Simpson, (Bessie) Wallis Warfield (Spencer) 1896(?)-1986

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SIMPSON, (Bessie) Wallis Warfield (Spencer) 1896(?)-1986

PERSONAL: Original name, Bessie Wallis Warfield; born June 19, 1896 (some sources say 1895), in Blue Ridge Summit, PA; naturalized British citizen; died April 24, 1986, in Paris, France; daughter of Teackle Wallis and Alice (Montague) Warfield; married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., November 8, 1916 (divorced, 1927), married Ernest Aldrich Simpson, July 21, 1928 (divorced, 1937), married Edward, Duke of Windsor, June 3, 1937. Religion: Episcopalian.

CAREER: First woman governor of the American Hospital, Paris, France, beginning 1972.

AWARDS, HONORS: Named Time magazine's woman of the year, 1937.


Some Favorite Southern Recipes of the Duchess ofWindsor, Charles Scribner's Sons (New York, NY), 1942.

The Heart Has Its Reasons: The Memoirs of the Duchess of Windsor, Michael Joseph (London, England), 1956.

(With Edward, Duke of Windsor) Wallis & Edward:Letters, 1931-1937: The Intimate Correspondence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, edited by Michael Bloch, Summit Books (New York, NY), 1986.

SIDELIGHTS: Wallis Warfield Simpson and her husband, the former King Edward VIII of England, had what has often been considered to be one of the most romantic love affairs of the twentieth century. When Edward's father, George V, died on January 20, 1936, Prince Edward became king at the age of forty-one. However, unbeknownst to much of the British public, the new, unmarried king had been carrying on an affair with Simpson for several years.

Simpson was at the time married to her second husband, London-based shipbroker Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Simpson was born into an old, venerable Southern family, but her father died of tuberculosis only a few months after she was born, and for most of Simpson's childhood she and her mother survived on the charity of Simpson's wealthy uncle, Solomon Warfield. At the age of twenty, Simpson married her first husband, a Navy lieutenant named Earl Winfield Spencer. Their marriage did not go well, and they eventually divorced. Only months after the divorce became final, Simpson, with no other means of support, married her second husband.

It was through her second husband that Simpson was presented at court and met the future King Edward VIII. Although their relationship was widely reported in the foreign press and certainly known to many upper-class Britons, the British press maintained a policy of not reporting on the private lives of their royalty, so the mass of the British population was not aware of it. However, when Edward did not break off the affair when he ascended to the throne, their relationship became legitimate news, as well as a cause of great consternation to certain members of the British ruling class. Edward, as king, was also head of the Church of England, and it was thought that the head of a church ought to display a higher standard of morality.

The scandal became a crisis when Simpson's husband granted her a divorce in the fall of 1936, to become official in the spring of 1937. When Edward was informed of this, he told the prime minister that he was going to marry Simpson. The prime minister told Edward that as the head of the Church of England he could not marry a divorcee, and the rest of the royal family, not to say the majority of the British public, agreed. Faced with such opposition, on December 10, 1936, Edward gave up his crown rather than give up the woman he loved.

The couple were married the following summer, and became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the title conferred on the ex-monarch by his brother and successor, the new King George VI. They settled at a villa in France, and although the two were forced to live abroad, mostly in the Bahamas, for the duration of World War II, they would spend most of the rest of their lives living and entertaining in France. Edward died in 1972, and within a few years Simpson's own health began to decline. She lived to be ninety, but after Edward's death she lived generally out of the public eye.

Her autobiography, The Heart Has Its Reasons: The Memoirs of the Duchess of Windsor, received much comment and was a bestseller in its day. It was often compared to her husband's own book, A King's Story: The Memoirs of H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor, which was published in 1951. Both books emphasize the romantic elements of their relationship. The year that Simpson died, a collection of letters edited by biographer Michael Bloch, who also penned several volumes about the Windsors, was published. Wallis & Edward: Letters, 1931-1937: The Intimate Correspondence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, consisted mostly of letters written by the Duchess to her American aunt during the mid-1930s, when the abdication crisis in Britain was at its height, although the book also includes some notes from Edward to Wallis.



Alice Countess of Romanoes, The Spy Went Dancing, G. P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1990.

Birmingham, Stephen, Duchess: The Story of WallisWarfield Windsor, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1981.

Blackwood, Caroline, The Last of the Duchess, Pantheon Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Bocca, Geoffrey, The Woman Who Would Be Queen, Rinehart (New York, NY), 1954.

Higham, Charles, The Duchess of Windsor: The SecretLife, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1988.

Jardine, Rev. R. Anderson, At Long Last, Murray & Gee (Hollywood, CA), 1943.

Lockridge, Norman, Lese Majesty: The Private Lives of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Boar's Head Books (New York, NY), 1952.

Martin, Ralph G., The Woman He Loved, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1974.


Atlantic, October, 1956, p. 102.

Booklist, October 1, 1956, p. 68.

Bookmark, October, 1956, p. 8.

Book Review Digest, 1956, p. 1013; 1987, p. 2009.

Chicago Sunday Tribune, October 7, 1956, p. 1.

Christian Science Monitor, September 27, 1956, p. 5.

Cleveland Open Shelf, December, 1956, p. 2.

Library Journal, September 15, 1956, p. 1991; August, 1986, Pat Ensor, review of Wallis and Edward: Letters, 1931-1937: The Intimate Correspondence of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, p. 141.

Los Angeles Times, December 15, 1994, Patricia Ward Biederman, "Icons of Style," p. E1.

Mademoiselle, October, 1986, Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, October, 1986, "Tear Jerks: Looking Back at the Duke and Duchess of Windsor," p. 170.

New Leader, December 1, 1986, Ray Alan, "Hanging on Princes' Favors," pp. 16-17.

New Statesman, December 6, 1996, Susan Jeffreys, "Sixty Years Not a Queen," p. 48.

New Statesman & Nation, October 6, 1956, p. 416. Newsweek, June 16, 1986, p. 72.

New York, January 16, 1989, Leslie Field, "Palais Royal: How the Windsors Lived," pp. 25-26.

New York Herald Tribune Book Review, September 30, 1956, p. 3.

New York Times, September 30, 1956, p. 7; March 16, 1980, Russell Baker, "Pookie and the Duke of Windsor," p. 14; December 15, 1980, Susan Heller Anderson, "An Old Friend Fondly Recalls the Duchess of Windsor," pp. 21, B16; December 13, 1986, A. L. Rowse, "Let's Be Fair to Edward and Wallis," pp. 19, 27; December 21, 1989, Alan Riding, "A House of Windsor Reclaims Its Grace," pp. B1, C1; October 5, 1995, Christopher Mason, "A House Is Coming out of Exile, for One Day," pp. B4, C5; January 30, 2003, Alan Cowell, "A Big Secret Wallis Simpson Kept from her Royal Lover," p. A1.

New York Times Book Review, June 29, 1986, Judith Martin, review of Wallis and Edward, p. 12.

People, December 22, 1986, Charlene Bry, "End of an Era," pp. 126-127; February 12, 1996, "The Greatest Love Stories of the Century: King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson," pp. 66-68.

San Francisco Chronicle, September 30, 1956, p. 19.

Saturday Review, October 6, 1956, p. 28.

Spectator, October 5, 1956, p. 465.

Springfield Republican, October 7, 1956, p. 10C.

Time, January 4, 1937, "Woman of the Year: Mrs. Wallis Warfield Simpson;" October, 1956, p. 94.

Times (London, England), August 24, 2000, Richard Ford, "Domineering Delilah Who Ensnared a King," p. 5.

Times Literary Supplement, October 5, 1956, p. 582; May 16, 1986, p. 527.

Town & Country, April, 1988, Jane Wilkens Michael, "A Love Affair with Style," pp. 160-163.

Women's Wear Daily, September 13, 1999, Keitha McLean, "The Duchess of Windsor: Wallis Simpson on Romance, Clothes and the Pursuit of Happiness," p. 68S.


British Broadcasting Company Web site, (January 29, 2003), Chris Jones, "Profile: Wallis Simpson."



Los Angeles Times, April 25, 1986, p. 1; April 30, 1986, pp. 5, 10.

New York Times, April 25, 1986, pp. 1, 13, D19; April 30, 1986, pp. 52, B4.*

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Simpson, (Bessie) Wallis Warfield (Spencer) 1896(?)-1986

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