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Wallis and Edward: Love Over Duty

It was on January 10, 1931 at Burrough Court that Miss. Wallis Simpson was introduced to Edward, Prince of Wales for the first time. Wallis was a divorced woman who was then married to Ernest Aldrich Simpson, a shipping executive, and Edward was the Heir Apparent to the British throne. They were introduced to each other through a friend of Wallis’s. Thelma, Lady Furness, who was the then mistress of Prince Edward.

It was not until January 1934, when Lady Furness was in New York, that Wallis and Edward started their affair. Wallis soon had Edward end his affair with Thelma for her. Wallis is said to have fallen in love with Prince Edward in August of 1934 while on the yacht of Lord Moyne. By the end of 1934, Prince Edward was head over heels in love with Wallis, showering her with money and jewels.

Edwards’s father, King George V, was outraged when Edward introduced Wallis to Queen Mary at an evening part at Buckingham Palace, as divorced people were excluded from court and it was considered disrespectful to present a divorced woman to the Queen of England. Most of Edwards’s family did not approve of Wallis; they saw her as divorced socialite looking to climb the social ladder.

On January 20, 1936 King George V died at Sandringham and Edward ascended to the throne as Edward VIII. Many in the court and government circles worried about Wallis, who was still married at the time of Edwards’s succession because the relationship made him unpopular with the conservative-led government. With his succession, Edward also became the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. At the time, the Church did not permit the remarriage of divorced people who had living ex-spouses.

On December 10, 1936 Edward signed the instrument of abdication in the presence of his three remaining brothers. Upon Edwards’s abdication, he was succeeded by his brother the Duke of York as George VI, and Edward was named the Duke of Windsor.

Edward left England to Schloss Enzesfeld, the home of a friend in Austria. Wallis and Edward had to stay apart to ensure Wallis’s impending divorce was granted a decree absolute. Wallis’s divorce was finalised in May of 1937. Wallis and Edward were reunited at the Chateau de Cande, Monts, France on May 4, 1937.

Wallis and Edward were married one month later at the Chateau de Cande on June 3, 1937, what would have been King George V’s 72nd birthday. None of Edwards’s family were in attendance of the wedding. Even after their marriage Edwards’s family still did not accept or receive Wallis.

The Duke and Duchess remained married throughout the outbreak of the Second World War and received much criticism for their supposed support of the Nazi party. Their marriage was plagued by rumours of Wallis’s infidelity including an affair gay American playboy Jimmy Donahue who claimed to have with the Duchess of Windsor. Many of the rumours are disputed by historians.

On May 28, 1972, after 35 years of marriage, the Duke of York passed away due to cancer. The Duchess lived out the remainder of her life a recluse until her death on April 24, 1986 at her home in Paris. On April 2-3, 1987, almost a year after Wallis’s death most of her jewellery collection went on sale at Sotheby’s in Geneva. Proceeds from the sale went to the Institut Pasteur in Paris, which the Duke and Duchess made “To show their appreciation for the people of France”.