Prince William's Great-Great Aunt: Wallis Simpson the Selfish Silly Nazi Lover
The Love Story of the Century
In 1936, King Edward the Eighth made a startling announcement to his countrymen. A few months Edward's father had died and left him England's new king. Edward told the world he was abdicating. Why? Because he couldn't marry the woman he loved. All over England, indeed all over the world, millions of people listened to his radio broadcast with atonishment. Outside of fashionable London circles, few had any idea that the king was carrying on an affair with a married woman. Fewer still had any idea that he was going to leave the throne because of it.
People stared in bewilderment at each other. All across the country and indeed the world the question came to people's minds. Who was this woman? And why would a man leave the world's most powerful kingdom to marry her?
Bessiewallis the Charity Case
Bessiewallis Warefield, named for two of her great aunts, was born in Baltimore. Her exact birth year and birthday are still a source of speculation. Some people have argued she was ten years older or five years younger than her stated age. Warefield's mother and father also remain a source of speculation. Her mom may or may not have been married to her father at the time of her birth. Her father was said to be the youngest son of a locally prominent family. Teackle Warefield's ancestors include Civil War soldiers, prosperous land owners and an intimate friend of Francis Scott Key. At the time of her birth he was already dying of tuberculosis at 26.
Her mother, Alice Montague, was also descended from a socially well off family that had fallen on hard time recently. But the death of her husband left her penniless. Alice sought fiscal help from her husband's family. At first they extended her lodgings and provided her with a small stipend. After massive disagreements with his relatives, she left their home for good.
As Bessiewallis grew up, she dropped the Bessiewallis in favor of merely Wallis. Wallis Warefield grew into a tall, blue eyed thin adolescent with thick black hair. Her mother moved through a series of jobs to support her including hosting for a local country club and running a boarding house.
When Wallis reached her teenaged years, her uncle paid for her tuition at a private boarding school. After graduation Wallis made her debut in the middle of World War I. She promptly caught the attention of a pioneering aviator.
Mrs. Spencer and then Mrs. Simpson
Wallis married her first husband shortly after meeting him. Earl Winfield Spencer was an early aviator who loved the skies. He was also a violent drunk who would go through another three marriages. Wallis endured the her husband's drunken abuse for a decade. He was said to have hurt her greatly many times and left her unable to bear children after he beat her when she was pregnant.
In 1927, she officially divorced her husband. A year later she married Ernest Simpson. Simpson was a British ship brokerage owner. Her had married her after leaving a previous wife and child. Simpson and Wallis lived fairly lavishly, hiring many servants and giving dinner parties.
At one of her dinner parties, Wallis met Thelma, Lady Furness. Thelma was the mistress of the Prince of Wales.
A Scandalous Affair
Wallis quickly became friends with Thelma who introduced her to lover the prince. Prince Edward was the oldest son of King George the Fifth. Unmarried in his late thirties, the prince had moved from married lover to married lover, all the while promising his family to settle down.
Wallis was immediately drawn to the power the prince held. His every move was reported upon by an adoring press. But his affairs were kept quiet. When Thelma left for a trip back to her native New York, Wallis took her place.
The next few years saw the two together frequently. Wallis wanted power and did not mind cheating on her husband. David, as the prince was called by his best friends, found Wallis's poor background and American fascinating. Never particularly attractive, his friends were surprised by the affair.
In 1936 King George the Fifth died suddenly. Wallis's lover was now the King of England.
When the king died, the new king approached his ministers about marrying Wallis. No one wanted this other than the king. Wallis was perfectly content to have an affair. Her husband enjoyed the prince's company and had very little desire to divorce his wife.
The king's relatives were horrified. Later records would reveal that Wallis was not only cheating on her husband but cheating on the prince with another man. The king's relatives knew of this fact at the time. The ministers would not let Wallis ascend the throne with her lover.
Despite this, Wallis divorced her husband in hopes of persuading them she could marry and become Queen. It was a fatal mistake. Now free to marry, the new king decided he would rather be married than king.
When he announced his decision to abdicate no one was more disgusted than Wallis. She wanted to be queen or the power behind the throne. She did not want to be exiled with a man she did not particularly love. But fate left her no choice. To abandon the ex-king after she had forced an abdication on him would be to earn the ire of the entire world.
The Nazi Years
Edward took the title the Duke of Windsor after he abdicated. He and his new wife moved to France. It was to prove a tumultuous time. In the late 1930s Hitler came to power. Edward's family was largely descended from Germans. His mother and father spoke fluent German. To his dying day, Edward's father father spoke English with a slight German accent.
In the 1930s Edward and his wife made numerous visits to Nazi Germany. Wallis repeatedly shook hands with Hitler. Edward was seen making the Nazi salute. Several times in the course of two years, the Duke of Windsor made speeches praising the German leader even as Hitler's reign of terror began in awful fury.
When World War II began, Edward and Wallis continued to meet with Nazi leaders. Later records would show that both openly courted the Nazis in hopes that Hitler's henchmen would invade England and place them on the throne together. Edward spent the early years of the war speaking out in favor of the Nazis, praising their racist view of the world and asking his fellow Englishment to surrender to Nazi ideology.
He also begged his relatives to find him a job. In intense frustration the new king sent him and Wallis to govern the Bahamas. As the war carried on and Europeans fought to remain free from Nazi domination, Edward and Wallis spent lavishly on jewels, extravagant parties and redecoration of the Bahamas governor's mansion.
After the war ended, Edward and Wallis never ceased to drop their admiration and support of Nazi ideology. Both would speak of admiringly of Hitler for the rest of their lives.
The Final Years
In the later years of their lives, Wallis and Edward wandered from place to place. They spent time in New York City, the South of France, Paris and Rome. Wallis continued to give large parties filled with socialites. Her interests remained as they always had been: on clothing, jewels and her perception that she had been unfairly denied her rightful place as Queen of England.
After Edward abdicated his younger brother took the throne. Bertie was a smoker and died of lung cancer. His daughter suceeded him. Elizabeth II ignored uncle and his wife for most of their lives. Wallis and Edward did not attend her coronation. She and her family wanted nothing to do with either one. The entire family remained disgusted with the extravagant lifestyles held by the Duke and his Duchess.
Edward died of cancer in 1972. Wallis remained until 1983. Her legacy might have been so different. She might have been an amazing woman so beloved that her husband gave up a throne to be with her. Instead she stands before us as Prince William's Great Great Aunt, the Nazi lover who partied as the world fought a gruesome war.
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