Mrs Simpson


Profile of a seductress - Wallis Simpson
When the freshly crowned King Edward VIII announced to the world in December, 1936 that he had decided to abandon the throne of England in favour of marriage to "the woman I love" there were in essence, two reactions - outrage or a kind of romantic empathy and intertwined with both was a sense of shock.

As most of us know, the woman Edward loved was forty year old American divorcee, Wallis Simpson. To the romantics, Edward was making  a supreme and noble sacrifice for love, while to the outraged he was spurning respectability, his duty, the people of England and the Church for an absurd, puppy-like passion that was nothing short of embarrassing.  

What mysterious qualities did Mrs. Simpson posses that would make her so powerfully alluring that a man would toss aside one of the greatest glories that could be bestowed upon him? Could it really be the force of her personal charms or was it a case of Edward looking for the excuse he needed to shirk the cumbersome responsibilities of monarchy?
The Style of Wallis Simpson
Early photographs of the Duchess of Windsor reveal a confident, calm, slender, strong-featured, exquisitely groomed woman with her own individual theme - beautifully dressed, immaculately coiffed - the overall effect is visually striking. Clearly, she was a woman of some style. Most noticeable is the dark, glistening hair, dramatically parted in the centre to emphasis the smooth plains of a slightly masculine bone structure. Hers was not the soft, fluffy beauty of a Hollywood starlet but rather the subtler intrigue of a mature, sophisticated woman. It's not hard to imagine that when she entered a room, people noticed...stared even.

the style of the duchess of windsor
Wallis possessed an ultra-cool, sophisticated beauty
All this is in direct contrast to Edward's pale, rather effete appearance and while he too, was impeccably dressed, stylish and immaculately groomed, his personal appeal lay perhaps less in his physical appearance and more in the patina of his royal aura and all that that association entailed. It is true, many believed Wallis was nothing more than a glorified gold-digger: she had already been married  twice to wealthy men, one of them titled and once divorced and was still married to her second husband when she met the Prince of Wales. All this at a time when divorce was regarded by the mainstream as scandalously out-there.

Mr.Simpson was a life-long dog lover
Wallis had no need of money but did she crave other prizes - notoriety, a place in the royal line-up? Which ever way you slice it, from a feminine point of view, ensnaring Edward was an incredible coup, not only to secure the affections of a soon-to-be-king Prince but to have him sacrifice a kingdom for her and while the prospect of it may have been frightening, it must also have been, on a personal level,  deeply flattering.

From contemporary accounts, Wallis was the more domineering of the two, unintimidated by the Prince's  elevated status and prone to gently chastise him through physical gestures and amusing quips. Mrs Simpson was vivacious, witty, staggeringly stylish and her physical presence gave off sensuous whiffs of a fascinating foreign charm far removed from the English roses he had hitherto been entangled with. Edward was quickly intoxicated by the seductive aroma of the brash American and romantic competitors receded into the background with alarming speed. The once notorious womaniser had been captured and everyone knew it.

The romance rumbled forward like a locomotive, with no-one seemingly able to stop it, least of all the couple themselves, culminating in the abdication and depending on one's perspective, the greatest romance or the most terrible scandal of the 20th century.

Mr and Mrs Windsor
I never allow a man to touch me below the Mason-Dixon line ~ Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson - a beautiful vase?
What..never? The intimate relations between the Windsors remain of course a personal mystery - some suggest that in bed Wallis had the exotic skills of a Chinese prostitute (picked up on her travels), while others strongly suspected she was asexual, incapable of hands-on, physical passion. There is, if one looks closely, a kind of detached cool about the figure in those photographs - she appears almost like an elaborately decorated vase, mesmerising to look at but perhaps too fragile for a rough and tumble, tactile touch up.

The Windsors spent much of their married life in exile from England. Of course, theirs was still a life of rarefied luxury, yet in later years, there is a sense of isolation about the couple, as though they were eternally trapped in a 'situation'. Did the childless Edward ever look, even occasionally, with regret and maybe envy at his younger brother's successful sovereign reign, his daughters and the happy family unit they embodied? Did Wallis sometimes internally yearn to be released from her role as consort to an abdicated king and revert to her former freedoms? Probably, how could they not?

the duke and duchess of windsor in the 1950s
Knowing looks - the mysteries of  a married couple
Over the years and especially in more recent decades, the Duke and Duchess have been heavily criticised. Emerging facts about Edward's Nazi sympathies have fostered a less than sympathetic view toward the couple  and certainly, such alliances are hard to forgive. Yet their story has continued to fascinate and there have been films, books and documentaries aplenty, exploring the layers of what was one of the most infamous romances in modern history.

Wallis and Edward's story is said to have broken the Fleet Street "conspiracy of silence", where the private goings on of significant public figures and in particular the Royals, used to be handled discreetly, as hard as that is to imagine in an age of phone hacking and media intrusion. If true, then that is a rather sad legacy for the couple to have left behind. Despite the fame and great furore of their 1930s affair, in the end they preferred, or were perhaps compelled, to accept an insulated  life of undoubted comfort but unremarkable achievements.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their fur kids. Interestingly, Wallis never changed her hairstyle.