That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor
By Anne Sebba
St. Martin Press
Here is a gossipy tale, one of many written about Wallis Warfield Simpson, a married American upstart who made off with the Crown Prince of England in 1936.
Wallis was born June 19, 1896, to Teacle Wallis Warfield and his wife Alice (nee Montague).
There were no family members present at the wedding or subsequent birth because the family did not approve of the match and the baby arrived rather close to the nuptials.
This may be conjecture, but there is no doubt that they were stone broke.
Teacle died of consumption five months after Wallis’s birth, leaving mother and daughter on their own with no funds.
This early insecurity was said to have haunted Wallis her whole life.
Fortunately there was a bachelor uncle with some means who paid for her education at Oldfields, the most prestigious school in Maryland.
In 1914 when she graduated, she had learned that charm and wit and some very nice clothes would carry a girl a long way, and she knew she must marry a rich man.
Unfortunately she quickly fell for a naval lieutenant, Earl Winfield Spencer, a handsome drinker, and she married him.
After five years and some acrimony, they were divorced.
In July 1928, she married Ernest Alrich Simpson, a fairly rich, quiet and dependable man, who allowed a life of buying and entertaining, which Wallis loved. They lived in London and Wallis, busy with high society connections, contrived to meet the Prince of Wales.
The author paints a very unflattering view of the Prince. He was short, pouty, at odds with his parents, and full of self-disparagement.
He didn’t read at all and he smoked constantly.
So much for the charming, handsome playboy of the newspapers!
They met and he fell madly in love with Mrs. Simpson.
Her divorce was arranged, and he was determined she would be accepted as his wife and named by all as “Your Royal Highness.” The suggestion is made that Wallis was not equally smitten because he was so “needy.” They married but his family and his subjects were intransigent; they did not want Wallis as Queen.
The world headed for war and he announced, “I find it impossible to carry out my duties without the support of the woman I love . . .” and the rest is history.
With no proof whatsoever, the suggestion is made here that because of her large hands and shoulders, and the low register of her voice, Wallis was perhaps “not quite a female.”
Wallis was a brash opportunist.
She loved jewels and parties, and only felt secure when there was lots of money.
The “romance of the century” was played out in wartime, a war this couple all but ignored.
This story has a sad ending. Their lonely exile and separation from family was brutal. There was never enough money. He admired Hitler. One wonders what sort of King he would have been.
Peggy Freeman is a freelance writer living in Red Deer.