Royal Scandal: The Secrets of Wallis Simpson
Wallis Simpson:Manipulative or manipulated?
It's now almost eighty years ago that the British King, Edward Vlll, gave up his throne so that he could marry Wallis Simpson.
There was no question about him remaining king and marrying the already-twice-wed American - the government of the day simply couldn't conceive of such a thing.
Ever since those days, Mrs Simpson has been regarded as a manipulative, determined woman who snared her lover, forcing him to abandon his royal duties. But is this an accurate picture?
The story of the couple is beset with scandal, rumours and conspiracy theories all dressed up as 'the love affair of the twentieth century'. Were the two really in love? Personally I've always found the couple to be slightly creepy. Their aristocratic happiness always seemed to be forced. Come with me as I investigate further into these two extraordinary lives.
The Prince of Wales
When the couple met, Edward wasn't yet king. As the eldest son of the monarch, he was given the title of the Prince of Wales.
Like most other bearers of the title (both before and after), the young prince enjoyed several affairs. You could say that he was the Prince William of his day. He was a good-looking young man with fair hair and handsome features.
Again, in common with others who bore the title, he was considered to be the world's most eligible bachelor. In short, he could have any woman he wanted. That is, to be his mistress. A wife was another matter. She would need to have a squeaky clean past and be able to produce healthy, aristocratic heirs.
Naturally, Wallis' past was less than impeccable. As for her childbearing capabilities, she was forty years old at the time of Edward's abdication and, even after two previous marriages, had no children.
Even her birth was a minor scandal.
Her parents married against the wishes of their families; who were historically warring factions. (As an interesting sidenote, her mother's maiden name was Montague - just like Romeo's).
Her father was ill with tuberculosis so even had he been otherwise deemed fit to be a husband, his illness would have excluded him.There is confusion about the dates of their marriage and Wallis' birth. It seems that she herself re-wrote history but evidence strongly points to the conclusion that she was born just a few months after her parents' marriage.
Her father died just a few months after her birth.
Some of the information you will read here comes from this book.
The author claims to have had unprecedented access to people who knew Wallis Simpson, plus to some previously unknown and undiscovered letters written by her when she was the Duchess of Windsor. A fascinating account.
Earl Spencer & Ernest Simpson
Wallis claimed that marriage was the only option for young women in those days. (I disagree). She first married Earl Spencer - shown in the photograph on the left. (Interesting sidenote - if the name sounds familiar, that because Diana, Princess of Wales' father was Earl Spencer. Although is his case, of course, 'earl' was his title and not just a given name).
When that marriage ended she met Ernest Simpson; a fellow American of some considerable wealth. The problem was that he was married with a child, but soon he arranged a divorce so that he could marry Wallis.
Ernest was based in London, which is where the newly-married couple setup home. Moving in excellent social circles, they met - and continued to meet Edward, the Prince of Wales. Wallis was still married to Ernest when her affair with Edward began - indeed, until after his abdication.
Conspiracy theory number one
The author of the book above, claims to have discovered secret letters written by the Duchess of Windsor.
This actually is believable because in recent times, previously unseen photograph albums belonging to the Duke were discovered.
These letters are to her husband, later her ex-husband, Ernest. In several of these, she refers to Edward as 'Peter Pan' - in other words, the little boy who never grew up.
Her letters suggest that Edward was somewhat feeble minded.She also writes regretfully about the happy times she had with Ernest. The implication here is that she was still in love with him.The theory purported is that Wallis enjoyed her affair with Edward but had no wish to marry him. It is said that the love was on his side only.
She knew that she would be one of the most hated women in Britain, if not Europe, and it's suggested that Edward told her that he couldn't live without her and threatened to take his own life. She was forced into the marriage.
However, it wasn't just Wallis who suggested that the prince's intellect wasn't all it could be. Even his own father doubted his son's abilities to reign, prophetically.
Conspiracy theory number two
It's true that the couple met Hitler.Photographic evidence survives, as you can see here. (The photograph dates from 1937; two years before the outbreak of the Second World War).
Many people claimed that both the duke and duchess were pro-nazi.
After their marriage, they had settled in France. When war broke out, the duke was assigned a post in Paris but a rumour soon developed that he was passing information to Germany. The couple were then, some say hastily, sent to the Bahamas where the duke became governor for the duration of the war.
Safely out of the way?
But were they safely out of the way?
The islands of the Bahamas are just eighty or so miles from South Florida. The duke and duchess would visit Florida for vacations.
It's said that the American wartime president had the couple watched by the FBI. It is claimed that the results of this surveillance are now no longer restricted documents. In these documents, the FBI reported that the duchess might be passing sensitive information to the Germans.
It was during their time in the Bahamas that they were involved in another scandal - the murder of Harry Oakes. It seems from the quote below that Hitler himself believed that Edward was pro-nazi.
Conspiracy theory number three
It seems to me that the first theory could have an element of truth.
Would Wallis really have wanted to embark on a marriage that would result in her being hated so much? If the secret letters genuinely exist, then they add credence to the theory.
The second theory almost contradicts the first. If it is true that Wallis remained in love with her husband Ernest, then it's unlikely that she would be pro-nazi. Ernest's family was originally from Germany - and also Jewish. His original family name was Solomon.
Number three though seems a bit bonkers. There are those who claim that:Wallis Simpson was a man.
Well, not quite, but that she was born with a 'gender disorder' and that she had been born as what used to be called hermaphrodite. They present the following as evidence:
- The fact that despite three marriages, she never had a child or a miscarriage. It's said that she never had a 'full marital relationship' with any of her husbands.
- In answer to those who wonder how she could attract and keep men, despite her lack of normal organs, they say that she had, when living in China, learned secret and special Chinese sexual techniques.
- They point out physical features such as her square jawline, her large hands and 'unfeminine' long legs.
- It's claimed that people with this disorder need to be married and aim to get married at an early age because this demonstrates to the world their femininity.
- They speculate that it was this problem that caused the breakup of her first marriage. They go on to explain that this was not the case with Ernest and the duke. The reason, they say, is that with her first husband, there had been no activity prior to marriage. With her later two husbands though, she had captivated them with her Chinese techniques before they were wed.
- To enhance the Chinese technique story, it is pointed out that the duke was, shall we say, not very well endowed. Plus that he could not always bide his time, as it were. (Although the source of this was a spurned mistress). This, they explain, is why a middle-aged and rather strange looking woman could attract his devotion. She could, as it were, make a mountain out of molehill.
An interesting book by a respected author.
People tend to be divided into two camps when it comes to Wallis Simpson. Some go out of their way to demonise her - others remark that she was a wonderful woman. It's necessary to read both points of view.