Wallis Simpson
Wife of Edward VIII of the United Kingdom
Wallis Simpson
Wallis, Duchess of Windsor was an American socialite who married, as her third husband, Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII of the British Empire, Emperor of India. 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 a U.S.
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Wallis Simpson's personal information overview.
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    TEENAGE
  • 1986
    The Duchess of Windsor died on 24 April 1986 at her home in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris.
    More Details Hide Details Her funeral was held at St George's Chapel, 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. 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". 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. 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. 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. 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. Blum later claimed that Egyptian entrepreneur Mohamed Al-Fayed tried to purchase the jewels for a "rock bottom price".
  • 1981
    In his 1981 novel Famous Last Words, Canadian author Timothy Findley depicts the Duchess as a manipulative conspirator.
    More Details Hide Details A 2006 short story by Rose Tremain, called "The Darkness of Wallis Simpson", depicts Wallis more sympathetically in her final years of ill health. 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.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1980
    In 1980, the Duchess lost the power of speech.
    More Details Hide Details Toward the end, she was bedridden and did not receive any visitors, apart from her doctor and nurses.
    Blum sold items belonging to the Duchess to her own friends at lower than market value, 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.
    More Details Hide Details Later royal biographer Hugo Vickers called Blum a "Satanic figure … wearing the mantle of good intention to disguise her inner malevolence".
  • 1972
    Upon the Duke's death from cancer in 1972, the Duchess travelled to the United Kingdom to attend his funeral, staying at Buckingham Palace during her visit.
    More Details Hide Details 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. She suffered several falls, and broke her hip twice. After her husband's death, the Duchess's French lawyer, Suzanne Blum, assumed power of attorney.
  • OTHER
  • 1967
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1965
    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.
    More Details Hide Details The Duke's sister, the Princess Royal, also visited just 10 days before her death. They attended her memorial service in Westminster Abbey.
  • 1952
    On George VI's death in 1952, the Duke returned to England for the funeral.
    More Details Hide Details 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." 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. 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. 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. 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."
  • 1946
    In 1946, when the Duchess was staying at Ednam Lodge, the home of the Earl of Dudley, some of her jewels were stolen.
    More Details Hide Details 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.
  • 1941
    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, who Churchill said was "pro-German". Churchill felt compelled to complain again when the Duke gave a "defeatist" interview. 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the couple returned to France and retirement.
  • 1940
    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."
    More Details Hide Details 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". 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. In August, the Duke and Duchess travelled by commercial liner to the Bahamas, where the Duke was installed as Governor. 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. However, she hated Nassau, calling it "our St Helena", in a reference to Napoleon's final place of exile. 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. Her attitude towards the local population, whom she called "lazy, thriving niggers" in letters to her aunt, reflected her upbringing.
  • 1937
    In 1937, they made a high profile visit to Germany and met Adolf Hitler at his Berchtesgaden retreat.
    More Details Hide Details After the visit, Hitler said of Wallis, "she would have made a good Queen". The visit tended to corroborate the strong suspicions of many in government and society that the Duchess was a German agent, a claim that she ridiculed in her letters to the Duke. 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. There were even rather improbable reports during World War II that she kept a signed photograph of Ribbentrop on her bedside table, and had continued to pass details to him even during the invasion of France. 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.
    Upon her divorce being made final in May 1937, she changed her name by deed poll to Wallis Warfield, resuming her maiden name. The couple were reunited at the Château de Candé, Monts, France, on 4 May 1937. Wallis and Edward married one month later on 3 June 1937 at the Château de Candé, loaned to them by French millionaire Charles Bedaux.
    More Details Hide Details The date would have been King George V's 72nd birthday; Queen Mary thought the wedding had been scheduled for then as a deliberate slight. No member of Edward's family attended. Wallis wore a "Wallis blue" Mainbocher wedding dress. The marriage produced no children. In November, Ernest Simpson married Mary Kirk. Edward was created Duke of Windsor by his brother, George VI, prior to the marriage. However, letters patent, passed by the new king and unanimously supported by the Dominion governments, prevented Wallis, now the Duchess of Windsor, from sharing her husband's style of "Royal Highness". George VI's firm view that the Duchess should not be given a royal title was shared by Queen Mary and George's wife, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). At first, the British royal family did not accept the Duchess and would not receive her formally, although the former king sometimes met his mother and siblings after his abdication. Some biographers have suggested that Wallis's sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth, remained bitter towards her for her role in bringing George VI to the throne (which she may have seen as a factor in his early death) and for prematurely behaving as Edward's consort when she was his mistress. These claims were denied by Queen Elizabeth's close friends, such as the Duke of Grafton, 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."
  • 1936
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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 VIII was determined." This seemingly indicated that the King had decided he had no option but to abdicate if he wished to marry Wallis. The King signed the Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936, in the presence of his three surviving brothers, the Duke of York (who would ascend the throne the following day as George VI), the Duke of Gloucester and 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."
    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 decree nisi was granted on 27 October 1936.
    More Details Hide Details In November, the King consulted with the British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, on a way to marry Wallis and keep the throne. The King suggested a morganatic marriage, where he would remain king but Wallis would not be queen, but this was rejected by Baldwin and the Prime Ministers of Australia and South Africa. If the King were to marry Wallis against Baldwin's advice, the Government would be required to resign, causing a constitutional crisis. 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. 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. At her hideaway, Wallis was pressured by the King's Lord-in-Waiting, Lord Brownlow, to renounce the King.
  • 1935
    Edward showered Wallis with money and jewels, and in February 1935, and again later in the year, he holidayed with her in Europe. His courtiers became increasingly alarmed as the affair began to interfere with his official duties. 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".
    More Details Hide Details 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, and by historian Susan Williams. On 20 January 1936, George V died at Sandringham and Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII. The next day, he broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation of his accession from a window of St James's Palace, in the company of the still-married Wallis. It was becoming apparent to Court and Government circles that the new King-Emperor meant to marry her. The King's behaviour and his relationship with Wallis made him unpopular with the Conservative-led British government, as well as distressing his mother and the Duke of York, his brother. 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.
  • 1934
    In 1934, during her second marriage to Ernest Simpson, she allegedly became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. 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 constitutional crisis in the United Kingdom and the Dominions, and ultimately led to his abdication in December 1936 to marry "the woman I love".
    More Details Hide Details After the abdication, the former king was created Duke of Windsor by his brother and successor, King George VI. Edward married Wallis six months later, after which she was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor, without the 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.
    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.
    More Details Hide Details At an evening party in Buckingham Palace, he introduced her to his mother—his father was outraged, primarily on account of her marital history, as divorced people were generally excluded from court.
    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.
    More Details Hide Details
    In January 1934, while Lady Furness was away in New York City, Wallis allegedly became the Prince's mistress.
    More Details Hide Details Edward denied this to his father, despite his staff seeing them in bed together as well as "evidence of a physical sexual act". Wallis soon ousted Lady Furness, and the Prince distanced himself from a former lover and confidante, the Anglo-American textile heiress Freda Dudley Ward.
  • 1929
    The Simpsons temporarily set up home in a furnished house with four servants in Mayfair. 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.
    More Details Hide Details 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. Through a friend, Consuelo Thaw, Wallis met Consuelo's sister Thelma, Lady Furness, the then-mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. On 10 January 1931, Lady Furness introduced Wallis to the Prince at Burrough Court, near Melton Mowbray. The Prince was the eldest son of King George V and 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.
  • 1925
    By September 1925, she and her husband were back in the United States, though living apart. Their divorce was finalised on 10 December 1927. 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. 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.
    More Details Hide Details Wallis had telegraphed her acceptance of his proposal from Cannes where she was staying with her friends, Mr and Mrs Rogers.
  • 1924
    In January 1924, she visited Paris with her recently widowed cousin Corinne Mustin, before sailing to the Far East aboard a troop carrier,.
    More Details Hide Details The Spencers were briefly reunited until she fell ill, after which she returned to Hong Kong. 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." 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". Wallis toured China, and stayed with Katherine and Herman Rogers, who were to remain long-term friends, while in Beijing. 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. The rumour was later widespread but never substantiated and Ciano's wife, Edda Mussolini, denied it. Wallis spent over a year in China.
  • 1922
    They soon separated again, and in 1922, when Spencer was posted to the Far East as commander of the, Wallis remained behind, continuing an affair with an Argentine diplomat, Felipe de Espil.
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  • 1916
    In April 1916, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a U.S. Navy aviator, at Pensacola, Florida, while visiting her cousin Corinne Mustin. It was at this time that Wallis witnessed two airplane crashes about two weeks apart, resulting in a lifelong fear of flying. 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. 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.
    More Details Hide Details In 1920, Edward, the Prince of Wales, visited San Diego, but he and Wallis did not meet. 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.
  • 1910
    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.
    More Details Hide Details 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. 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." Wallis was always immaculately dressed and pushed herself hard to do well. 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."
  • 1908
    In 1908, Wallis's mother married her second husband, John Freeman Rasin, son of a prominent Democratic party boss.
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  • 1901
    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.
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  • 1896
    Born on June 19, 1896.
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