• 01:35
  • 13.04.2021
Woman who almost destroyed the royals
the big reads
12.04.2021

Woman who almost destroyed the royals

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Wallis Simpson was everything a dyed-in-the-wool, upper crust, avid British monarchist in 1930s pre-war Britain loathed.

American. Opinionated. And divorced.

And their king loved her.
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So much so that he gave up the throne to marry her.

Her name was Wallis Simpson, woman of quick wit and turn of phrase — “You can never be too rich or too thin,” is among her many famous quotes.

And when she arrived in London and fell in love with the then Prince Edward, the stuffy house of Windsor and its supporters were having none of it.
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Simpson was treated with right royal disdain.

She was a brunette, twice married socialite — American no less — painted as a social climber unsuitable for the future King.

Wallis, born into a wealthy American family, had met and married her first husband, US Navy aviator Earl Winfield Spencer Jr, in 1916, the Express reports.
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The pair divorced in 1927 and she then became entangled with married shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson.

A LOATHED LOVE STORY

Ernest left his first wife for her, and they married in London in July 1928.
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It’s believed Wallis began her relationship with Edward in 1934 — while she was still married — but he, still a prince, denied this to his father, the King.

By 1935, their relationship had blossomed despite the disapproving eye of the royals — who hated her for her marital history, and for the holidays and gifts he lavished on her.

As the future King of England, he would become head of the Church of England. The Church at that time would not allow a King to marry a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands.
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Even if it would, it seemed it the public would not accept an American queen — the Britons and the press seemed to loathe her.

She was seen as an evil temptress.

But when his father King George V died in January 1936, and Edward became King, it spiralled into a constitutional crisis.
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The grim warnings, rumours, whispers and hate bubbled along for much of the year. By October, as finalisation of her second divorce neared, media coverage in America was at its peak, and it became increasingly evident Edward planned to marry her.

The plan was opposed by the governments of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, who raised myriad religious, legal, political and moral arguments.

They would not accept her as his consort.
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Equally, he declared he loved her and would marry her regardless.

The looming scandal saw Time magazine name her 1936 Woman of the Year.

“In the single year 1936 she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world. In these respects no woman in history has ever equalled Mrs Simpson, for no press or radio existed to spread the world news they made,” the magazine said of its decision.
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ABDICATION

The British press remained silent until Alfred Blunt, Bishop of Bradford, gave a speech to his diocesan conference on December 1, 1936.

He alluded to the King’s need of divine grace: “We hope that he is aware of his need. Some of us wish that he gave more positive signs of his awareness.”
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The crisis was now front page news.

Simpson reportedly fled to France to escape the media glare, the King’s words ringing in her ears: “I shall never give you up.”

Finally, the Church gave Edward a blunt warning: choose.
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If he wanted to marry his “unsuitable” mistress, he would have to give up the throne.

On December 11, 1936 he did just that.

In a BBC radio broadcast from Windsor Castle, having abdicated, he was introduced by Sir John Reith as “His Royal Highness Prince Edward”.
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He told listeners he was unable to do the job of King “as I would have wished” without the support of “the woman I love”.

The next day, the couple, who would become the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, sailed into exile in Austria.

They married on June 3, 1937 and settled in France.
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They may have been out of sight, but Wallis remained a focus of hate for decades from Britons who felt she had stolen their much-loved King.

The pair were suspected of being Nazi sympathisers when, in 1937, they visited Germany and met Adolf Hitler.

After the war, the Windsors returned to France, and lived between Europe and the US. Edward never took another official role. He died in 1972. Wallis Simpson was rarely seen in public after that, and died in 1986. She was buried next to him in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle.
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MEGHAN AND HARRY

Fast forward 80 years, and the few rumblings of dissent which first surfaced when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle started dating have been drowned out by the thrill of another royal wedding of a couple so clearly in love.

Times, and attitudes — including public attitudes to divorce — have changed.
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Harry, has dropped steadily down the line of succession as more babies are born, and has a very slim chance of being crowned king — he’ll be sixth in line once Kate and William have their next baby.

And a string of royal divorcees and second marriages in the House of Windsor are the clear sign that times, culture and the Royal family have changed.
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Since Edward’s abdication, three of the Queen’s four children have since gone through marriage splits themselves.

They include heir to the throne Prince Charles, who divorced Diana and went on to marry divorcee Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Palace has weathered the media scrutiny of the very public breakdown of Charles and Diana’s marriage and the recriminations after Diana’s tragic death.
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So Prince Harry’s forthcoming marriage to divorcee Markle, who was married to film producer Trevor Engelson from September 2011 to May 2013, is unlikely to cause controversy

As for royal duties, as an actor, Markle is better prepared for the limelight and media and public scrutiny than many of her predecessors. The Suits actor might just need to be careful in her role selection if she’s going to continue to work.

While there are a few avid monarchists outraged that Harry would marry an American divorcee, it seems the royal family is not among them.
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Queen Elizabeth herself gave her blessing to the nuptials.

Harry’s brother summed it up succinctly. “We are very excited for Harry and Meghan,” said the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in a statement. “It has been wonderful getting to know Meghan and to see how happy she and Harry are together.”

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