Did Mrs Simpson help or harm the British monarchy?
Mrs Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Winsor, was for many years a figure of hate among many British people. She has been vilified as a conniving and scheming woman who stole away England’s King Edward VIII, and there by robbing the nation of a brilliant future with their golden haired young prince on the throne. Many of these people were staunch supporters of the monarchy, and believed that Wallis Simpson posed a threat to its whole structure. However I believe it is time we reviewed this image of a much maligned lady.
The history of Wallis Simpson has been well documented. An American socialite, she married her first husband in 1916 and was divorced in 1927.After this divorce, she moved to England, where she met and married her second husband, Ernest Simpson, in 1928.
Wallis and her new husband were able to move among what was then, fashionable British society: and it was in this society that she met the Prince of Wales: the future Edward V111.
The Prince of Wales
At the time of their meeting the prince was at the peak of his popularity. He had taken the role of heir apparent to the British throne with gusto. His boyish good looks and easy going charm endeared him to the people. However the reality behind this image was at odds with the public perception of their handsome prince.
A flawed prince.
Edwards’s undoubted charm and relaxed manner made him highly attractive to many ladies in his privileged circle; unfortunately many of these ladies were other men’s wives. His social set was considered undesirable by his parents, the King and Queen, and the officials who were doing their best too keep the wheels of state turning without mishaps and scandal, were becoming increasingly concerned about his lack of discretion and inability to apply himself to the concerns of state. Things became bad enough for the King to express hope that the prince would never have children, and that Elizabeth, the prince’s niece, would inherit the throne: little did George V know that his wish would come true.
A King under pressure
King George V died in January 1936.By this time the affair between Edward and Wallis had been going on for some years, but now he was King the pressure began to build up. Edwards attempts to gain his family and the establishment’s acceptance of Wallis as his wife, was meeting with stern opposition. Despite Wallis obtaining a preliminary decree of divorce in the October of 1936, the opposition remained resolute: and in December, Edward chose to abdicate.
Edward made his famous abdication speech on December 10th 1936, and left for the continent that evening. Wallis obtained her divorce in 1937, and couple were married on June 3rd of that year.
However I believe we should step back and take a different look at what happened all those years ago, and perhaps award some sympathy regarding the Duchess of Windsor, and the role she played in the abdication of the golden King
The abdication speech.
The crucial point in this matter is that Edward chose to abdicate. True he was given a hard choice, either the marriage to Wallis or the crown; Edward chose to relinquish the crown, and the reason he gave was not, in my belief, the whole truth .Consider the famous phrase from his abdication speech. “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duty as a King as I would wish to do so without the help and support of the women I love” Edward considered being King a heavy burden of responsibility, but he would not have had to face these burdens in isolation. Every monarch is surrounded by advisors and ministers and always will be. I believe that Edward knew in his hearts what many people had known for some time, that he was not fit to be a King.
Unfit to rule.
Edwards’s behaviour had been causing consternation among the people in power for some time. Stories of state documents being returned unread and wine stained, his reluctance or inability to master a brief and his feckless love life all contributed to the feeling that he was unfit for the job: and Edward himself must have known that or he would have made an effort to change. He knew in his heart that the establishment would not countenance his marriage to a divorcee, and let him sit on the throne. The problem was he could not just up and walk away, telling everybody he was a failure, no he needed an excuse, and in Wallis Simpson he found one. She was his escape route out of his dilemma. I have no doubt that he did love Wallis, but she also provided him with a reason for abdicating: a noble sacrifice for love.
Wallis escapes the press.
It is hard to understand what was going on the mind of Wallis Simpson at this time. She did apply for a divorce some months after Edward became King, so perhaps she thought there was a chance she could marry the King of England, although I doubt if she ever thought she could be Queen. But once the story broke in the British press, and it became clear that Edward was to abdicate, the storm that fell upon her was too much for her to take: so she left the country. But while Edward was making his royal escape, I believe Wallis Simpson was walking into a trap.
A decision for Wallis
Wallis must have felt like escaping herself. It must have seemed that everything was falling apart, she met and fell for a man who would be King, only to find him become a Duke of Somewhere. She was being pilloried for being the ruin of a King, but how much worse would it be if she abandoned him. Wallis Simpson made a decision that would define her future: she married him, and by doing so she set the British monarchy on a path that would see it gain in strength and popularity the like it had not seen for years.
There is no way we could tell what kind of King Edward would have become had he not abdicated, but we do know what happened as a consequence of his abdication.
1n 1952 his niece Elizabeth inherited the throne, and has ruled successfully for sixty years and is held in great affection by not the majority of the British public, but also by many people in and outside of the British commonwealth. Even the most diehard republicans have been keeping their heads down.
All this would not have happened if Wallis Simpson had not help remove Edward from the scene. So far from her being a possible nemesis for the royal family, she actually opened a door for it to enter a new and bright future. Monarchists should be grateful to her.
A sad existence.
What kind of life did the Windsor’s lead after their marriage? Over the years it seemed they drifted from one cocktail party to another, endless dinner parties and holidays on yachts and in splendid houses of the then jet set. But they seemed to lead the life of lotus eaters, unable to return to the one place they wished to be. In photographs, there seems to an air of poignancy about them, an air of “what if” and sadness.
In 1967 the Duke was reconciled with his family, but died a few years later in 1972.Wallis was never really accepted owing to the enmity felt towards her by the Queen mother. She died a sad and lonely death in 1986, suffering from ill health, with no family and isolated from her few remaining friends.
Before her marriage to Edward, Wallis changed her name to Mrs Wallis Warfield. So the Duke of Windsor didn’t actually marry “Mrs Simpson”.
At the time of the abdication, children used to sing “Hark the herald angels sing Mrs Simpson stole our King”. I believe she didn’t steal him: he ran away.