- NAME: Wallis Simpson
- OCCUPATION: Duchess
- BIRTH DATE: June 19, 1896
- DEATH DATE: April 24, 1986
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Paris, France
- AKA: Wallis Warfield Simpson
- Originally: Bessie Wallis Warfield
- AKA: Wallis Simpson
- Full Name: Wallis, Duchess of Windsor
- AKA: Wallis Spencer
Best Known For
American socialite Wallis Simpson became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. Edward abdicated the throne to marry her, a period known as the Abdication Crisis.
Edward VIII - Wallis Simpson (1:02)
Watch a short video about Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson to learn why the man who was next in line for the throne threw away the crown.
To many, Prince Edward VIII was under the thumb of Wallis Simpson and gave orders to many people in Prince Edward's life.
Edward VIII's affair with Wallis Simpson was the cause of much scandal in England and would later be known as the Abdication Crisis when the Prince renounced the throne to marry Wallis.
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Wallis Simpson was born on June 19, 1896, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. An American socialite, she had been married twice when she met Edward, Duke of Windsor (then known as the Prince of Wales), at a party. She became Edward's mistress, and he would later abdicate the throne to be with her. This became known as the "abdication crisis" in Britain, which caused much scandal at the time and extensive cultural coverage later.
"A woman's life can really be a succession of lives, each revolving around some emotionally compelling situation or challenge, and each marked off by some intense experience."
"You can never be too rich or too thin."
"I’m not a beautiful woman ... so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else."
Wallis Simpson was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896, in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. The daughter of Baltimoreans Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice Montague, Wallis dropped her first name during her youth. Her father died of tuberculosis when she was a baby, and Wallis and her mother became dependent on the charity of Wallis's Uncle Warfield. Wallis became the poor relation, which led to an insecurity that followed her into adulthood. Uncle Warfield paid for Wallis to attend Oldfields School, the most expensive girls' school in Maryland, where she was at the top of her class and was known for always being immaculately dressed.
In 1916, Wallis met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a U.S. Navy aviator. The couple married six months later. Win, as her husband was known, was an alcoholic, and in the course of their marriage was stationed in San Diego, Washington, D.C., and China. He and Wallis would be separated for months at a time. When their marriage began to break down, Wallis spent what she called her "lotus year" in China, traveling alone. Win and Wallis divorced in 1927. Wallis then married Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an English-American shipping executive. They wed in London and moved into a large flat with several servants.
Around this same time, Wallis met Lady Furness, then the mistress of Edward, Duke of Windsor (then known as the Prince of Wales), and on January 10, 1931, Wallis was introduced to the Prince of Wales at an event at Burrough Court. The prince later remembered that Wallis had a cold that night and was not at her best.
In January 1934, Wallis became Prince Edward’s mistress. He denied this to his family, who were outraged at his behavior, but by 1935 she had been presented at court and the couple had vacationed in Europe multiple times together.
On January 20, 1936, George V died, and Edward ascended the throne. It had become clear that Edward planned to marry Wallis as soon as she divorced Simpson. This caused a scandal in Britain that is now known as the "abdication crisis." The consensus from the Church of England and the conservative British establishment was that Edward could not marry a divorced woman who still had two living ex-husbands. The king's ministers also disapproved, finding Wallis's behavior unacceptable. Britons were reluctant to accept an American as queen. During this time, Wallis fled to France to avoid the heavy press coverage.
On December 5, 1936, after Edward was told that could not keep the throne and marry Wallis, he decided to abdicate.
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In 1936, King Edward VIII unexpectedly abdicated the throne to marry the love of his life, American divorcée Wallis Simpson, proclaiming, "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." Edward's behavior prior to his decision to abdicate—including courting Wallis while she was still married to her second husband—garnered outrage from the British Royal Family, most notably from Queen Mary of Teck and King George V, and led to the "abdication crisis" in Britain. In 1937, the happy couple married and embarked on a jet-setting life in Paris, meanwhile referring to themselves as "W.E."—their initials, but also a dig at the royal "we," or the majestic plural. Subversive and playful, their nickname continues to serve as a testament to their lasting adoration for one another.
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