Well next week across the pond Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markel in one of those anachronistic royal ceremonies the British do so well. And all the world will watch. Everyone wants to see Cinderella live.
The British royal family is itself an anachronism in the 21st century. Europe still has royals, a few kings and queens but no one really pays any attention to them. They don’t do royalty like the British. The British do it big; after all the royals and their castles and ceremonies are a major economic boon bringing in loads of tourist dollars, euros and yen.
I guess there are still a few Republicans in Britain, but not many apparently. One is a reader of this blog! You know who you are!
Now Ms. Markel is a divorced woman. We have indeed come a long way since Princess Margaret was refused permission to marry Peter Townsend by her sister. Nowadays royals divorce so it is no longer considered to be a major obstacle especially since Harry will never be King (barring some major calamity) currently being 6th in line for the throne.
But enough about Harry and Meghan. Let’s talk about Wallis Simpson.
Bessie Wallis Simpson, twice divorced Baltimore girl who nabbed the King of England. Edward, the 8th of his name.
This ordinary guy wonders how she did it, considering a king of England could probably have his choice of any woman he wanted. Why her?
The passionate infatuation of the Queen’s uncle, Edward VIII, for Wallis Simpson has been hailed as ‘the greatest love story of the 20th century’. But how much of a love story was it?
There is no doubt about Edward’s resolve to marry the twice-divorced American socialite. After all, he abandoned his throne, country and reputation to make her his wife, and was condemned to a life in exile as a result.
Looking at her photos I personally never found her particularly beautiful. From her teenage years, she seems to have been irresistible to men. ‘Nobody ever called me beautiful or even pretty,’ she wrote in her memoirs, “but she had fine eyes, a trim figure and a sense of style, as well as wit and animation that would make her alluring to men all her life.”
On the other hand, Edward, Prince Charming of the Empire was having numerous affairs with well off, aristocratic married women. One could get away with that sort of thing at the time since the private lives of the royals were strictly off limits to the press. It was also rumored that the Prince was an unsatisfactory lover and that view persists to this day.
Why? Who knows. Not Toritto, that’s for sure.
George V was also deeply concerned over the Prince’s friendship with fascists, including Oswald Mosely, leader of the British Union of Fascists. And apparently Wallis was a fascist sympathizer as well.
After problems in her first marriage to a violent, alcoholic U.S. naval pilot, Earl Winfield Spencer Jr, Wallis travelled to Hong Kong, where Spencer was stationed, to attempt a reconciliation with him. The reunion was short-lived and they separated soon after.
Count Galeazzo Ciano who would become fascist Italy’s Foreign Minister and Mussolini’s son-in-law.
Wallace spent the next year in Shanghai and Beijing where she began a relationship with her first fascist; a young Italian diplomat. Count Galeazzo Ciano was a playboy of the first rank who would marry Benito Mussolini’s daughter. He got Wallis pregnant; a botched abortion left her unable to bear children. Galeazzo Ciano would become Foreign Minister of fascist Italy and eventually be executed by his father-in-law for his vote against Mussolini in the Fascist Grand Council in 1943.
Galeazzo Ciano on right next to his father in law Mussolini, Adolph Hitler, Edouard Daladier and Neville Chamberlain at Munich.
It was her first fascist Foreign Minister – but not her last.
After her divorce from Spencer, Wallis met wealthy Anglo-American businessman Ernest Simpson in London. He became infatuated and divorced his first wife to marry her in 1928. They set up home in London, where they were soon at the centre of a fashionable, well-connected circle.
In January 1931, Wallis and Ernest were invited to a weekend house party at Burrough Court in Leicestershire, the country home of Edward’s mistress, Thelma, Viscountess Furness. The Simpsons were there ostensibly as chaperones to neutralize gossip about Thelma, then married to the Viscount Marmaduke Furness, and Edward — but the seeds were being sown for a far more fateful relationship as they were absorbed into the Prince’s circle. As an aside, Thelma had an identical twin sister, Gloria, who would become the mother of Gloria Vanderbilt.
Some three years later, it seemed perfectly natural for Thelma, about to leave for America, to ask her friend Wallis to “look after the little man while I’m away”. She returned to find that Wallis had supplanted her in the Prince’s affections.
The Prince of Wales began ‘frequently’ visiting the Simpsons’ London home and that in addition to his lavish gifts of jewelry and furs, was paying her £6,000 a year (more than £350,000 today). George V was aghast to discover from surveillance that his son had given his mistress jewels costing £110,000 (£7 million today).
Did she love the Prince? Difficult to accept when she was conducting simultaneous affairs with at least four other men as documented in a Scotland Yard dossier that has been unearthed by academics.
Guy Marcus Trundle – a Mayfair used car dealer
In a Special Branch report dated July 3, 1935, one ‘secret lover’ was identified as a 36-year-old married Mayfair car dealer, Guy Marcus Trundle, who was described as ‘a very charming adventurer, very good-looking, well-bred and an excellent dancer. He [Trundle] is said to boast that every woman falls for him. He meets Mrs. Simpson quite openly at informal social gatherings as a personal friend, but secret meetings are made by appointment when intimate relations take place.’
William Bullitt, allegedly pro-Nazi U. S. Ambassador to France.
Wallis was also reported to be in a sexual relationship with William C. Bullitt, the allegedly pro-Nazi American ambassador to France in the years immediately before the war, while a third man was Ireland’s premier peer, Edward FitzGerald, 7th Duke of Leinster, who committed suicide in 1976.
Edward FitzGerald -7th Duke of Leinster
‘Fitz’ Leinster, a close friend of Edward and Wallis both before and after the Abdication, was dubbed ‘the Shy Duke’ by Wallis, who began an intermittent affair with him in 1935, while he was married to his second wife.
Relations between Fitz and Wallis resumed in 1946, after the Windsors had returned to France from the Bahamas, where the Duke had been Governor. At that time the Duke of Leinster lived in a villa in the South of France with his third wife.
Joachim von Ribbontrop
Finally, but most importantly Wallis was having an affair with the German Ambassador to the UK, Count Joachim von Ribbentrop, later Hitler’s foreign minister, who was hanged at Nuremberg in 1946. He was ordered by the Fuhrer to flatter Wallis and become intimate with her as a means of keeping Edward VIII friendly to the Nazi regime. He took to sending her 17 carnations or long-stemmed red roses daily, allegedly to remind her of the number of nights they had spent together.
Hitler and von Ribbentrop who was sleeping with the mistress of the future King of England.
All of this was going on while she was mistress to the future King of England.
The popular view of Wallis Simpson was — and to some extent remains — that she was a scheming, ambitious adventuress who hoped to become Queen. But the evidence does not entirely support this.
Lady Diana Cooper, a close observer of Wallis and Edward’s relationship, wrote: ‘The truth is she’s bored stiff by him, and her picking on him and her coldness towards him, far from policy, are irritation and boredom.”
“In September 1936, nine months after Edward had become King and less than three months before the Abdication, Wallis wrote to the King. She told him she needed to renounce him and return to Ernest — the man she was due to divorce — with whom she felt ‘so awfully congenial . . . I know Ernest and have the deepest affection and respect for him. I feel I am better with him than with you . . . I am sure you and I would only create disaster together.’
The King responded to this by threatening to slit his throat if she left him. She knew then that she was trapped. In a poignant letter to Ernest, written two days before their divorce hearing she ended with the words: ‘I am so lonely.”
When the King announced that he was renouncing the throne for ‘the woman I love’, she was blamed as she knew she would be.
Five months after her marriage in France to the man now known as the Duke of Windsor, an occasion boycotted by every member of the Royal Family, Wallis was still writing loving letters to Ernest Simpson.
‘Ernest dear’, she wrote from Paris on October 30, 1937, ‘What can I say? When I am standing beside the grave of everything that was us, oh my dear, dear Ernest, I can only cry as I say farewell and press your hand very tightly and pray to God. Wallis.
After the Windsors’ relegation to what the Duchess described as the ‘moron paradise’ of the Bahamas, the Duke was never given another job and their life together in Paris appeared empty, meaningless and purposeless.
Wallis and James Paul Donohue, a Woolworth heir
In her 50s, perhaps tired of maintaining the fiction of a great love story, Wallis had a midlife fling with the blond, blue-eyed, 35-year-old bi-sexual playboy James Paul Donahue Jr — known to gossip columnists as ‘Jimmy’ — who had inherited millions from his grandfather, the five-and-dime stores magnate Frank W. Woolworth.
The scandal generated by this relationship created rumor and speculation in gossip columns worldwide.
“Marriage to the former King-Emperor gave Wallis fame, wealth, fabulous jewels and clothes, and a life of luxury in their mini-palace in the Bois de Boulogne, with scarlet, blue and gold tapestries bearing the former monarch’s personal standard, and a staff of 25 servants attired in the royal livery.”
Living the good life in France.
“But it was a tinselled wilderness they inhabited, peopled by fawning, second-rate Americans and ill-chosen friends such as Sir Oswald and Lady Mosley, both of whom had been imprisoned in Britain for their support of Hitler.”
Let’s look at it this way. Wallis did pretty well for a Baltimore girl. Two foreign ministers. An Irish lord. And a monarch. Those are the ones we know about. When Wallis married Edward VIII she saved England from a Nazi King.