Puppet? Manipulating social climber? Misunderstood? Deeply in love? However you see her, the fact remains that a king abdicated his throne, defied his family and lived in exile to marry twice divorced American socialite Wallis Simpson.
That sounds like a woman we should talk about.
Bessiewallis (not a typo) was born on June 19th, 1896 to Teakle Wallis and Alice Montegue Warfield. Contrary to the way she was portrayed later in her life, she came from two, long-established, southern-American society families who made money, a lot of it. Her father’s held on to it and took life very seriously, and her mother’s, well, they were “eccentric.”Both families objected to the marriage for, essentially, the same reason: Teakle was ill with tuberculosis and in no position to marry beautiful, charming Alice (and her family thought she could do better, anyway.)
Guess what happened? Teakle died before Bessiewallis’ first birthday and Alice was left penniless with a baby–the two would become financially dependent on Teakle’s veeeery proper mother and his unmarried, wealthy, live-with-Mom, meanie brother, Solomon.
Alice and Wallis (she dropped the “Bessie” as quickly as possible) moved around the Baltimore area for all of her childhood. Wallis was bright, charming, very polite and had just enough mischief in her to make her quite interesting. Her Uncle Sol did pay for the right schools (have to keep the family name in the right places, you know, plus…control) and when Wallis emerged from high school, Oldfield’s, he (sort of) paid for her debutante season.
What does a properly raised society girl do after all that? She’s going to Disney Wor…oh, well, close: Pensacola, Florida where she met and quickly married, handsome, sophisticated, military pilot Earl Winfield Spencer. But Win wasn’t the guy she thought he was. The marriage was horrible. He drank a lot and emotionally and physically abused her. As an officer’s wife she lived nicely in different places around the country, but after ten years (not all living together), Wallis was finally able to divorce him.
Instead of going home, Wallis spent a full year in China, a time she later called her “Lotus Year.” This time traveling alone created myth and intrigue later in her life, but it was a good transition from Military Wife to Divorcee Socialite. But Wallis wasn’t one to sit around and wait. She was a master at making social connections and soon was married again to an English-American, Ernest Aldrich Simpson.
The couple lived in London where Ernest worked in the family business, a ship brokerage, and Wallis mastered London society. Her parties were marvelously different…SHE was marvelously different than what people had known. They climbed the social ladder fairly quickly (Wallis was very good at this) and, one day, found themselves in the upper tier: a weekend hunting party with Edward, Prince of Wales, the future King of England who also had a thing for married American women.
At first Wallis and Ernest ran with the princely crowd…then it was only Wallis running with them and, a few years later when his father died and Edward became king, Wallis was Edward’s American woman and he wanted to make her his queen.
The country loved the future king…but the Prime Minister didn’t think he was the Prince for the job, what with his sympathies for Nazis and all. Edward, it seems, was successfully courted by Adolf Hitler (not directly) and he gave every indication that he was on board with Hitler’s plan. Add to his lack of appeal as king: Wallis was divorced, would have to be divorced a second time…and an American? Oh, no, this wouldn’t do.
But then this happened, King George V died and Wallis’ boyfriend was now King Edward VIII!
And the rest of the story will be told on part two….
Go check out Beckett’s amazing Pinterest board for Wallis Simpson, that’s where all the truly fabulous pictures are.
All media recommendations will be on part two.
Our flask recommendation is right here at our Zazzle shop..