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King Edward VIII and Aspergers Syndrome or Wallis Simpson and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Updated on January 17, 2018

King Edward and Mrs Wallis Simpson

King VIII and Wallis Simpson

The affair between Prince Edward of the English Empire and the American divorcee Wallis Simpson has often been referred to as the greatest royal love story of all time.

Prince Edward ascended his father King George V, to the English throne in 1936. Publicly at this time he was seen to be the world’s most eligible bachelor. While in reality those who frequented his social circles had already known for a number of years that the new King was conducting a very open affair with an American divorcee known as Wallis Simpson. Not only was it scandalously whispered that she was already married to husband number two but husband number one was even more scandalously still very much alive.

The British royal family and the government of the time led by Stanley Baldwin were aghast at the prospect of such a woman becoming the queen of England and all its empire. Those in high society could not believe that the heir apparent to the throne who could have his pick of eligible aristocratic women, preferred instead to spend all his free time with a divorced woman who was at that time contemplating ending her second marriage in order to become the wife of the King of England. This was deemed as unacceptable in many quarters for the ruler who was supposed to be portrayed as the moral leader of the English people and its church.

However the besotted Prince Edward told anyone who opposed his relationship that Wallis Simpson was the great love of his life and there was no question of him giving her up. Nor of his hiding her away or conducting a discreet affair in the long term.

Subsequently when the prince became King Edward VIII, he continued to declare that his life was useless unless he could share it with his Wallis. Yet was this really the love story to top all others? Were Edward and Mrs Simpson really two people who were just so in love that they had to be together? Or was the new King really serious when he declared that the English throne meant nothing to him without the love and companionship of Wallis Simpson?

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor married in France in 1936
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor married in France in 1936

What made Prince Edward fall for Wallis Simpson?

In more recent times there have been many books, films and mini-series made about this infamous couple. Initially the story of Edward and Mrs Simpson was indeed described as the ultimate tale of true love conquering all. However since then that theory has now been analyzed in much greater depth and slowly over the years new dimensions to the tale of the former Monarch and Wallis Simpson have emerged.

In 2011 the book, That Woman, written by Anne Sebba painted a very different picture of the couple who eventually were known as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In royal circles and among the Queens family, Wallis Simpson was always painted as the woman who lured the naïve king away from his birthright as well as his duty to his family and country.

The royal family always maintained that had it not been for this American gold-digger with ‘two living husbands,’ then there would have been no dispersions cast over the English monarchy. They despised Wallis Simpson for supposedly luring the King away and putting the very foundations of England’s monarchy in such jeopardy.

Yet in the book That woman, it is suggested that the former King Edward VIII in fact had a complete distaste for the monarchy long before he had even met Wallis Simpson. That in fact those who were closest to the royal family and King George V were concerned much earlier in Edward’s life about his suitability to become King.

Close advisors of his father King George V, claimed that Edward was ‘not all there,’ and some said that he never developed emotionally beyond the age of about 13. The Prime Minister of the time, Stanley Baldwin also described the prince as being a strange mixture of genius and child. He allegedly said that at times the Prince was extremely intelligent and capable of great depth but then at other times he acted like a child and was completely emotionally immature and incapable of any social reason.

He also greatly feared Prince Edward ascending to the throne as he knew too that the Prince had been telling friends for many years that he thought the monarchy had become outdated. Also that it was completely out of touch and that he was going to change all that. Edward also despised most of the social etiquette and ceremony that was so much a part of being royalty. In fact he seemed to have had a complete distaste for rules of any kind and this is probably not that surprising when his upbringing is studied.

It is no secret now that Edward and all his siblings had a rather bleak childhood. His mother Queen Mary was said to be distant and not particularly maternal. The children were looked after by staff and most specifically their nanny. Their parents usually only met them for an hour a day and often in King George’s case it was even less than this. The King was also known to be a very harsh disciplinarian who was said to be particularly authoritarian with his children. His wife Queen Mary also never reprimanded her husband for his hard treatment of their offspring and remained a dutiful wife often at the expense of her children.

So the fact that Edward was brought up under such a strict regime quite possibly led to him going in the opposite direction. So it was that he didn’t care much for rules, or the established hierarchy or he was not particularly interested in social status either. All of these characteristics are commonly observed in people on the autistic spectrum.

Did King Edward VIII really want to be King?

Yet Edward also had a great capacity to empathise and connect with the ordinary people. He was the Prince who went to the battlefields during the First World War and spoke to the foot soldiers in the trenches. Later he also visited one of the poorest regions of Wales which had become rundown due to the recessionary times and the dwindling employment provided by the local coal mines. It was because Edward did not believe in hierarchy or political correctness that the ordinary people loved him so much. He spoke to them genuinely and honestly and they recognised this in him. Also Edward had no patience for what he saw as unnecessary social etiquette such as confining his social circle to the titled classes. Instead he preferred to surround himself with celebrities and business people as opposed to the traditional aristocratic circles that most royalty tended to remain within. Also he loved the American way of life and felt it was fairer and less stilted and snobbish.

Prince Edward wanted to change the monarchy and put his own slant on it. He balked anytime he had to participate in an official ceremony or wear his bejewelled ‘traditional,’ royal clothes. Instead he loved Jazz, American suits and living a less formal life. So when Edward became King it wasn’t long before he began to offend many of the old guard by flaunting tradition and speaking in too open and honest a fashion. Also King Edward VIII started to make political comments that the government of the time did not appreciate as it did not tie in with their agenda.

In his latter years King George V, despaired over his wayward oldest son. He was recorded as saying on one occasion that his son would never become King and instead he would have to abdicate. This leads Anne Sebba to claim in her book That Woman, that it was likely that Edward did in fact have Asperger’s Syndrome.

Did King Edward VIII have Aspergers Syndrome?

Personally I would think PDD NOS could be a more likely theory i.e. Pervasive Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. This is a condition on the milder end of the autistic spectrum where a person may have some strong autistic characteristics but not enough of them in every area to tick all the boxes for a diagnosis of classic Asperger’s Syndrome.

There has also been quite a bit of speculation surrounding his brother Albert who became King George VI after his brother’s departure into exile. In the 2011 film The King’s Speech where Colin Firth played King George VI, we do see a man who is very shy, has a speech impediment and has issues with anxiety. Also he suffered from gastrointestinal problems, which is another common condition that people on the autistic spectrum often suffer from.

Then there was the question of their youngest brother, Prince John who died when he was only 13 after a severe epileptic fit. He too has been the subject of documentaries and films where he is depicted as being a boy who was rather detached from reality. As well as enjoying repetitive activities he also is said to have preferred music to social interaction. In fact it was decided when Prince John was eleven that he would not attend boarding school as all his brothers had. Apparently he was not progressing academically and was considered to be somewhat a slow learner. Today this would be called a learning disability which again often co-exists with some degree of autism. Therefore there seemed to have been a lot of factors present within the Windsor family that did tend to suggest an autistic genetic susceptibility.

It is now well documented that autism does often tend to run in families. Also even when a number of siblings all meet the diagnostic criteria for autism within a family, usually they are most likely to all be at different points on the autistic spectrum.

As a teenager it was often suggested that Prince Edward was in fact anorexic. It is recorded that as a young man he was obsessed with eating as little as possible and exercising to excess. Eating disorders are also very prevalent amongst people with autism for a number of reasons. Often because exercising and being thin becomes an obsession i.e. an area of special interest. But also because a person on the autistic spectrum feels like they have very little control over most areas of their life. They are living in a world where everything is confusing and they often see monitoring their food intake and body image as a way for them to regain some semblance of control over a chaotic situation. Also letters and diary entries that Edward wrote during his teenage years portrayed a confused, at times even suicidal young man who was finding it very difficult to find his place in the world. In one interview with Edward he says his father was always reprimanding him and telling him to remember who he was. Edward said that these types of comments used to just make him wonder even more who was he?

In the book That Woman, there is a quote from the psychiatrist Simon Baron Cohen which says of Prince Edward: “his extremes of behaviour—including a refusal to eat adequately, violent exercise and obsessive concern about the thinness of his legs, verging on anorexia, arranging his myriad clothes in serried rows, his unusual speech, social insensitivity and nervous tics such as constantly fiddling with his cuffs—are just some of the characteristics that come under the broad spectrum of autism and or its sometimes less virulent cousin Asperger’s Syndrome.”

Edward VIIII in his younger days

King Edward VIII with his father George V and grandparents Queen Victoria and Edward VII

Colin Firth plays Edwards brother Bertie in The Kings Speech
Colin Firth plays Edwards brother Bertie in The Kings Speech
King George VI and the Queen Mother. Albert ascended to the throne after his brothers abdication
King George VI and the Queen Mother. Albert ascended to the throne after his brothers abdication
Wallis and Edward. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Wallis and Edward. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
Edward spent vast amounts on jewels for Wallis Simpson
Edward spent vast amounts on jewels for Wallis Simpson
Edward spent vast amounts on jewels for Wallis Simpson
Edward spent vast amounts on jewels for Wallis Simpson

King Edward VIII and his autistic characteristics

In the book That Woman, there is a quote from the psychiatrist Simon Baron Cohen which says of Prince Edward: “his extremes of behaviour—including a refusal to eat adequately, violent exercise and obsessive concern about the thinness of his legs, verging on anorexia, arranging his myriad clothes in serried rows, his unusual speech, social insensitivity and nervous tics such as constantly fiddling with his cuffs—are just some of the characteristics that come under the broad spectrum of autism and or its sometimes less virulent cousin Asperger’s Syndrome.”

It is also stated in the book That Woman, that many just felt that Edward was mad. Also his love of breaking the rules and being unconventional certainly seems to have been true in his love life also. It was repeatedly noted that he preferred to have affairs with married women. He apparently found these relationships less complicated and there was also much less of a possibility that these women would want commitment, as to be divorced in those days was a huge scandal.

Many who worked with the prince repeatedly made comments that suggest strong autistic characteristics. Dawson of Penn once said that he was “convinced that EP’s moral development ... had for some reason been arrested in his adolescence.”

Another former employee known as Lascellus left his job because of the Prince’s unusual and often erratic behaviour. For example in 1928 he went to Kenya on a royal tour with Prince Edward. While there Lascellus showed the prince a telegram he had just received which stated that his father the King was seriously ill and that the Prince should return immediately. The Prince didn’t seem to care and just shrugged and went out where he spent the evening with the wife of a colonial official.

Also Prince Edward is depicted in the film The Kings Speech as often being cruel and making fun of his brother Albert (Bertie as he was known), because of his stammer. Also when his youngest brother John died at 13 he wrote to his mistress and said how inconvenient it was for John to die then, just when the First World War had ended. As this meant instead of being out partying Edward had to stay at home because the family was in mourning. He also spoke very non-empathically about his brother and said it was a relief he was dead. People with Aspergers often speak what they are thinking even when it is totally inappropriate to do so and often lack appropriate empathy i.e. things that make most people sad often have no effect on them but then other things that most people consider minor issues can have them breaking out into endless floods of tears.

Did Wallis Simpson have Narcissistic personality Disorder?

King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson loved to put on a good show, a Narcissistic trait?
Wallis Simpson loved to put on a good show, a Narcissistic trait?
Wallis Simpson who became the Duchess of Windsor
Wallis Simpson who became the Duchess of Windsor
Wallis Simpson meets Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1972
Wallis Simpson meets Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1972

Wallis Simpson and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Wallis Simpson it is claimed in the book That Woman, never actually envisaged marrying the Prince. She always assumed that he would tire of her and then leave her to marry somebody suitable whom he could make queen and give him heirs. Yet in the end even she underestimated Edward’s obsessive need for her.

Many who met Wallis Simpson say that she appeared to be an intelligent and charming woman on the surface. Yet it was also often commented on that underneath she was also a very hard woman who did not really love Prince Edward. Some disputed this opinion and declared they were in love yet many others who observed them felt that Wallis was the domineering one in their relationship and Edward was always very anxious to please her. Perhaps this was as a reaction to spending his whole life having everyone revering and telling him he was special. To find someone who treated him life he was just ordinary and in fact inferior to Wallis he obviously found refreshingly different.

Yet subconsciously or not Prince Edward was now taking on his mother’s role of being the subservient partner. In order to fulfil his desire to be nothing like his father he was instead taking on his mother’s persona. However anyone who knew Edwards past would have pointed out that he had a long history of becoming consumed with different women. Becoming obsessed with certain people or activities is also a strong component of the autistic personality

While many have searched scrupulously for Wallis Simpsons redeeming characteristics and for clues that she was far from being a gold digging, social climbing, non-empathic woman the evidence seems to confirm that she actually was all of this. In the book That Woman, Anna Sebba writes, “Psychologists may have an explanation for her behavior: the ideal partner for her personality would be one who allowed her to appear the perfect one, the other (him) as the inadequate one and the one who carried the flaw.”

In fact the more I learned about Wallis Simpson the more I felt she fitted the role of someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder very well. Certainly her public treatment of Prince Edward seemed to verify this. She was in control, it was always about her and her main goals in life were money, power and material possessions. Prince Edward eventually spent one third of his entire fortune on specially commissioned jewellery that he continuously had made for his wife.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Was it true love?

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Edward and Wallis
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Edward and Wallis
Edward and Wallis's wedding day in France shortly after his abdication.
Edward and Wallis's wedding day in France shortly after his abdication.
Wallis and Edward were married for 36 years
Wallis and Edward were married for 36 years

Were Wallis Simpson and King VIII really a great royal love story?

At the end of the day it seems plausible that Wallis and Edward were drawn to each other because of their psychological scars. They also both had a joint vision of who they felt they should be. They both loved their material possessions and each had another agenda. Prince Edward wanted to be unconventional and break away from the strict constraints of the monarchy. However in doing do it seems he then became completely emotionally co-dependent on Wallis. She in turn saw that she had an opportunity to control him and to have the financial security and social status she had sought in both of her previous marriages. Also because King Edward VIII had given up so much for her she knew if she left him she would appear to be extremely callous and it would verify everything that the press were saying about her.

It is claimed by some that Wallis never wanted to be queen but others says she egged Edward on until the end, to not give up and to stand his ground until the royal family and the government accepted their relationship and a subsequent marriage. In the end though, Edward seems to have lost his family and his kingdom and his royal status. Whereas Wallis gained what every Narcissist who doesn’t get the adoration they feel they are due. She became the most infamous woman in the monarchy’s history and gained infinite notoriety.

Anna Sebba sums this up in her book by saying of the relationship of the former King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.

If all of this comes close to the truth, the myth of the love story between Edward and Wallis is reduced to little more than two complicated, wounded psychologies feeding off each other. “In this way an aspect of one is transferred to the other which makes both partners feel good and as a result each person develops a vital sense of closeness with the other..


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    • profile image


      20 months ago

      What drivel. The author need to reseach autism spectrum disorders more thoroughly as well as primary source material on Wallis and Edward.

    • thewritingowl profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      2 years ago from Ireland

      OK Thank you.

    • profile image


      2 years ago

      There is no evidence at all for this. Edward didn't like his father which is why he showed no concern over his serious illness in 1928.

    • thewritingowl profile imageAUTHOR

      Mary Kelly Godley 

      5 years ago from Ireland

      Thanks for commenting FlourishAnyway. Yeah the book 'That Woman,' is definitely a very interesting read. I really wanted to read about Wallis's side of the story and I imagined that that perhaps history had unfairly judged her. But I have to say after reading it I don't think so anymore. She was very calculating but that's not to say Prince Edward was a saint either. I think though he was more on the Aspergers side i.e. when an Aspie falls in love its all consuming and they cannot see any wrong in their partner no matter what. Edward genuinely believed Wallis was special and unique. For the Narcissistic persona to have a partner like that is a dream come true. I think Wallis certainly used that to her advantage and many said she spoke to him in a very derogatory fashion and it did not matter to her who was listening. I think for Edward, Wallis was his ultimate symbol of rebelling against his family and tradition. I felt sorry for him in the book though because I wondered over the years did he regret his decision but know at that stage that he had no choice but to stay with Wallis mostly because he wasn't really a very strong person if he left her his family would gloast and they didn't want to know either.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      I hadn't heard of the book that you reference and found the analysis very interesting. They do seem to have been two seriously psychologically impacted individuals, drawn together for mutual need. The body language in that photo where Wallis Simpson meets the Queen and Prince Phillip in 1972 is telling, and that last photo is quite something.


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