been speculated, as there is no birth certificate nor a newspaper announcement of her birth. She was born to wealthy and distinguished parents; however, she was raised by her mother in Baltimore after her father’s death from tuberculosis when she was 5 months old.

As she grew older, she attended Oldfield’s, the most prestigious preparatory school in Maryland, made possible by her wealthy uncle Solomon’s charity. She was very smart and dressed immaculately, but was soon known by other students and parents for her antics, such as smoking, sneaking out, and having boyfriends.

After graduating in 1916, Wallis moved to Pensacola, Florida. Here, she would live with her cousin Corrine and Corrine’s husband, who was a U.S. Navy Captain and had recently been appointed head of the new Pensacola Air Base. It didn’t take long for her to fall head over heels for and marry an officer at the base, Lt. Earl Winfield Spencer.

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Lt. Earl Winfield Spencer (Wikimedia Commons)

Marrying Win (as he was called) allowed for travel and adventure for Wallis. They were stationed in San Diego, Washington D.C., and even China. Win was unfortunately also an alcoholic and abusive at times, which caused their marriage to fail after a time. Wallis and Win divorced in 1927.

Wallis however, was back in the saddle by 1928 when she met and married American executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Despite Wallis’ desire for high social status, Ernest was not the most glamourous — or even very rich, for that matter. He was however good-looking, educated, and dependable, which offered her a sense of security. After they were married, the couple moved to London. Once settled in a home that allowed for entertaining guests, Wallis began throwing elaborate parties, that included guest lists filled with the “Who’s Who” of England.

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Ernest Simpson(Wikimedia Commons)

Wallis soon became friends with Thelma, the Lady Furness. Thelma had recently begun having a relationship with Edward, Prince of Wales, and eventually became his mistress. The secret couple invited Mr. and Mrs. Simpson to serve as “chaperones” one weekend, as Edward was coming to visit Thelma at her country estate and they needed to keep up the appearance as just it just being a “friendly” visit.

When Thelma was to take an extended trip to the United States, she asked Wallis to entertain Edward while she was away, so that he did not take another mistress in her absence. Well, Wallis certainly “entertained” the Prince, but not in the way that Thelma had foreseen.

During the summer of 1934, the still-married Wallis attended a vacation with Prince Edward and his entourage. The royal staff that accompanied them were appalled at Wallis’ assertiveness and Edward’s apparent devotion to her.

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Souce: https://commons.wikimedia.org/

After the trip, Edward insisted that Wallis was to be introduced to the King and Queen and began showering her with extremely expensive gifts and jewelry.

On January 20, 1936, King George drew his final breathes, which promoted Prince Edward to King Edward VIII. Even though Wallis was still married to Ernest at this time, the now King Edward insisted that she stand at his side during his proclamation ceremony. This appalled the royal staff and other members of the royal family.

The beginning of King Edward’s reign was filled with delicate matters of state, such as civil war occurring in Spain and Adolph Hitler violating the Treaty of Versailles, but all he seemed occupied with was how to make Wallis his Queen, even though she was still the wife of another man.

Apparently, Wallis’ husband, Ernest agreed during dinner with the King, that he would “let Wallis go” if the King agreed to take care of her. The king supposedly stood and stated, “Do you really think that I would be crowned without Wallis at my side?”

Awkward…

King Edward saw no life for him other than that of being the husband of Wallis. There were options available that would allow him to keep his throne, such as keeping Wallis as his formal mistress or marrying her and she be given a lower title than that of Queen, but none of this was good enough for him. The King insisted that his only choice was to abdicate the English throne. (Some say that he never wanted to be King and simply used this as an excuse to get out of the responsibility.)

“You must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love,” Edward VIII stated.

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Source: https://www.bbc.com/

Once King Edward announced to the world that he was giving up the throne to marry the woman that he loved, life was anything but easy. Wallis became one of the most hated women in the world. She was sent hate mail, was harassed by the paparazzi, and spurned by her friends. She could barely even leave her home and eventually left the country. Wallis and Edward were married, in France, without any members of the royal family present.

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Source: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/

The newlyweds lived in France after their marriage (as they were prohibited from living in England). While Edward and Wallis stayed married for the duration of their lives, it was obvious that it was not “happily ever after”.

There’s no doubt that Wallis cared for Edward, at least in the beginning, but there is speculation that she only remained in the marriage because due to his abdication, she was unable to divorce him. There have been numerous accounts that later on in their marriage, nothing Edward would do could please Wallis. She has been said to have been horrid to Edward and often caused him to lock himself away in tears.

Allegedly, Wallis began finding her husband even more boring and irritating around 1950, when the “other man” that she considered the love of her life married someone else. This other man was Herman Rogers, an old American friend. When he died in 1957, Wallis sent a telegram to his wife that stated “All my love and sympathy for my loss”.

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Herman Rogers, Wallis Simpson, & the Duke of Windsor / Source: https://people.com/

She often created relationships with persons only for the sole fact that they disgraced or embarrassed the Duke. She would go on tirades over the smallest issue and cast insults whenever she got the chance.

Wallis then began spending all of her time with Jimmy Donohue, who was 20 years her junior and a known gay man. They were basically inseparable and would have appeared to have been a couple, had Jimmy’s sexual preference not been known. During this time, she became wild, rude, strange, and stayed out all night, with no regard for her husband’s or the public’s opinion of her antics. There were even rumors of the two engaging in reciprocating oral sexcapades, but it was never taken seriously.

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Jimmy Donohue and the Duchess of Windsor / Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Wallis Simpson was demonized by the royal family and the world. She was accused of manipulation, betrayal, deceit, and “stealing a king”. New details since the couple’s deaths, however, have revealed that it’s possible that Wallis never wanted any of the history-changing events that occurred to even happen. She never intended for him to give up his throne for her.

She was definitely a woman who knew what she wanted and worked to get it, even at the expense of others, but there is only so much that the love of a woman can do to persuade a man, especially a King.

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Source: https://www.mirror.co.uk/

It seems as though Edward was almost child-like in his obsession with Wallis. It’s obvious that he worshiped the ground that she walked on, but what if the fact that he knew that he would never be able to marry her and remain king only increased his affection? Basically, she was not only the love his life, but also his way out of living a life that he wanted no part of.

In 1972, Edward was diagnosed with throat cancer. During his last two weeks, his only companions were his nurse Julie, and his pug dog, Black Diamond. He was never visited by his wife during this period, whose bedroom was on the same floor. Julie reported that he often called Wallis’ name, but she never came. Julie cradled the Duke of Windsor in her arms as she drew his last breath.

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Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Not long after Edward’s death, Willis began the onset of dementia. After years of becoming more mentally and physically incapacitated, she died on April 24, 1986 at age 89. It is said that there is a bitter irony in the fact that she was laid to rest on the grounds of Windsor Castle beside Edward.

She spends eternity lying next to a man she barely tolerated, in the cemetery of the family she detested, covered by the earth of a country she hated.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/world/there-is-no-happy-ending-wallis-simpson-loved-another-man-during-marriage-to-edward-viii-1.3805295

https://www.biography.com/personality/wallis-simpson

https://www.politico.com/states/new-york/albany/story/2012/02/american-girl-the-wallis-simpson-story-told-differently-067223

https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a14845323/andrew-morton-wallis-simpson-life-after-abdication/

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5355361/Wallis-Simpson-biography-reveals-tired-husband.html

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Kassondra O'Hara

Written by

Mother of 4 (one human and 3 canines) in the midst of a mid-life career change.

Exploring History

Exploring History is a publication about history. Instead of focusing on any particular time period of history, we explore anything about the past that helps our readers understand the world they live in today. We pay special attention to historiographical rigor and balance.

Kassondra O'Hara

Written by

Mother of 4 (one human and 3 canines) in the midst of a mid-life career change.

Exploring History

Exploring History is a publication about history. Instead of focusing on any particular time period of history, we explore anything about the past that helps our readers understand the world they live in today. We pay special attention to historiographical rigor and balance.

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