Childless women who make history: Wallis Simpson (1896 – 1986)

By Nina Steele 

Wallis SimpsonWallis Simpson will for ever be known as the woman who nearly brought down the British monarchy. Edward VIII insistence on marrying the woman he loves, against the will of his ministers, led to his abdication, and the couple’s subsequent move to France, where they lived for most of their lives. The resentment from the Royal Family was such that, she was denied the title “Her Royal Highness” upon marrying the Prince in June 1937, 6 months after his abdication.

She was introduced to the then Prince Edward while still married to her second husband, Ernest Simpson. It is claimed that she never intended to leave her husband, and imagined that her relationship with the Prince would eventually fizzle out. But as fate would have it, Edward felt madly in love and it is even claimed, threatened to kill himself if she ended their relationship.

It is also claimed that: “Hoping to rein him in, she berated the Prince for demanding too much of her, staying too long on his visits to her marital home and constantly telephoning. She also begged him to be more considerate of her position as Ernest’s wife. The prince responded by giving her more gifts of money and jewellery, which further sapped her resolve.” She obviously had no idea what she was getting herself into.

Unfortunately for Wallis Simpson, the husband she hoped to be reunited with eventually, became tired of her dalliance with the Prince, and ended up falling in love with another woman, who happened to be Wallis’ childhood friend. Ernest parting gift to Wallis was to try and salvage some of her reputation, by claiming to be the one responsible for the breakdown of their marriage because of his affair.

The British public hated Wallis Simpson and they made their feelings heard in letters sent to Edward’s office, in which some referred to her as: “a prostitute and a Yankee harlot”. The hostility from the public was such that, in early December 1936, Edward who was now King, after the death of his father, George V, decided to send her away to France, for her own safety.

By then, Wallis had finally had enough, and wanted out. While in France, and under pressure from the King’s Lord-in-Waiting, “she released a statement stating her readiness to withdraw from an untenable situation, and wrote privately to the King, urging him not to abdicate. Painfully aware that history would view her as the woman who’d forced a man to give up his throne”.

The King of course would have none of it, and on December 11, 1936, his abdication was finalised. That same day, in a radio broadcast, the now ex-King said: “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”

For most of their lives, the couple lived in France. Edward died in May 1972. His body was brought back to Britain and his final resting place is the Royal Burial Ground, near Windsor Castle. The Duchess of Windsor as Wallis was to be known after her marriage to Edward, outlived her husband by 14 years.

She became a bit of a recluse after Edward’s death, probably because she suffered from dementia. Her illness meant that she lacked the mental capacity to deal with her own affairs and so power of attorney was given to her lawyer, Suzanne Blum, who many have accused of taking advantage of her client’s ill health, by selling off some of her valuables and pocketing the money.

Although Wallis and Edward had hoped to be buried in the US, Wallis’ country of birth, next to her father’s grave in Baltimore, an agreement was made with the current Queen Elizabeth II to bury them both in Britain. And so, Wallis Simpson is buried near Edward VIII, in the Royal Burial Ground.

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