43 Facts about Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor. In the second image, she is photographed with the Duke of Windsor

Wallis , Duchess of Windsor, remains to this day as a controversial figure, notorious as the woman who caused King Edward VIII to abdicate who ended up a victim of her own desires. Here are 43 facts about Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor and the woman who would not be queen.

1. She was the only child of Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague.

2. She was born Bessie Wallis Warfield, in honor of her father and her mother’s elder sister, Bessie. Her first name, however, was dropped some time during her youth.

3. She attended the most expensive girls’ school in Maryland, Oldfields School, between 1912 and 1914, a stint paid for by his wealthy uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield. It was where she made friends with Kirk Silverware scion Mary Kirk, and Renee du Pont, whose family has been one of the richest clans in America since the 19th century.

4. She was a top student. "She was bright, brighter than all of us. She made up her mind to go to the head of the class, and she did," recalled one of her classmates.

5. She witnessed two plane crashes while visiting her cousin, Corinne Mustin, at Pensacola, Florida, which resulted to a lifelong fear of flying.

6. It was also while visiting her cousin that she met her first husband, U.S. Navy aviator Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. They tied the knot on November 8th, 1916.

7. While Earl was posted in the Far East, Wallis purportedly had an affair with Felipe de Espil, an Argentine diplomat.

8. She once toured China for over a year while still married to her first husband. There she allegedly had an affair with Count Galeazzo Ciano and even became pregnant with his child. Rumors also had it that Wallis had a flubbed abortion, which caused her infertility.

9. As per socialite Madame Wellington Co’s account, Wallis was only able to master one Chinese phrase, which was “Boy, pass me the champagne.”

10. Her divorce with her first husband was finalized on December 10, 1927.

11. Not long after the dissolution of her first marriage, she met Ernest Aldrich Simpson, who became her second husband. The man was a shipping executive and a former Coldstream Guards officer. He left his first wife so he could marry Wallis.

12. Wallis was first introduced to Edward, Prince of Wales by the latter’s mistress, Thelma, Viscountess Furness.

13. Wallis supposedly became Edward’s illicit lover while Thelma went on a trip to New York.

14. The Prince of Wales was said to have been fascinated by Wallis’s domineering attitude and her irreverence toward his status to the point where he was already “slavishly dependent” on the socialite.

15. Edward first introduced Wallis to her parents during a soirée at the Buckingham Palace. His father was infuriated due to the fact that his son’s new partner was a two-time divorcee.

16. Edward would sweep Wallis off her feet by gifting her with jewels and money. He was deeply in love with her that it already affected his official duties, much to his courtiers’ distress.

17. While with Edward, Wallis allegedly had an affair with a Ford Motor Company employee named Guy Marcus Trundle.

18. The British Empire saw Wallis as a woman of “limitless ambition” who was only after the Prince of Wales’s position and wealth.

19. Ascending to the throne as King Edward VIII after his father George V’s death, he suggested for both of them to have a morganatic marriage, where he would still be king, but Wallis would never have the right to be queen. This idea, however, was rejected by British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin, as well as prime ministers of South Africa, Australia, and Canada, as such marriage would cause constitutional crisis and Cabinet ministers threatened to resign.

20. As soon as news of King Edward’s “scandalous” relationship with Wallis spread all throughout United Kingdom, the latter flew to France to avoid media frenzy. It was during this escape that she was forced by Lord Brownlow, King’s Lord-in-Waiting, to give up Edward. He helped her draft a statement officially renouncing the King, which Brownlow himself read to the press on December 7, 1936.

21. His stanch determination to marry Wallis led King Edward VIII to sign the Instrument of Abdication on December 10, 1936 with his three surviving brothers—Duke of Kent, Duke of Gloucester, and Duke of York—serving as witnesses. "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love,” he said in a radio broadcast the following day.

22. Wallis and Edward got married at the Château de Candé on June 3, 1937 with not a single member of the Royal Family in attendance. They never had children.

 23. Before the marriage, King George VI bestowed Edward the title Duke of Windsor. While Wallis became Duchess of Windsor, she was not allowed to use the style "Her Royal Highness”. Instead, she was allowed to use “Her Grace”, which is usually used for non-royal dukes and duchesses. Nevertheless, she was addressed "Her Royal Highness" by her household staff. 

24. In 1937, Edward and Wallis infamously visited Adolf Hitler at Berghof. The Nazi leader thought the Duchess of Windsor “would have made a good Queen".

25. During the Second World War, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor travelled to the Bahamas, where the former was installed as governor. Deemed as a competent first lady, Wallis was actively involved in the work of Red Cross.

26. Wallis, however, abhorred Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas. She considered it as “our St Helena”, a reference to the remote island where the British exiled Napoleon.

27. While in the United States, Wallis was massively lambasted by the British press for her lavish shopping spree in the midst of Britain experiencing blackouts and rationing brought about by the Second World War.

28. A number of Wallis’s precious jewels were stolen in 1946 while she staying at the Earl of Dudley’s home, the Ednam Lodge. It was initially rumored to have been perpetrated by the Royal Family so they could regain possession of jewels that were taken from the Royal Collection. In 1960, however, a certain Richard Dunphie confessed to committing the said crime.

29. After the Duke of Windsor died of Cancer in 1972, Wallis lived the life of a recluse, supported by an allowance from the Queen as well as his husband’s estate. She was also suffering from dementia during that time, and unfortunately fractured her hip twice after falling several times.

30. Wallis’s possessions were sold at a much lower value by her French lawyer Suzanne Blum, who assumed power of attorney after Edward’s demise. In the book The Last of the Duchess, author Caroline Blackwood accused Blum of exploiting the Duchess of Windsor.

31. Bedridden towards the latter part of her life, Wallis received no visitors except for her nurses and doctors.

32. The Duchess of Windsor was 89 years old when she died in her Paris home. Her funeral at Windsor Castle’s St. George’s Chapel was attended by her sisters-in-law, the Duchess of Gloucester and the Queen Mother, as well as the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, and The Queen. Her remains were interred next to her husband in the Royal Burial Ground.

33. Wallis had quite an interesting nickname for Queen Elizabeth. She often referred to her as “Mrs. Temple” or “Cookie”, which were an allusion to her full figure and her fondness for cookies, respectively. On the one hand, she would call then Princess Elizabeth and now Queen Elizabeth II “Shirley”, a reference to Shirley Temple.

34. Wallis’s and Edward’s notorious visit to Hitler sparked speculations that the former was a German spy, an allegation ridiculed by the Duchess of Windsor in her letters to her husband.

35. A U.S. FBI file from the 1930s reveals that the Duke Carl Alexander of Württemberg told the organization that Wallis had an affair with top Nazi officer Joachim von Ribbentrop in London. Also, some reports have revealed that the Duchess of Windsor had Ribbentrop’s signed photograph displayed on her bedside table. There even have been suppositions that the Foreign Minister would send her 17 carnations each day to remind her of the number of times they slept together.

36. Woolworth estate heir and notorious gay playboy James Paul “Jimmy” Donahue, Jr. once claimed that he was in a four-year relationship with Wallis.

37. There have been rumors about the existence of a Chinese dossier that allegedly chronicles all acts of indiscretions the Duchess of Windsor had undertaken while spending time in China. She allegedly took sex lessons at a Chinese brothel, and had an affair with the Benito Mussolini’s future son-in-law, to name a few.

38. Her masculine features—large hands, strong muscles, and square jaw—caused speculations about her true gender. Recent studies have claimed that Wallis had a Disorder of Sexual Development (DDS) or more commonly known as intersexuality, which means she may have had ambiguous genitalia and that she was not wholly female. Some researches, however, have claimed that she suffered from the milder Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) wherein her body was not receptive to testosterone, so she developed into a woman. There have also been beliefs that she may have been a pseudo-hermaphrodite, meaning her internal reproductive organs did not match her genitals.

39. Wallis and Edward were huge pug lovers. They owned a pack of the seed breed, and they both had given them fancy names—Ginseng, Black Diamond, Disraeli, Trooper, Imp, and Davey Crockett.

40. The Duchess of Windsor owned 11 pillows in the shape of—you probably guessed that one right—pugs! They were carefully arranged at the foot of her bed.

41. One of renowned photographer Richard Avedon’s most iconic works had A LOT to do with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s love for dogs. Too tired of getting smiley, guarded pictures of the Royal Family, Avedon told the couple a lengthy story of a pup being run over by a taxi in the midst of a pictorial session at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The two were utterly affected by the tale, thus the concerned look on their faces on the final photograph, which is currently displayed in the National Portrait Gallery.

42. A 60-year-old slice of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s wedding cake was sold at a staggering $29,000 at a Sotheby’s auction in 1997.

43. After Edward abdicated his throne to marry her, Wallis was hailed by Time magazine as its “Person of the Year” in 1936, the very first time a woman was conferred with the said recognition.


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