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The Romance That Destroyed a King

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Prince of Wales Edward VII in 1926 as a young and handsome prince of England

Prince of Wales Edward VII in 1926 as a young and handsome prince of England

Young Bess Wallis Warfield

No one would have ever thought that a young American girl would someday be responsible for the King of England abdicating his crown, country and family to marry a common, twice-divorced American woman. As unbelievable as that sounds it is exactly what happened in 1936.

Wally, as she became known, was born the daughter of Teackle Wallis Warfield and the former Alice Montague on June 19, 1896, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. At a very young age, her father passed away and her mother ran a boarding house and was forced to accept her husband's brother's charity in order to raise her daughter. Luckily for Wallis, her rich uncle was willing to pay for her to attend exclusive and expensive schools for her education.

Marriages Number One and Two

On Nov 8, 1916, Wallis married Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a naval pilot. It seems that Wallis may have thought that her husband had more money than he actually did. In reality, he was a naval aviator and her life was one of a military spouse and she followed her husband wherever he was based, first San Diego and then China. Reports are that the couple separated several times due to his drinking and abusive behavior. The marriage didn't last long and they divorced in 1927.

Wallis married a second time just one year later in London, England on July 21, 1928. Husband number two was an American who had become a naturalized British citizen. Ernest Simpson was a wealthy businessman who was a partner in a very successful shipping business. Due to her new husband's wealth and position, Wallis was accepted into the wealthy British society that she loved. Together or separately they attended society functions such as dinner parties, and social gatherings.

Within a few short years, she became close friends with Lady Furness who was the Prince of Wales Edward VII's current mistress. It was through either Lady Thelma Furness or a close friend of hers that Wallis was introduced to the Prince of Wales Edward I. It was during this time that Wallis was presented at court in 1935.

Prince of Wales

Edward was the oldest child of King George V and Princess Mary of Tech. He was born on June 23, 1894. He held the name Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David. What a lot of names for a young child to learn to spell and remember. Edward also held the titles Prince of Wales and Duke of Windsor.

In 1930, Edward's father, King George V gave the young Prince of Wales a property known as Fort Belvedere where Edward chose to spend a lot of his time having parties and entertaining his close personal group of friends. By 1930 this group included Wallis or Wally as she was known. They became close friends and a few years later Prince Edward was convinced that he was deeply in love with the married Wally Simpson. His family particularly his mother the Queen highly disapproved of the relationship.

Suddenly on Jan 20th, 1936 King George, Edward's father passed away and Edward being the firstborn son became the new king. King Edward now felt that he should be allowed to marry his love Wally but the British government, the Church of England, and Edward's mother, the Queen Mary refused on the grounds that Wally was an American commoner and in the middle of a second divorce. This caused King Edward to choose between the woman he loved and hoped to marry or stepping aside and letting his younger brother Bertie take the throne.

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Edward's letter renouncing all claims to the English throne

Edward's letter renouncing all claims to the English throne

On Dec 11, 1936, Edward chose to abdicate the throne rather than give up Wally Simpson. He made an amazing and emotional speech where he told the British people that he could not and would not live without the woman he loved. He also felt that his younger brother was already married and had Princess Margaret and Princess Elizabeth as heirs to the throne.

In May of 1937, Wallis's second divorce was finalized, leaving her free to marry Edward. The couple was married a few short days later on June 3, 1937, with only a small private wedding which no members of the royal family attended. King George now declared the former King Edward to be known as the Duke of Windsor.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor continued living in France until World War II began and at that time the couple was sent to the Bahamas where Edward was the governor till the war ended. The Duke and Duchess lived most of their lives in France and were only allowed to return to England on rare occasions and with the permission of King George. They did return for the funerals of Edward's mother Queen Mary and the funeral of his brother King George.

King Edward's Speech Abdicating His Throne

The former king marries Wally Simpson is a very small wedding with no members of the royal family present

The former king marries Wally Simpson is a very small wedding with no members of the royal family present

Death of the Former King Edward VIII and Wally Simpson

Edward the Duke of Windsor, former King Edward died from throat cancer on May 28th, 1972 at his home in Paris. He was seventy-seven years old. Wallis Edward's wife and the Duchess of Windsor died at the age of 89 on April 25, 1986. The couple was buried side by side at Frogmore inside the estate of Windsor Castle.

Edward and Wally Simpson enjoying vacation time

Edward and Wally Simpson enjoying vacation time

References and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 L.M. Hosler

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