Eighty years ago this year, King Edward the VIII, King of Great Britain, the Dominions and Emperor of India (also known as David), famously abdicated his throne for the woman he loved — an, ambitious, super- thin, Baltimore gal named Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson who had managed to worm her way into his orbit. His family never forgave him. Win Spencer was the name of her first husband, an American Navy man, whom she divorced; Ernest Simpson, originally Samuels, of Jewish descent and British-born, was the name of her second husband (she divorced him to marry the prince).
Much has been written about this famous couple, their jewel collection and lifestyle, her lack of HRH title and there is no end in sight. Recently, two newish books have investigated the Nazi ties to the Windsors. One book is by salacious biographer Andrew Morton, Seventeen Carnations (Michael O”Mara Books, 2015), which recalls the 17 carnations given to Wallis by her supposed lover, Joachim Ribbentrop, the eventual Nazi ambassador to London. The other book is called Princes at War by Deborah Cadbury and was published by Bloomsbury Press. It focuses, mainly, on Edward-David’s pro-Nazi, pro-appeasement stance and his love-hate relationship with his younger brother, George VI (Albert) and the Windsors in general. In 2010-11, Madonna made a (bad) movie of Edward and Wallis called W.E., which is what the couple called themselves.
Additionally, I have read a lot of other books about the Windsors, a couple which long fascinated the public. The Nazi allegations are not new and the Duke and Duchess, were photographed with important Nazis, including Hitler, and these appear in various books. The Duke’s memoir, A King’s Story was ghost-written in 1951. (I read that too; tres long and boring). It gives a taste for the lavish style in which he was raised. and also hints (heavily) at Edward’s deep dislike of his father, George the Fifth, and his (then) admiration for the Germans.
Also, in that book, Wallis simply appears on the scene and there is no mention of his previous affairs (with women) or of his having no kids with his supposed great love or with anyone. In short, besides listing every ribbon he cut, it’s not much of an inward-looking memoir.
Did he really love her? I think he did like her a lot but ultimately via her, he hoped to tweak the noses of the Establishment, hoping in the end to be back as King or doing something equally suitable. It never happened. Either he was not the brightest penny in the lot or he simply miscalculated Hitler’s murderous impulses, thievery, and evilness and British suffering during WW2.
I think the Duke was a closet gay or bi-sexual and she put up with it. The ‘love story’ bit protected his family (until Diana, Charles, Camilla, Andrew, Fergie etc. brought new scandals… ) The late celebrity biographer, Charles Higham, said Wallis put up with the Duke’s bizarre physical needs and later she nursed him in old age.
Did she love him? I’m not so sure but he did make her famous, jewel bedecked, sort of rich and almost queen and she appreciated that.
Ultimately, she was a woman of her era, the Forties, when women seized power through sex or marriage. Not surprisingly, Wallis was an opportunist, in love with luxury, jewelry, clothes and thinness (that was new — the thin part). Separately, she disliked the British Royals deeply (it was mutual).
The war years were not more than pesky annoyances for both Windsors; eventually Winston Churchill dispatched them to faraway British “owned” Bahamas, where he was governor.
Were they hardened anti-Semites? I kind of doubt it. I think they were simply oblivious to Jewish or any suffering and perhaps afflicted with civilized anti-Semitism, as upper-class Brits and some Americans once were (maybe still are).I can’t believe that Edward sanctioned the use of gas chambers and other horrid forms of murder.
And she was either too vacuous or unaware to care. Indeed, she was a one issue woman. Initially, she really didn’t care who would get her and Edward-David into Buckingham Palace, Hitler, Rothschild or the Man on the Moon. Later, as Duchess, there were eventual visits to the Nixon White House, more fame, café society, and the couple lived in elegant style in France. By the time of her death, Wallis was a very rich woman but left mostly everything to a French charity. Not bad for a poor divorcee from Baltimore!!