What Was So Special About the Woman the British Monarch Gave Up the Crown For
In 1936, the King of Great Britain, Edward VIII, abdicated the throne to marry the woman he loved. If it hadn’t been for that step, Elizabeth II would have never become Queen and the modern history of the British Monarchy would have been quite different. Edward’s act drew in the attention of his love Wallis Simpson, and it’s quite hard to tell the lies from the truth.
We at Bright Side grew very interested in this love story and decided to find out how it really happened.
Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in the US in 1896. Her mother was the daughter of a stockbroker and her father came from a merchant’s family. 5 months after she was born, her father died. Bessie’s childhood was really poor: they didn’t have enough money but her mother didn’t want to admit the catastrophic situation, so every time they were visited by guests, she served great meals so the expenses surpassed their income. Bessie’s uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield helped them financially.
Bessie’s uncle also paid for her education in the Oldfields School, the most expensive girls’ school in Maryland. She became friends with daughters of politicians and businessmen. Her classmates spoke of the girl, saying, “She was bright. Brighter than any of us.” She didn’t like the name Bessie, it seemed to be too simple for her, so the girl decided to go by “Wallis” instead.
The point of the school was to prepare the young ladies for adult life and the most important task after graduation for all of them was to get married as soon as possible. It was quite suspicious if a girl didn’t get a marriage proposal in the first 2-3 years. And because the financial situation of Wallis’ family was very tough, it was extremely important for her to find a husband.
The first time Wallis got married was at the age of 20. Her husband was a pilot, he was 7 years older than her. After the marriage, she noticed that he was a heavy drinker. He once even flew a plane drunk and fell into the sea.
Her husband was very cruel and he tied her up when he left home. Wallis’ patience came to an end after 5 years: they broke up, then tried to get back together several times but in the end, they got divorced. She didn’t ask for a divorce for a long time as if she was hoping that things would go back to normal.
After the divorce, Wallis tried to write short articles about fashion but the idea didn’t quite pan out so she started working as a scaffolding seller. 1 year later, she got married to Ernest Aldrich Simpson, who was a shipping executive.
He took his wife to London and his sister introduced Mrs. Simpson to a lot of new people. Wallis met people from a totally new world, and in 1932, a friend introduced her to the Prince of Wales — the future Kind Edward VIII. Ironically, this friend was Lady Furness who was in a close relationship with the Prince.
Edward (or as people close to the prince would call him, David...the prince had 7 names) was an attractive, blue-eyed, blonde man and was very popular among women. When he first met Wallis, he had several very close female friends.
The heir to the throne had been prepared for political activity since a very young age. In the 1920s-1930s, he actively traveled around the country, communicated with people, and looked for ways to battle unemployment. He was even as popular as Edward VII, his grandfather when he was Prince of Wales.
But the Prince tried to escape from the official world more and more: he had found a home presented by his father and David did the gardening. He became an expert at growing roses. Only the people he thought were his friends were allowed to visit him there.
The Simpsons became regular visitors of the estate just 1 year before they met David. The couple invited the Prince to their house and he invited them to different trips but Mr. Simpson often missed them because he was busy. So, on trips with the Prince, Wallis was accompanied by her aunt who was the first person to notice the “love in every look” between them.
In her memoirs, Wallis remembered that at a certain moment, they “crossed the line which is the border between love and friendship”. The relationship of the couple became known to the public and there were a lot of rumors about them.
David was so obsessed with Wallis that people who knew him referred to him as a dog of Mrs. Simpson's. He painted her nails sitting on his knees and buttoned her shoes without becoming embarrassed that there were servants there. He wrote letters to her that were full of trust and admiration and he presented diamonds to her, some of which could only be given to a queen.
Biographers found their relationship similar to communication between a mother and a son. "His letters to her are infantile, they ask for love and protection. Her letters are wise and tender. The correspondence looks like a dialogue between a loving wise parent and a lonely child," one said.
The Prince was finally being understood. The way monarchs were raised was just to prepare them for the upcoming reign. It is possible that the family had more prohibitions and rules than understanding and care. The emotional and attentive American give David what he was desperately missing.
David had a totally different attitude toward Wallis than to other women he had relationships with. He probably wanted to discuss the situation with his father but George V died and the responsibility for the life of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British overseas territories were completely on his shoulders. Edward VIII was King for 10 months.
Wallis asked for a divorce and the English government was seriously worried about this news because everyone realized that the King was going to get married. But as the representative of the Anglican Church, he had no right to marry a divorced woman, and she had been divorced twice. The Prime Minister of Great Britain, Stanley Baldwin tried to convince the King to stop this relationship. But he refused. The only politician who supported Edward and didn’t judge him was Winston Churchill.
In 1936, the press was buzzing with news about the upcoming constitutional crisis and Mrs. Simpson herself claimed she was ready to leave the country if it helped to solve the problem.
The women of England were not indifferent of the situation. In the photo, you can see participants of the protest with posters warning against abdication.
In 1936, King Edward VIII received an official letter that parliament wouldn’t support his marriage to Wallis Simpson. His attempts to find a compromise and have a negotiation didn’t lead to any changes.
When Wallis found out about this letter, she was shocked. She said that she had to leave the country immediately and it was her only option. David said that nobody could make him leave her and if the country was going to prohibit the marriage, he would abdicate. Wallis burst into tears because of how decisive he was. “He insisted that he needed me and I, as a woman in love, was ready to go across the rivers of sorrow, the seas of despair, and the oceans of agony for him,” she said.
On December 11, 1936, King Edward VIII became the first King of England in 800 years who abdicated willingly. He said, “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.”
George VI, who became King, gave his brother the title Duke of Windsor. Such a title was never and has never been given to anyone else. After the abdication, Edward went to Austria and after 6 months of being separated, Wallis’ divorce papers were ready so the couple got married in France. The bride was wearing a sky blue dress and the color was coined Wallis Blue.
Winston Churchill, who supported David, became Prime Minister. The Duke claimed he was ready to serve anywhere beyond the border and in 1940, he was given the governorship of the Bahamas. After 1945, the couple lived in Paris. They visited England only for the funeral of George VI (1952) and the mother of the duke, Queen Mary (1953).
But it was not until 1967 that, for the first time, the Duke and Duchess were invited to attend an official public ceremony with other members of the royal family—initially, for the unveiling of a plaque given to Queen Mary at the Marlborough House.
This is a photo of Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and the Duchess of Windsor in Paris, 1972. If it hadn’t been for this love, Elizabeth II would have never become Queen: her father George VI received the throne after his brother Edward’s VIII’s abdication.
On their 24th marriage anniversary, the duchess said, ’’I have given my husband every ounce of my affection, something he never had a great deal of in his bachelor life. Notice I use the word ’affection’. I believe it is an element apart from love. It means doing the things that uphold a man’s confidence in himself, creating an atmosphere of warmth and interest, of taking his mind off his worries." She was definitely a woman who loved her husband. They didn’t have any children but they did have pets.
When they had just met, Wallis took care of the Prince’s pets. He was moved by this and presented her with a Cairn Terrier. They called him Slipper and the dog became a kind of symbol of their relationship.
They lived a long life, they traveled, and Wallis had a very active life position. The couple was always at the center of attention: both when they were alive and even after they died. Their love letter, Wallis’ jewelry, and personal belongings were sold at an auction for millions of dollars.
The Duke died in 1972, and he never made peace with his family. The Duchess died in 1986 and according to her last will, she was buried right next to her husband in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, not far from the Windsor Castle. Now, Prince Henry and Meghan Markle live in the castle.
In 2011, the film, W.E. (“W” for Wallis, and “E” for Edward) was released. It’s about the love of Edward and Wallis and it was directed by Madonna.
What do you think about Wallis Simpson and the King’s decision to abdicate the throne for the woman he loved? Do you think he did the right thing?
Preview photo credit Mary Evans Picture Library / EAST NEWS