Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII
A cache of 15 letters discovered in an attic have shed fresh light on the most intriguing royal romance of the last century. The blighted love affair between American divorcee Wallis Simpson and the Prince of Wales divided the British nation and threatened the monarchy. Famously Edward Vlll, later the Duke of Windsor, abdicated the throne in 1936 ‘for the woman he loved.’
It has always been thought that Wallis Simpson was the scheming interloper who snatched a lovestruck prince from his people. She has been painted as the scarlet woman who led the prince astray.
Now biographer Anne Sebba tells a different story after discovering the letters while she was researching That Woman, about the life of Wallis Simpson.
The letters suggest that, far from being keen to snare the Prince of Wales, Wallis Simpson wanted to end the illicit romance that was tearing the Crown apart. She longed to leave him and stay with her husband Ernest Simpson. The petulant, weak prince threatened suicide. Wallis felt trapped, desperate to escape a man who was by turns childish and obsessed.
Even as the crisis reached its climax she wrote to her husband saying: ’Wasn’t life lovely, sweet and simple?’ Her husband remained rather baffled by his wife’s dalliance with the future king, writing to his mother: 'It is a great pity as we were really so frightfully congenial and never had an unhappy moment together until the mess started.’
Yet when his wife wrote to the unhappy prince suggesting that they end their relationship because they would ‘only create disaster together’ he threatened to take his own life.
This established the pattern of their relationship - he was obsessed, like a child who refused to give up a favourite toy. That toy was Wallis Simpson. She longed for a more normal life but, as Anne Sebba suggests, the die was cast. She eventually married the Duke of Windsor in France and earned the undying enmity of the British monarchy and its people.
Now history may take a kinder view of her. A scapegoat who longed to escape.