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Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson
Duchess of Windsor
Wallis Simpson in 1936
Spouse Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. (m. 1916; div. 1927)
Ernest Aldrich Simpson (m. 1928; div. 1937)
Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (m. 1937; d. 1972)
Father Teackle Wallis Warfield
Mother Alice Montague
Born Bessie Wallis Warfield
(1896-06-19)19 June 1896[1]
Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania
Died 24 April 1986(1986-04-24) (aged 89)
Paris, France
Burial 29 April 1986
Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, Windsor

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (previously Wallis Simpson and Wallis Spencer, born Bessie Wallis Warfield; 19 June 1896[1] – 24 April 1986) was an American socialite. Her third husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, abdicated his throne to marry her.

Wallis's father died shortly after her birth, and she and her widowed mother were partly supported by their wealthier relatives. Her first marriage, to U.S. naval officer Win Spencer, was punctuated with periods of separation and eventually ended in divorce. In 1934, during her second marriage to Ernest Simpson, she allegedly became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales.[2] Two years later, after Edward's accession as king, Wallis divorced her second husband in order to marry Edward.

The King's desire to marry a woman who had two living ex-husbands threatened to cause a style "Her Royal Highness". She was instead styled as "Her Grace", a style normally reserved only for non-royal dukes and duchesses.

Before, during, and after World War II, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were suspected by many in government and society of being Nazi sympathisers. In the 1950s and 1960s, she and the Duke shuttled between Europe and the United States, living a life of leisure as society celebrities. After the Duke's death in 1972, the Duchess lived in seclusion, and was rarely seen in public. Her private life has been a source of much speculation, and she remains a controversial figure in British history.


  • Early life 1
  • First marriage 2
  • Second marriage 3
  • Relationship with Edward, Prince of Wales 4
  • Abdication crisis 5
  • Third marriage: Duchess of Windsor 6
  • World War II 7
  • Later life 8
  • Widowhood and death 9
  • Legacy 10
    • In popular culture 10.1
  • Titles and styles 11
  • Ancestors 12
  • Footnotes and sources 13
  • References 14
  • Further reading 15
  • External links 16

Early life

Wallis Warfield in about 1915 when she lived in Baltimore

An only child, Bessie Wallis (sometimes written "Bessiewallis") Warfield was born in Square Cottage at Monterey Inn, a hotel directly across the road from the Monterey Country Club, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania.[4] A summer resort close to the Maryland–Pennsylvania border, Blue Ridge Summit was popular with Baltimoreans escaping the season's heat, and Monterey Inn, which had a central building as well as individual wooden cottages, was the town's largest hotel.[5][6] Her father was Teackle Wallis Warfield, fifth and youngest son of Henry Mactier Warfield, a flour merchant described as "one of the best known and personally one of the most popular citizens of Baltimore" who ran for mayor in 1875.[7] Her mother was Alice Montague, a daughter of insurance salesman William Montague. Wallis was named in honour of her father (who was known as Wallis) and her mother's elder sister, Bessie (Mrs D. Buchanan Merryman), and was called Bessie Wallis until at some time during her youth the name Bessie was dropped.[8]

According to a wedding announcement in the Baltimore Sun (20 November 1895), her parents were married, by Reverend C. Ernest Smith, at Baltimore's Saint Michael and All Angels' Protestant Episcopal Church on 19 November 1895,[9] though Wallis claimed her parents were married in June 1895.[10] Her father died of tuberculosis on 15 November 1896.[11] For her first few years, she and her mother were dependent upon the charity of her father's wealthy bachelor brother S. Davies Warfield, postmaster of Baltimore and later president of the Continental Trust Company and the Seaboard Air Line Railway. Initially, they lived with him at the four-story row house, 34 East Preston Street, that he shared with his mother.[12]

In 1901, Wallis's aunt Bessie Merryman was widowed, and the following year Alice and Wallis moved into her four-bedroom house on West Chase Street, Baltimore, where they lived for at least a year until they settled in an apartment, and then a house, of their own. In 1908, Wallis's mother married her second husband, John Freeman Rasin, son of a prominent Democratic party boss.[13] On 17 April 1910, Wallis was confirmed at Christ Episcopal Church, Baltimore, and between 1912 and 1914 her uncle Warfield paid for her to attend Oldfields School, the most expensive girls' school in Maryland.[14] There she became a friend of heiress Renée du Pont, a daughter of Senator T. Coleman du Pont, of the du Pont family, and Mary Kirk, whose family founded Kirk Silverware.[15] A fellow pupil at one of Wallis's schools recalled, "She was bright, brighter than all of us. She made up her mind to go to the head of the class, and she did."[16] Wallis was always immaculately dressed and pushed herself hard to do well.[17] A later biographer wrote of her "Though Wallis's jaw was too heavy for her to be counted beautiful, her fine violet-blue eyes and petite figure, quick wits, vitality, and capacity for total concentration on her interlocutor ensured that she had many admirers."[18]

First marriage

In April 1916, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a U.S. Navy aviator, at Pensacola, Florida, while visiting her cousin Corinne Mustin.[19] It was at this time that Wallis witnessed two airplane crashes about two weeks apart, resulting in a lifelong fear of flying.[20] The couple married on 8 November 1916 at Christ Episcopal Church in Baltimore, which had been Wallis's parish. Win, as her husband was known, was an alcoholic. He drank even before flying and once crashed into the sea, but escaped almost unharmed.[21] After the United States entered World War I in 1917, Spencer was posted to San Diego as the first commanding officer of a training base in Coronado, known as Naval Air Station North Island; they remained there until 1921.[22] In 1920, Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited San Diego, but he and Wallis did not meet.[23] Later that year, Spencer left his wife for a period of four months, but in the spring of 1921 they were reunited in Washington, D.C., where Spencer had been posted. They soon separated again, and in 1922, when Spencer was posted to the Far East as commander of the Pampanga, Wallis remained behind, continuing an affair with an Argentine diplomat, Felipe de Espil.[18] In January 1924, she visited Paris with her recently widowed cousin Corinne Mustin,[24] before sailing to the Far East aboard a troop carrier, USS Chaumont (AP-5). The Spencers were briefly reunited until she fell ill, after which she returned to Hong Kong.[25]

Wallis travelled to China on USS Chaumont (AP-5) in 1924.

An Italian diplomat remembered Wallis from her time in Warlord era China: "Her conversation was brilliant and she had the habit of bringing up the right subject of conversation with anyone she came in contact with and entertaining them on that subject."[26] According to Hui-lan Koo, the second wife of Chinese diplomat and politician Wellington Koo, the only Mandarin Chinese phrase that Wallis learned during her sojourn in Asia was "Boy, pass me the champagne".[27][28]

Wallis toured China, and stayed with Katherine and Herman Rogers, who were to remain long-term friends, while in Beijing.[29] According to the wife of one of Win's fellow officers, Mrs Milton E. Miles, in Beijing Wallis met Count Galeazzo Ciano, later Mussolini's son-in-law and Foreign Minister, had an affair with him, and became pregnant, leading to a botched abortion that left her unable to conceive.[30] The rumour was later widespread but never substantiated and Ciano's wife, Edda Mussolini, denied it.[31] Wallis spent over a year in China. By September 1925, she and her husband were back in the United States, though living apart.[32] Their divorce was finalised on 10 December 1927.[33]

Second marriage

By the time her marriage to Spencer was dissolved, Wallis had already become involved with Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an Anglo-American shipping executive and former officer in the Coldstream Guards.[34] He divorced his first wife, Dorothea (by whom he had a daughter, Audrey), to marry Wallis on 21 July 1928 at the Register Office in Chelsea, London.[35] Wallis had telegraphed her acceptance of his proposal from Cannes where she was staying with her friends, Mr and Mrs Rogers.[36]

The Simpsons temporarily set up home in a furnished house with four servants in Mayfair.[37] In 1929, Wallis sailed back to the United States to visit her sick mother, who had married legal clerk Charles Gordon Allen after the death of Rasin. During the trip, Wallis's investments were wiped out in the Wall Street Crash, and her mother died penniless on 2 November 1929. Wallis returned to England and with the shipping business still buoyant, the Simpsons moved into a large flat with a staff of servants.[38]

Through a friend, Consuelo Thaw, Wallis met Consuelo's sister Queen Mary, and heir apparent to the British throne. Between 1931 and 1934, he met the Simpsons at various house parties, and Wallis was presented at court. Ernest was beginning to encounter financial difficulties, as the Simpsons were living beyond their means, and they had to fire a succession of staff.[41]

Relationship with Edward, Prince of Wales

In January 1934, while Lady Furness was away in New York City, Wallis allegedly became the Prince's mistress. Edward denied this to his father, despite his staff seeing them in bed together as well as "evidence of a physical sexual act".[42] Wallis soon ousted Lady Furness, and the Prince distanced himself from a former lover and confidante, the Anglo-American textile heiress Freda Dudley Ward.[43]

The Prince of Wales and Wallis in Kitzbühel, Austria, February 1935

By the end of 1934, Edward was irretrievably besotted with Wallis, finding her domineering manner and abrasive irreverence toward his position appealing; in the words of his official biographer, he became "slavishly dependent" on her.[18] According to Wallis, it was during a cruise on Lord Moyne's private yacht Rosaura in August 1934 that she fell in love with Edward.[44] At an evening party in Buckingham Palace, he introduced her to his mother—his father was outraged,[45] primarily on account of her marital history, as divorced people were generally excluded from court.[46] Edward showered Wallis with money and jewels,[47] and in February 1935, and again later in the year, he holidayed with her in Europe.[48] His courtiers became increasingly alarmed as the affair began to interfere with his official duties.[49]

In 1935, the head of the Metropolitan Police Special Branch told the Metropolitan Police Commissioner that Wallis was also having an affair with Guy Marcus Trundle, who was "said to be employed by the Ford Motor Company".[50] Claims of an affair were doubted, however, by Captain Val Bailey, who knew Trundle well and whose mother had an affair with Trundle for nearly two decades,[51] and by historian Susan Williams.[52]

Abdication crisis

On 20 January 1936, George V died at Duke of York, his brother.[55] The British media remained deferential to the monarchy, and no stories of the affair were reported in the domestic press, but foreign media widely reported their relationship.[56]

The monarch of the United Kingdom is Supreme Governor of the Church of England—at the time of the proposed marriage, and until 2002, the Church of England did not permit the remarriage of divorced people who had living ex-spouses.[57] Constitutionally, the King was required to be in communion with the Church of England, but his proposed marriage conflicted with the Church's teachings.[58] Furthermore, the British and Dominion governments felt that Wallis, as a two-time divorcée, was politically, socially, and morally unsuitable as a prospective consort.[59] She was perceived by many in the British Empire as a woman of "limitless ambition"[60] who was pursuing the King because of his wealth and position.[61]

Wallis had already filed for divorce from her second husband on the grounds that he had committed adultery with her childhood friend Mary Kirk and the

  • BBC News 1986 - Duchess of Windsor Funeral
  • The Duke & Duchess of Windsor Society
  • Short film about the King and Wallis Simpson

External links


Further reading

  • Bloch, Michael (1996), The Duchess of Windsor, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  
  • Bloch, Michael (1982), The Duke of Windsor's War, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  
  • Bloch, Michael (1988), The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor, London: Bantam Books,  
  • Bloch, Michael (ed.) (1986), Wallis and Edward: Letters 1931–1937, Summit Books,  
  • Bradford, Sarah (1989), George VI, London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson,  
  • Culme, John (1987), The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, New York: Vendome Press,  
  • Howarth, Patrick (1987), George VI, London: Hutchinson,  
  • Vickers, Hugo (2011), Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold, Story of the Duchess of Windsor, London: Hutchinson,  
  • Williams, Susan (2004), The People's King: The True Story of the Abdication, New York: Palgrave Macmillan,  
  • Wilson, Christopher (2001), Dancing With the Devil: the Windsors and Jimmy Donahue, London: HarperCollins,  
  • Windsor, HRH The Duke of (1951), A King's Story, London: Cassell and Co 
  • Windsor, The Duchess of (1956), The Heart has its Reasons: The Memoirs of the Duchess of Windsor, London: Michael Joseph 
  • Ziegler, Philip (2004) "Windsor, (Bessie) Wallis, duchess of Windsor (1896–1986)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38277, retrieved 2 May 2010 (subscription required)


  1. ^ a b According to 1900 census returns, she was born in June 1895, which author Charles Higham says was before her parents' marriage (Higham, p. 4). Author Greg King, noted that, though Higham's "scandalous assertion of illegitimacy enlivens the telling of the Duchess's life", "the evidence to support it is slim indeed", and that it "strains credulity" (King, p. 11).
  2. ^ Edward sued one author, Geoffrey Dennis, who claimed that Wallis and Edward were lovers before their marriage, and won (King, p. 119).
  3. ^ a b Duke of Windsor, p. 413
  4. ^ a b Weir, p. 328
  5. ^ "Baltimore in Her Centennial Year", Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly, Volume 43 (Frank Leslie Publishing House, 1897), p. 702
  6. ^ Blue Ridge Summit referred to as "a fashionable summer resort ... then greatly patronized by Baltimoreans" in Francis F. Bierne (1984), The Amiable Baltimoreans, Johns Hopkins University Press, p. 118
  7. ^ Carroll, David H. (1911), Men of Mark in Maryland, Volume 3, B. F. Johnson Inc., p. 28 
  8. ^ King, p. 13
  9. ^ "Montague—Warfield", Baltimore Sun, 20 November 1895
  10. ^ Duchess of Windsor, p. 17; Sebba, p. 6
  11. ^ Tombstone in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore; King p. 13; Sebba, p. 9
  12. ^ Carroll, vol. 3, pp. 24–43; Higham, p. 5; King, pp. 14–15; Duchess of Windsor, p. 20
  13. ^ King, p. 24; Vickers, p. 252
  14. ^ Higham, p. 4
  15. ^ Higham, pp. 12–13; King, p. 28
  16. ^ Higham, p. 7
  17. ^ Higham, p. 8; King, pp. 21–22
  18. ^ a b c d e f Ziegler, Philip (2004) "Windsor, (Bessie) Wallis, duchess of Windsor (1896–1986)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38277, retrieved 2 May 2010 (subscription required)
  19. ^ Higham, p. 18; King, p. 38; Sebba, pp. 20–21; Vickers, p. 257; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 59–60
  20. ^ Higham, p. 20
  21. ^ Higham, pp. 23–24; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 76–77
  22. ^ Higham, pp. 26–28; King, pp. 47–52; Vickers, pp. 258, 261; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 79–85
  23. ^ Higham, p. 29; King, pp. 51–52; Sebba, p. 36; Vickers, p. 260; Duchess of Windsor, p. 85
  24. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 22; King, p. 57; Sebba, pp. 41–43; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 100–101
  25. ^ Higham, p. 38; King, p. 60; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 104–106
  26. ^ Higham, p. 46
  27. ^ Koo, Madame Wellington (1943), Hui-Lan Koo: An Autobiography as told to Mary van Rensselaer Thayer, New York: Dial Press 
  28. ^ Maher, Catherine (31 October 1943), "Madame Wellington Koo's Life Story",  
  29. ^ Higham, p. 47; King, pp. 62–64; Sebba, pp. 45–53; Vickers, p. 263; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 112–113
  30. ^ Higham, p. 50
  31. ^ Moseley, Ray (1999), Mussolini's Shadow: The Double Life of Count Galeazzo Ciano, New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 9–10,  
  32. ^ Higham, pp. 50–51; King, p. 66
  33. ^ Sebba, p. 60; Weir, p. 328
  34. ^ Higham, pp. 53–54; King, pp. 68–70; Sebba, pp. 62–64; Vickers, pp. 267–269; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 125, 131
  35. ^ Sebba, pp. 62–67; Weir, p. 328
  36. ^ Higham, p. 58
  37. ^ Higham, p. 64; Duchess of Windsor, p. 140
  38. ^ Higham, p. 67
  39. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 33; Higham, p. 68; Sebba, p. 84; Vickers, p. 272
  40. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 37; King, p. 98; Vickers, p. 272
  41. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 37–41; Higham, pp. 73–80
  42. ^ Diary of Clive Wigram, 1st Baron Wigram quoted in Bradford, pp. 145–147
  43. ^ Sebba, p. 98; Vickers, p. 287; Ziegler, pp. 227–228
  44. ^ King, p. 113; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 195–197, 200
  45. ^ Ziegler, p. 231
  46. ^  
  47. ^ King, pp. 126, 155; Sebba, pp. 103–104; Ziegler, p. 238
  48. ^ Higham, pp. 113, 125 ff; King, pp. 117, 134
  49. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 58 and 71
  50. ^ Report from Superintendent A. Canning to Sir Philip Game, 3 July 1935, National Archives, PRO MEPO 10/35, quoted in Williams, p. 75
  51. ^ a b Fox, James (1 September 2003), "The Oddest Couple",  
  52. ^ Williams, p. 75
  53. ^ Sebba, p. 119; Duke of Windsor, p. 265
  54. ^ Ziegler, pp. 277–278
  55. ^ Ziegler, pp. 289–292
  56. ^ King, p. 173; Sebba, pp. 136, 141; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 237, 242
  57. ^ Marriage in Church After a Divorce (doc), Church of England, retrieved 9 March 2013 
  58. ^ Beaverbrook, pp. 39–44, 122
  59. ^ a b Ziegler, pp. 305–307
  60. ^ Sir Horace Wilson writing to Neville Chamberlain, 10 December 1936, National Archives PREM 1/453, quoted in Higham, p. 191 and Sebba, p. 250
  61. ^ Ziegler, pp. 234, 312
  62. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 82, 92
  63. ^ Beaverbrook, p. 57
  64. ^ King, pp. 213–218; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 255–269
  65. ^ Duke of Windsor, p. 359
  66. ^  
  67. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard; Evans, Rob (2 March 2000), "Edward and Mrs Simpson cast in new light",  
  68. ^ a b Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 106–118; Higham, p. 224; King, pp. 253–254, 260
  69. ^ a b McMillan, Richard D. (11 May 1937), "Duke Awaiting His Wedding Day", Waycross Journal-Herald: 1, retrieved 6 September 2011 
  70. ^ Howarth, p. 73; Sebba, pp. 198, 205–209
  71. ^ Letter from Queen Mary to Queen Elizabeth, 21 May 1937, Royal Archives, QEQM/PRIV/RF, quoted in  
  72. ^ Sebba, p. 207
  73. ^ Sebba, p. 213
  74. ^ Diary of Neville Chamberlain quoted in Bradford, p. 243
  75. ^ Home Office memo on the Duke and Duchess's title, National Archives, retrieved 2 May 2010 
  76. ^ Higham, p. 437; King, p. 399
  77. ^ Bradford, p. 172; King, pp. 171–172
  78. ^ Hogg, James; Mortimer, Michael (2002), The Queen Mother Remembered, BBC Books, pp. 84–85,  
  79. ^ Bloch, The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor, p. 259
  80. ^ See also, Bloch, Wallis and Edward: Letters 1931–1937, pp. 231, 233 cited in Bradford, p. 232
  81. ^ a b Higham, p. 232; Sebba, p. 208
  82. ^ Letter from Lady Mosley to the Duchess of Devonshire, 5 June 1972, in Mosley, Charlotte (ed.) (2007). The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters. London: Fourth Estate, p. 582
  83. ^ Memoirs of Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt, quoted in King, p. 295
  84. ^ Higham, p. 203
  85. ^ Evans, Rob; Hencke, David (29 June 2002), "Wallis Simpson, the Nazi minister, the telltale monk and an FBI plot", The Guardian, retrieved 2 May 2010 
  86. ^ Bloch, The Duke of Windsor's War, p. 355
  87. ^ Higham, p. 317
  88. ^ Higham, p. 305
  89. ^ Higham, p. 313
  90. ^ Telegram from Weddell to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, FRUS 740.0011 1939/4357 European War, National Archives, Washington, D.C., quoted in Higham, p. 323 and King, p. 343
  91. ^ Bloch, The Duke of Windsor's War, p. 102
  92. ^ King, pp. 350–352; Duchess of Windsor, pp. 344–345
  93. ^ King, pp. 368–376; Vickers, p. 331
  94. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 153, 159; Higham, p. 330
  95. ^ Sebba, p. 244
  96. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 165
  97. ^ When telling a story of how Wallis complained about blacks being allowed on Park Avenue (Manhattan), Joanne Cummings, the wife of Nathan Cummings, said of Wallis, "She grew up in the South, at a certain time, with certain prejudices." Source: Menkes, p. 88
  98. ^ Howarth, p. 130; King, pp. 377–378
  99. ^ King, p. 378
  100. ^ Howarth, p. 113
  101. ^ King, p. 465; Vickers, p. 367
  102. ^ Menkes, pp. 192–193
  103. ^ Higham, p. 443
  104. ^ Menkes, pp. 11–48
  105. ^ Higham, p. 449; Ziegler, p. 545
  106. ^ Higham, p. 450
  107. ^ Higham, pp. 259–260; King, pp. 294–296
  108. ^ Vickers, p. 360
  109. ^ Higham, pp. 466–469; King, pp. 455–459; Vickers, p. 362
  110. ^ Bloch, The Secret File of the Duke of Windsor, p. 299; Higham, p. 473; Vickers; pp. 15–16, 367
  111. ^ Conducted by Launcelot Fleming, Dean of Windsor (The Times, Monday, 5 June 1972; p. 2; Issue 58496; col. E)
  112. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 216; Higham, pp. 477–479; Sebba, p. 272; Vickers, p. 26
  113. ^ Sebba, pp. 274–277; Vickers, pp. 99–120; Ziegler, p. 555
  114. ^ King, pp. 492–493
  115. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 221; Higham, p. 490; King, p. 505; Menkes, p. 199; Vickers, pp. 137–138
  116. ^ Vickers, pp. 124–127, 165
  117. ^ Vickers, pp. 178–179
  118. ^ Vickers, p. 370
  119. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 222
  120. ^ Vickers, pp. 158–168
  121. ^ Vickers, pp. 191–198
  122. ^ a b Simple funeral rites for Duchess, BBC, 29 April 1998, retrieved 2 May 2010 
  123. ^ Rasmussen, Frederick (29 April 1986), Windsors had a plot at Green Mount, Baltimore: The Baltimore Sun 
  124. ^ Vickers, p. 245
  125. ^ King, p. 506; Menkes, pp. 198, 206 and 207
  126. ^ Menkes, p. 200
  127. ^ Culme, p. 7
  128. ^ Wadler, Joyce; Hauptfuhrer, Fred (8 January 1990), "Egypt's Al Fayed Restores the House Fit for a Former King",  
  129. ^ Vickers, pp. 234–235
  130. ^ Wilson, Christopher (2001), Dancing With the Devil: the Windsors and Jimmy Donahue, London: HarperCollins,  
  131. ^ King, p. 442
  132. ^ Higham, p. 119; King, p. 61; Vickers, p. 263; Ziegler, p. 224
  133. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, pp. 10, 13, 230
  134. ^ Higham, p. 496; Ziegler, p. 533
  135. ^ King, p. 12; Vickers, p. 229
  136. ^ Higham, pp. 452–453
  137. ^ Bloch, The Duchess of Windsor, p. 231
  138. ^  
  139. ^ King, p. 388; Wilson, p. 179
  140. ^ Sebba, pp. 280–281
  141. ^ Sebba, p. 282
  142. ^ Ashley, Mike (1998), The Mammoth Book of British Kings and Queens, London: Robinson, p. 701,  

Footnotes and sources


The Duchess of Windsor was unofficially styled Her Royal Highness within her own household.[81]
  • 3 June 1937 – 24 April 1986: Her Grace The Duchess of Windsor
Wallis resumed her maiden surname by deed poll on 7 May 1937,[142] but continued to use the title "Mrs".[69]
  • 19 June 1896 – 8 November 1916: Miss Bessie Wallis Warfield
  • 8 November 1916 – 21 July 1928: Mrs Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr.
  • 21 July 1928 – 7 May 1937: Mrs Ernest Aldrich Simpson
  • 7 May 1937 – 3 June 1937: Mrs Wallis Warfield
Cypher of Wallis and Edward

Titles and styles

In his 1981 novel Famous Last Words, Canadian author Timothy Findley depicts the Duchess as a manipulative conspirator.[140] A 2006 short story by Rose Tremain, called "The Darkness of Wallis Simpson", depicts Wallis more sympathetically in her final years of ill health.[141] Anne Edwards wrote another sympathetic account, of Wallis's life up to the marriage to Edward, in her 1991 book Wallis: The Novel. Kate Auspitz's 2010 novel, The War Memoirs of HRH Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, portrays Wallis as a tool of the Allies who employ her to knock fascist-sympathising King Edward VIII off the throne.

Wallis was portrayed by Faye Dunaway in The Woman I Love (1972, TV drama), Cynthia Harris in Edward & Mrs. Simpson (1978, TV miniseries), Barbara Parkins in To Catch a King (1983, TV movie), Jane Seymour in The Woman He Loved (1988, TV movie), Jane Hartley in Always (1997, West End musical), Amber Sealey in Bertie and Elizabeth (2002, TV movie), Joely Richardson in Wallis & Edward (2005, TV movie), Gillian Anderson in Any Human Heart (2010, TV mini-series), Emma Clifford in Upstairs, Downstairs (2010, TV mini-series), Eve Best in The King's Speech (2010), and Andrea Riseborough in W.E. (2011).

In popular culture

Her ghost-written memoirs, The Heart Has Its Reasons, were published in 1956. Author Charles Higham says of the book, "facts were remorselessly rearranged in what amounted to a self-performed face-lift ... reflecting in abundance its author's politically misguided but winning and desirable personality." He describes the Duchess as "charismatic, electric and compulsively ambitious".[136] Hearsay and conjecture have clouded assessment of the Duchess of Windsor's life, not helped by her own manipulation of the truth. But there is no document which proves directly that she was anything other than a victim of her own ambition, who lived out a great romance that became a great tragedy. In the opinion of her biographers, "she experienced the ultimate fairy tale, becoming the adored favourite of the most glamorous bachelor of his time. The idyll went wrong when, ignoring her pleas, he threw up his position to spend the rest of his life with her."[137] Academics agree that she ascended a precipice that "left her with fewer alternatives than she had anticipated. Somehow she thought that the Establishment could be overcome once [Edward] was king, and she confessed frankly to Aunt Bessie about her 'insatiable ambitions' ... Trapped by his flight from responsibility into exactly the role she had sought, suddenly she warned him, in a letter, 'You and I can only create disaster together' ... she predicted to society hostess Sibyl Colefax, 'two people will suffer' because of 'the workings of a system' ... Denied dignity, and without anything useful to do, the new Duke of Windsor and his Duchess would be international society's most notorious parasites for a generation, while they thoroughly bored each other ... She had thought of him as emotionally a Peter Pan, and of herself an Alice in Wonderland. The book they had written together, however, was a Paradise Lost."[138] The Duchess herself is reported to have summed up her life in a sentence: "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance."[139]

She had no children. Although there have been rumours of pregnancy and abortion, most notably involving Count Ciano in China, there is no hard evidence that the Duchess became pregnant by any of her lovers or her three husbands. Claims that she suffered from androgen insensitivity syndrome, also known as testicular feminisation,[51][133] seem improbable, if not impossible, given her operation for uterine fibroids in 1951.[134] Her doctor, Jean Thin, claimed she had normal genitalia.[135]

Wallis was plagued by rumours of other lovers. The gay American playboy Jimmy Donahue, an heir to the Woolworth fortune, claimed to have had a liaison with the Duchess in the 1950s, but Donahue was notorious for his inventive pranks and rumour-mongering.[130][131] The existence of a so-called "China dossier" (detailing the supposed sexual and criminal exploits of Wallis in China) is denied by virtually all historians and biographers.[132]


In recognition of the help France gave to the Duke and Duchess in providing them with a home, and in lieu of death duties, the Duchess's collection of Louis XVI style furniture, some porcelain and paintings were made over to the French state.[125] The British royal family received no major bequests. Most of her estate went to the Pasteur Institute medical research foundation, on the instructions of Suzanne Blum. The decision took the royal family and the Duchess's friends by surprise, as she had shown little interest in charity during her life.[126] In a Sotheby's auction in Geneva in April 1987 the Duchess's remarkable jewellery collection raised $45 million for the Institute, approximately seven times its pre-sale estimate.[127] Blum later claimed that Egyptian entrepreneur Mohamed Al-Fayed tried to purchase the jewels for a "rock bottom price".[128] Al-Fayed bought much of the non-financial estate, including the lease of the Paris mansion. An auction of his collection was announced in July 1997 for later that year in New York.[129] Delayed by his son's death in the car accident that also claimed the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, the sale raised more than £14 million for charity in 1998.[122]

The Duchess of Windsor died on 24 April 1986 at her home in the Windsor Castle, attended by her two surviving sisters-in-law: the Queen Mother and Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, and other members of the royal family.[121] The Queen, Prince Philip, and the Prince and Princess of Wales attended both the funeral ceremony and the burial. She was buried next to Edward in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle, as "Wallis, Duchess of Windsor".[122] Until an agreement with Queen Elizabeth II in the 1960s, the Duke and Duchess had previously planned for a burial in a purchased cemetery plot at Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore, where the father of the Duchess was interred.[123][124]

Upon the Duke's death from cancer in 1972, the Duchess travelled to the United Kingdom to attend his funeral,[111] staying at Buckingham Palace during her visit.[112] The Duchess, increasingly frail and suffering from dementia, lived the remainder of her life as a recluse, supported by both her husband's estate and an allowance from the Queen.[113] She suffered several falls, and broke her hip twice.[114] After her husband's death, the Duchess's French lawyer, Suzanne Blum, assumed power of attorney.[115] Blum sold items belonging to the Duchess to her own friends at lower than market value,[116] and was accused of exploiting her client in Caroline Blackwood's The Last of the Duchess, written in 1980, but not published until after Blum's death in 1995.[117] Later royal biographer Hugo Vickers called Blum a "Satanic figure … wearing the mantle of good intention to disguise her inner malevolence".[118] In 1980, the Duchess lost the power of speech.[119] Toward the end, she was bedridden and did not receive any visitors, apart from her doctor and nurses.[120]

Widowhood and death

In 1965, the Duke and Duchess visited London as the Duke required eye surgery for a detached retina; Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, visited them. The Duke's sister, the Princess Royal, also visited just 10 days before her death. They attended her memorial service in Westminster Abbey.[108] Later, in 1967, the Duke and Duchess joined the royal family in London for the unveiling of a plaque by Elizabeth II to commemorate the centenary of Queen Mary's birth.[109] Both Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles visited the Windsors in Paris in the Duke's later years, the Queen's visit coming only shortly before the Duke died.[110]

On George VI's death in 1952, the Duke returned to England for the funeral. The Duchess did not attend; the previous October whilst staying in London she had told her husband, "I hate this country. I shall hate it to my grave."[103] Later that year, they were offered the use of a house by the Paris municipal authorities. The couple lived at 4 route du Champ d'Entraînement in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris for most of the remainder of their lives, essentially living a life of easy retirement.[104] They bought a second house in the country, Moulin de la Tuilerie or "The Mill" in Gif-sur-Yvette, where they soon became close friends of their neighbours, Oswald and Diana Mosley.[105] Years later, Diana Mosley claimed that the Duke and Duchess shared her and her husband's views that Hitler should have been given a free hand to destroy Communism.[106] As the Duke himself wrote in the New York Daily News of 13 December 1966: "... it was in Britain's interest and in Europe's too, that Germany be encouraged to strike east and smash Communism forever ... I thought the rest of us could be fence-sitters while the Nazis and the Reds slogged it out."[107]

In 1946, when the Duchess was staying at Ednam Lodge, the home of the Earl of Dudley, some of her jewels were stolen. There were rumours that the theft had been masterminded by the royal family as an attempt to regain jewels taken from the Royal Collection by the Duke, or by the Windsors themselves as part of an insurance fraud—they made a large deposit of loose stones at Cartier the following year. However, in 1960, Richard Dunphie confessed to the crime. The stolen pieces were only a small portion of the Windsor jewels, which were either bought privately, inherited by the Duke, or given to the Duke when he was Prince of Wales.[102]

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at the White House for dinner with U.S. President Richard Nixon in 1970. The Duchess is in a Givenchy silk evening dress.[101]
Portrait of the Duchess by Toni Frissell, undated

Later life

Wallis performed her role as the Bahamas' first lady competently for five years; she worked actively for the Red Cross and in the improvement of infant welfare.[93] However, she hated Nassau, calling it "our St Helena", in a reference to Napoleon's final place of exile.[94] She was heavily criticised in the British press for her extravagant shopping in the United States, undertaken when Britain was enduring privations such as rationing and the blackout.[18][95] Her attitude towards the local population, whom she called "lazy, thriving niggers" in letters to her aunt, reflected her upbringing.[96][97] In 1941, Prime Minister Winston Churchill strenuously objected when she and her husband planned to tour the Caribbean aboard a yacht belonging to a Swedish magnate, Axel Wenner-Gren, whom Churchill stated to be "pro-German". Churchill felt compelled to complain again when the Duke gave a "defeatist" interview.[98] Another of their acquaintances, Charles Bedaux, who had hosted their marriage, was arrested on charges of treason in 1943, and committed suicide in jail in Miami before the case was brought to trial.[99] The British establishment distrusted the Duchess; Sir Alexander Hardinge wrote that her suspected anti-British activities were motivated by a desire for revenge against a country that rejected her as its queen.[100] After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the couple returned to France and retirement.

Following the outbreak of war in 1939, the Duke was given a military post in the British Army stationed in France. According to the son of Lord Ironside, the Duchess continued to entertain friends associated with the fascist movement, and leaked details of the French and Belgian defences gleaned from the Duke.[88] When the Germans invaded the north of France and bombed Britain in May 1940, the Duchess told an American journalist, "I can't say I feel sorry for them."[89] As the German troops advanced, the Duke and Duchess fled south from their Paris home, first to Biarritz, then in June to Spain. There, she told the United States ambassador, Alexander W. Weddell, that France had lost because it was "internally diseased".[90] In July, the pair moved to Lisbon, Portugal, where they stayed at the home of Ricardo de Espirito Santo e Silva, a banker who was suspected of being a German agent.[91] In August, the Duke and Duchess travelled by commercial liner to the Bahamas, where the Duke was installed as Governor.[92]

World War II

The Duke and Duchess lived in France in the pre-war years. In 1937, they made a high profile visit to Germany and met Adolf Hitler at his Berchtesgaden retreat. After the visit, Hitler said of Wallis, "she would have made a good Queen".[83] The visit tended to corroborate the strong suspicions of many in government and society that the Duchess was a German agent,[18] a claim that she ridiculed in her letters to the Duke.[84] U.S. FBI files compiled in the 1930s also portray her as a possible Nazi sympathiser. Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg told the FBI that she and leading Nazi Joachim von Ribbentrop had been lovers in London.[85] There were even rather improbable reports during World War II that she kept a signed photograph of Ribbentrop on her bedside table,[86] and had continued to pass details to him even during the invasion of France.[87]

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Adolf Hitler, 1937

According to the wife of former British Union of Fascists leader Oswald Mosley, Diana Mitford, who knew both Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Windsor but was only friendly with the latter, the Queen's antipathy toward her sister-in-law may have resulted from jealousy. Lady Mosley wrote to her sister, the Duchess of Devonshire, after the death of the Duke of Windsor, "probably the theory of their [the Windsors'] contemporaries that Cake [a Mitford nickname for the Queen Mother, derived from her delighted exclamation at the party at which Deborah Devonshire first met her] was rather in love with him [the Duke] (as a girl) & took second best, may account for much."[82]

[81] Within the household of the Duke and Duchess, the style "Her Royal Highness" was used by those who were close to the couple.[80][18] The Duchess bitterly resented the denial of the royal title and the refusal of the Duke's relatives to accept her as part of the family.[79].Shirley Temple, as "Shirley", as in Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) On the other hand, the Duchess of Windsor referred to Queen Elizabeth as "Mrs Temple" and "Cookie", alluding to her solid figure and fondness for food, and to her daughter, [78], who wrote that she "never said anything nasty about the Duchess of Windsor, except to say she really hadn't got a clue what she was dealing with."Duke of Grafton These claims were denied by Queen Elizabeth's close friends, such as the [77] and for prematurely behaving as Edward's consort when she was his mistress.[76] Edward was created

Wallis and Edward married one month later on 3 June 1937 at the Mary thought the wedding had been scheduled for then as a deliberate slight.[71] No member of Edward's family attended. Wallis wore a "Wallis blue" Mainbocher wedding dress.[72] The marriage produced no children. In November, Ernest Simpson married Mary Kirk.[73]

Château de Candé, Monts, France

Third marriage: Duchess of Windsor

Edward left Britain for Austria, where he stayed at Schloss Enzesfeld, the home of Baron Eugen and Baroness Kitty de Rothschild. Edward had to remain apart from Wallis until there was no danger of compromising the granting of a decree absolute in her divorce proceedings.[68] Upon her divorce being made final in May 1937, she changed her name by deed poll to Wallis Warfield, resuming her maiden name.[69] The couple were reunited at the Château de Candé, Monts, France, on 4 May 1937.[68]

The King signed the the Duke of Kent. Special laws passed by the Parliaments of the Dominions finalised Edward's abdication the following day, or in Ireland's case one day later. On 11 December 1936, Edward said in a radio broadcast, "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."[3]

Wallis's relationship with the King had become public knowledge in the United Kingdom by early December. She decided to flee the country as the scandal broke, and was driven to the south of France in a dramatic race to outrun the press.[64] For the next three months, she was under siege by the media at the Villa Lou Viei, near Cannes, the home of her close friends Herman and Katherine Rogers.[65] At her hideaway, Wallis was pressured by the King's Lord-in-Waiting, Lord Brownlow, to renounce the King. On 7 December 1936, Lord Brownlow read to the press her statement, which he had helped her draft, indicating Wallis's readiness to give up the King.[66] However, Edward was determined to marry Wallis. John Theodore Goddard, Wallis's solicitor, stated: "[his] client was ready to do anything to ease the situation but the other end of the wicket [Edward VIII] was determined." This seemingly indicated that the King had decided he had no option but to abdicate if he wished to marry Wallis.[67]

[63] If the King were to marry Wallis against Baldwin's advice, the Government would be required to resign, causing a constitutional crisis.[59]

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