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Royal Scandal: The Secrets of Wallis Simpson

Updated on September 9, 2014
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BritFlorida loves to track down historical stories, especially scandals and mysteries from the UK.

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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.


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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.

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Wallis

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.

Secret letters

That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

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.

 
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor as I Knew Her
Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor as I Knew Her

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.

 

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @jolou: Very true! I know what you mean about creepy too...

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 3 years ago

      I've always been rather fascinated with this peculiar couple. I also found them to be a bit creepy. Shows how times have changed too, as being divorced is obviously not an obstacle now for the royal family.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Carol Houle: Haha - I'm so glad you enjoyed it :)

    • Carol Houle profile image

      Carol Houle 3 years ago from Montreal

      How well written and interesting. I really laughed at the "mountain out of a molehill" theory.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @GrammieOlivia: Such a fascinating story.

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      GrammieOlivia 3 years ago

      A great review.....thanks!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @lazywrites: Plenty more on the way :)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ElizabethSheppard: They are, aren't they? Thank you!

    • lazywrites profile image

      Cherrylyn Moquete 3 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you, that was entertaining and wonderful. I've always been fascinated with stories about monarchy and the royal family!

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 3 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I found out theories here I have never heard of before. How fun!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @tracy-arizmendi: Very true - unless secret letters or papers are uncovered.

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      Donna Cook 3 years ago

      Terrific lens! As a dedicated Anglophile, I am fascinated. There was a TV program a while back that accused the couple of laundering large amounts of money also.

    • tracy-arizmendi profile image

      Tracy Arizmendi 3 years ago from Northern Virginia

      Interesting read but we will never really know the truth will we....

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Merrci: Thank you Merrci! The royal family are certainly keeping me busy :)

    • Merrci profile image

      Merry Citarella 3 years ago from Oregon's Southern Coast

      I knew the basics of this, but not any of the conspiracies or details. Enjoyed it, from the Montague name to the Hitler connection to the possibility that she was a man! What would we do without a conspiracy? Another very interesting and fun read.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Elsie Hagley: A tricky question, isn't it? The Queen seems to be in excellent health and completely sharp mentally.Plus her own mother lived to be over a hundred years old. But this is the first time in history that we have had worldwide media and if the Queen's health (or mind) was to fail, it would be public knowledge straight away. Although she has such a sense of duty, she could possibly abdicate in Charles' favour if she thought that she was no longer up to the job.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @David Stone1: You're so right Dave, I certainly have great material to work with! You must be right about British nobility having pro-nazi members - when I think about it, so many of them had German ancestry (and therefore German relatives).It does make me wonder what the world would have been like if Edward hadn't given up the throne.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @junecampbell: Very true! Wallis' problem was certainly her past but I get the feeling that the fact that she was unlikely to bear children was just as important to the government. Also, there is another theory that Edward was encouraged to abdicate by high-ups because they knew he would be a bad king, especially if the Nazi connection was true.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Nancy Hardin: Thank you so much Nancy. I try to keep within the confines of a 'family show' :) It does seem that these three stories all have believable elements, especially the first one.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 3 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @SusanDeppner: I believe that Hitler said that he considered the Queen Mother to be the most dangerous woman in Europe! Yes, I imagine what she said was very true- had it not been for Wallis, her husband wouldn't have been king and her life would have been very different indeed.

    • Elsie Hagley profile image

      Elsie Hagley 3 years ago from New Zealand

      Yes I do know this one. Thanks for sharing it's nice to read it again. Times have sure changed, just thing about Prince Charles. I wonder if he will ever be King?

    • David Stone1 profile image

      David Stone 3 years ago from New York City

      There always seemed more to the story that the romantic public story. There were many Nazi sympathizers in the British nobility and upper classes (in the U. S., too); so, I always believed that explanation made sense The rest of what you've written here is really interest and new to me. I got a kick out of it.By the way, taking it a step farther, it was said that Edwards father was actually gay and he was the result of artificial insemination. Whatever the facts, British royalty provides fodder for great gossip!

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 3 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Great lens. I remember my mother telling me all about Wallis Simpson, or at least her version of it, which was that Edward was forced to abdicate because Wallis was a divorced woman and a "commoner." I had to laugh at the statement that "for some reason, his normal mental development stopped dead in adolescence". That appears to be true for so many people, past, present and probably future. We've surely all encountered some in our own lives.

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      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I just love the delicate way you word certain subjects i.e.; "not very well endowed," and that Wallis could "make a mountain out of a molehill." This was such a scandalous story at the time, I'm sure there were thousands of stories, none of which were true. But these three have some ring of accuracy to them, if not entirely true. I so enjoy your stories.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 3 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love the Queen Mother's quote as I'm sure it's absolutely true.