How American Socialite, Wallis Simpson, Almost Ruled Over England


Wallis Simpson was one of the most prominent American socialites in the 1930’s, attracting many men from wealthy families. However, her most notable husband was none other than King Edward VIII, but their unwelcome union threatened to throw the British monarchy into disrepair.

It’s Me Or The Throne

Wallis Simpson’s controversial relationship history had serious repercussions on her relationship with King Edward VIII. The King had to make the decision whether to give up the throne for his love or leave Simpson and reign over England, but what did he choose? His decision had a dramatic effect on the monarchy as we know it today.

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Affluent Family

Despite Wallis’ father dying shortly after her birth, hshe and her mother were supported and taken care of by their wealthy relatives. Growing up in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, Wallis was known as a poor relation of her wealthy family and this insecurity stuck with her into later life. Nevertheless, Wallis’ Uncle Warfield paid for the young girl to receive the most expensive education in Maryland, through attending the all girls Oldfields School. Wallis was always top of the class and immaculately presented.


Young Bride

In 1916, at the age of 20, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. who was a U.S Navy aviator. Just six months after meeting, the two were married in Wallis’ parish, the Christ Episcopal Church in Baltimore. However, her new husband had a reputation of being a heavy drinker to the point that he crashed a plane into the sea while intoxicated but escaped unharmed. During the marriage, Spencer was stationed in San Diego, Washington, D.C., and China, and the couple would be separated for months on end.


Going It Alone

Due to the long separations in their marriage, Wallis and Spencer’s relationship became increasingly strained. To add to the issues, Wallis was had a wandering eye when her husband was gone and while he was posted in the Far East as commander of the Pampanga, Wallis stayed at home and had an affair with Argentine diplomat, Felipe de Espil. In 1924, Wallis sailed to meet her husband but after falling ill, she returned to Hong Kong and toured China, staying with her long-term friends.


Rumors and Break Ups

While Wallis was in Beijing, she kept the company of foreign minister Count Galeazzo Ciano. It was reported that after the two had an affair, Wallis became pregnant with his child. However, after undergoing a botched abortion, she was left infertile. However, when the rumors were widespread Ciano’s wife vehemently denied everything. After spending a year a China, Wallis and Spencer returned to the U.S., but their marriage was doomed and they divorced in December, 1927.

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Before Wallis’ marriage to Spencer was dissolved, she became involved with Anglo-American shipping executive, Ernest Aldrich Simpson, who divorced his wife and the mother of his child, Dorothea, to marry Wallis. After a ceremony at the Register Office in Chelsea, London the newlyweds moved into a large furnished house in Mayfair complete with several servants. Around the same time, Wallis met Lady Furness, the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales and in January 1931, she met the Prince at an event at Burrough Court.

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Financial Troubles

Between 1931 until 1934, Simpson and Edward, Prince of Wales had a couple of encounters at various parties and became well acquainted with one another. Meanwhile, there was trouble in the Simpson marital home as Ernest began to encounter financial troubles and they had to fire a number of their staff. Wallis had become accustomed to an expensive lifestyle and the financial issues her husband was going through led her to have a wandering eye, her attention turned to Prince Edward.

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Affair Outrage

In January 1934, it was rumored that Wallis had become Prince Edward’s mistress. His staff had seen them in the bedroom together and the talk got back to his family, including his father, King George V. His entire family were outraged at what they were hearing, but Prince Edward denied everything. However, behind closed doors, Prince Edward had become infatuated with Wallis, and he began distancing himself from other lovers including Lady Furness and textile heiress Freda Dudley Ward.


Falling For The Prince

According to Wallis, it was in 1934 aboard Lord Moyne’s private yacht Rosaura that she fell in love with Edward. Their relationship was heating up and everyone around them could see it, but they did not accept it. From showering Wallis with the most precious jewels to vacationing around Europe, Edward was madly in love with Wallis. He wanted to spend all of his time with her, but as a Prince, this came at a harsh cost.

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Interfering With Royalty

While Wallis and Prince Edward were spending all of their time together, Prince Edward began neglecting his official royal duties, which alerted the concerns of his courtiers and his parents. King George had already expressed his distain and disapproval of the relationship and Edward’s lack of care for his duties angered the King that much more. However, there was a specific reason why Wallis was disliked by the royal family, something that was much more powerful than her personality or American background.


The Divorcee

The royal family, and King George in particular, were so outraged about Edward’s relationship with Wallis Simpson because she was a divorcée. George III’s Royal Marriages Act of 1772 specifically stated that royals are required to obtain permission from the Sovereign in order to wed someone who had been married before. The ruling was set in order to instill and uphold Protestant family values and King George couldn’t risk his son going against the act, becoming ostracized by the royals and putting his throne in jeopardy.

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Ascending The Throne

On January 20th, 1936, King George V died at Sandringham and Prince Edward ascended the throne to become King Edward VIII. Just one day after the announcement, the new King broke royal protocol by watching the proclamation accession from St. James Palace alongside Wallis, who was still married. The government and royals began to realize Edward’s intention to make Wallis his Queen which resulted in him becoming increasingly unfavorable. While Wallis moved forward with her divorce, King Edward’s intentions became public and people were concerned.



King Edward caused a scandal which was known as the “abdication crisis.” The Church of England would not perform a marriage if the spouse of the divorcée was still alive- both Wallis’ ex-husbands were living. King Edward then met with British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin in order to discuss how he could keep the throne while marrying Wallis. King Edward suggested a morganatic marriage whereby he would still be King but Wallis would not be Queen. It was rejected by Baldwin amongst other Prime Ministers.

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The Crisis

Due to the discussions coming to a deadlock and Edward’s determination to marry Wallis was evident, some were concerned he would go against the government and the word of the Prime Minister. In the event that the King married Wallis against Baldwin’s advice, the government would be required to resign and it would result in a constitutional crisis. Meanwhile, the news of Wallis’ affair and relationship with the King had become public knowledge and she fled to Cannes to escape the press when the scandal broke.

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Giving Up The King

With everyone losing hope that King Edward would be prepared to give up his love, Wallis, they diverted their attention to her in an attempt to split the two up. During Wallis’ time hiding away in Cannes, she was visited by the King’s Lord-in-Waiting, Lord Brownlow, to renounce the King. On December 7th 1937, Lord Brownlow assisted Wallis in drafting a statement which outlined her sacrifice to give up the King which was read to the press.

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The King’s Word

Despite Wallis’ statement, King Edward was not going to give up so easily. He knew he wanted to be with Wallis and he wasn’t going to let the British monarchy dictate who he was going to marry. Wallis’ solicitor John Theodore Goddard released a statement which said that she “was ready to do anything to ease the situation but the other end of the wicket [Edward VIII] was determined.” There was only one way that Edward could marry Wallis.

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King Edward had to abdicate the throne if he wanted to make Wallis his bride. On December 10th 1936, Edward signed the Instrument of Abdication witnessed by his three brothers Duke of York, the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. After the abdication was finalized the following day, Edward released a statement saying,””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.”

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Fleeing Britain

Edward was the first King to relinquish the throne since 1399. The Duke of York ascended the throne to become King George VI. The abdication would prove to be instrumental in the British monarchies history, and had profound effect upon the modern day royal family. However, after the news broke, Edward fled to Austria as to not compromise Wallis’ divorce proceedings back in England. Wallis’ divorce was granted in May 1937 and she immediately traveled to Château de Candé, Monts, France to be reunited with Edward.

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Wallis Becomes A Royal

Wallis and Edward waited no time in becoming man and wife after her divorce, and they were married on June 3rd 1937 in France. Not one member of Edward’s family attended the wedding, showing their disapproval of the marriage. Edward’s brother King George VI made him the Duke of Windsor, thus making Wallis the Duchess of Windsor. However, it was agreed by the government that Wallis would not take on a royal title and wouldn’t share her husbands title “Royal Highness.”


Wallis Snubbed

Queen Elizabeth was not shy about showing her distain for Wallis and was said to have refused to acknowledge her. When Wallis hosted a dinner at royal families beloved Scottish estate Balmoral, the Duchess of York was said to have “swished past” Wallis at the event. It has been said that a visit to Balmoral can determine your likelihood of being accepted into the family or not, and Wallis most definitely failed the test. The family tensions were extremely high.


Wartime Spending

In August 1940, the Duke and Duchess traveled to the Bahamas where Edward became Governor. Although Wallis completed her first lady duties in the Bahamas for five years, assisting with infant welfare and the Red Cross, she received some bad press after. Wallis’ extravagant shopping sprees and over the top spending in the United States during wartime rations and blackout in Britain led her to be hated by the British public and press. Even Winston Churchill spoke out, objecting to her disregard for the hardships during WWII.

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Life Of Leisure

Wallis and Edward did not have a good reputation back in Britain and not only had they been shunned by the royal family, the public turned against them following their behavior during the war. As a result, the Duke and Duchess returned to France to live in retirement after the war. In the 1950’s and 60’s, Edward and Wallis frequently traveled between the United States and Europe, attending events and mingling with celebrities. Wallis had truly returned to her days of being a socialite.

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Elizabeth VS Wallis

One member of the royal family who had a strong hatred for Wallis was Elizabeth I. It was suggested that Elizabeth resented Wallis for making Edward abdicate, thus making Elizabeth’s husband George VI ascend the throne, something that took its toll on his life and well being, which may have been a factor in his early death. In addition, Elizabeth hated Wallis’ character and in one letter, referred to the latter as “the lowest of the low, a thoroughly immoral woman.”

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The Queen That Almost Wasn’t

Edward’s abdication was the sole reason why Queen Elizabeth II became Britain’s longest reigning monarch. In Queen Elizabeth II’s early life, she believed she would remain a royal in a minor role but everything changed when her father ascended the throne. It was said that both Elizabeth II and George VI wanted to live a relatively normal life but knew they had a duty to the crown, the royal family and Great Britain and they would uphold it no matter what.

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Modern Royal Marriages

Queen Elizabeth II came from a generation whereby marriage unions were taken very seriously, it was a monumental moment in history when there were a number of modern royal marriages failing. Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Prince Charles all had marriages collapse and the Queen sadly accepted it. In addition, in the Royal Marriages Act of 1772 stated that royals were not allowed to marry commoners, but this was broken when Prince Edward married Sophie Countess of Wessex and Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton.

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The Camilla Case

However, in 2005 Prince Charles received the Queen’s permission to marry divorcée Camilla Parker Bowles. Although the acceptance was surprising given the similarities to Wallis’ status as a divorcée, the circumstances were different considering Princess Diana’s tragic death in 1997, meaning that Prince Charles’ ex-wife was not living. Nevertheless, the Queen and Prince Philip did not attend the civil ceremony but were witnesses at the marriage blessing, and even held a reception for the couple at Windsor Castle.

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There’s Something About Meghan

Second in line to the throne Prince William married Kate Middleton to become the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, leaving Prince Harry as the only eligible Prince left. The handsome Prince has had his fair share of girlfriends but none have got close enough to the alter. However in 2016, Prince Harry met American Suits actress Meghan Markle while on a work trip to Toronto. They took a liking to each other and began a romantic relationship, constantly traveling to see each other.

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History Repeats Itself?

However, Meghan was not exactly an ideal suitor for Prince Harry in the eyes of the royal family. It was not because she was a commoner or an American, it was because she is a divorcée. Markle married actor and producer Trevor Engelson in 2011 and the two were later divorced in 2013. Markle’s ex-husband Engelson is still living, much like both of  Wallis Simpson’s ex-husbands were. While the royal family have adapted to modern times, will this age old rule in marriage be enforced?

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Succession To The Throne

To much surprise, the royal family appeared to accept Meghan Markle as Prince Harry’s partner. Clarence House released a statement warning the press to leave the actress alone. Perhaps the reason why Meghan was accepted was due to Harry being fifth, soon to be sixth in line to the throne, after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have their third child. However, if it was second in line, William with a divorcée, there is a strong possibility it would not be accepted.

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The Monarchy Reigns Supreme

It remains to be seen what will come of Prince Harry and Meghan’s relationship, but if the rumors and sources are true, the American actress looks to become a part of the royal family imminently. The current royals have managed to adapt and move with the modern times all while keeping to royal protocol as much as possible. Nonetheless, one thing is for sure, they can never risk having another Wallis Simpson who threatens to disturb the British monarchy as we know it today.

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