Royal Romance When Love Trumps Hate – Meghan Markle and Wallis Simpson

Duke and Duchess of Windsor on their Wedding day 1937 ; Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce engagement 2017

For generations even American girls dreamed of growing up to be a real life princess. Now that one has actually happened its worth remembering one who wasn’t as lucky.

Someday My Prince Will Come

American. Bi-Racial. Divorced. Oh My!

The stuffy house of Windsor has finally opened a long stuck window to let in some fresh twenty-first century air. With the joyous and welcoming engagement of Prince Harry to his longtime girlfriend Meghan Markle the royal rule book on who can and can’t be princess has been thrown right out that palace window too.

Despite the odds being pretty much stacked against them, for generations even all-American girls dreamed of the fairy tale notion of growing up to fall in love with a handsome prince across the pond and  becoming a real life princess. Now that the playbook has changed, it’s worth remembering some 80 years ago when another American woman wasn’t quite so lucky in love.

In fact once upon a time, being an American divorcee was indeed the death knell to join that most exclusive of clubs, the royals.

Today it is hard to imagine the public and the royal disdain felt for Wallis Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor  whose relationship with King Edward VIII caused not only a scandal but a constitutional crisis ending in an abdication.

Much maligned, she was forever cast in the villainous mold of an evil Cruella Deville who robbed a nation of their adored King and nearly brought down an empire.

Unlike Meghan, Wallis’s reception was ice-cold chilly.

Shock waves

Duke and Duchess of Windsor

The American socialite’s charms may have caught her a king but they certainly escaped others.

Of course there were muffled  racist rumblings in the press when Prince Harry and Meghan first dated and some tongues wagged concerning the suitability of this half black, divorced American actress seriously marrying a British Royal but nothing compares to  the seismic shock waves and vitriol a twice married American woman caused in 1936.

Vilified

Not unlike today, the media couldn’t get enough of the fated Royal romance.

Vilified, the press was merciless, casting Mrs. Simpson as thoroughly unsuitable for their beloved King.

Not only had this Baltimore socialite been married twice before, she was pegged as a crass social climber and a commoner,  likened dismissively to Becky Sharpe the ambitious and amoral anti-heroine in the Thackeray novel Vanity Fair.  She was seen as a conniving seductress  who manipulated a weak Prince leading to speculations she was really a man. Of all her failings, though it was the fact of her being an American that had the upper crust’s knickers in a twist.

But it was the endless sniping about her appearances that was particularly cruel.

In fact the snark about her looks knew no bounds, with articles referring to as “a commonplace cow.” Poor Mrs. Simpson was derided as “not being beautiful and not even being pretty.” She was, they sniped, a “jolly plain adventuress.”

Time Magazine Cover Girl

Time Magazine Cover Wallis Simpson Woman of the Year 1936

Time Magazine Cover Wallis Simpson Woman of the Year January 4, 1937

This major scandal thrust this jolly plain woman into having the distinction of being Time Magazines 1936 “Woman of the Year.”

It was in fact the very first time the magazine had ever given its “Man of The Year Award” to a woman. In a tumultuous year where other finalists for that honor included heavy weights like President Franklin Roosevelt, Eugene O’ Neill and Benito Mussolini it was quite a major coup for a gal from Baltimore.

She was a controversial pick certainly, but it spoke to the public’s fascination with Simpson.

Time’s reason for this choice was explained in the issue:

In the single year 1936 she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world. In these respects no woman in history has ever equaled Mrs. Simpson, for no press or radio existed to spread the world news they made

 A Fine Romance?

Romance Magazine Duke and Duchess of Windsor

In an age long before 24/7 news or the gossip culture of social media, news and gossip the couple  made. The American press jumped on the relationship between the dashing King and Mrs. Simpson, keeping reporters working overtime on this unfolding soap opera.

While the handsome Royal was smitten with Wallis as a Prince it had gotten little notice.

Rumors that Edward Vlll, then Prince of Wales, and future king, had fallen in love with the American divorcee Mrs. Wallis Simpson had swirled around British high society for some time. He wined and dined her, covered her with jewels, entertained her at his estate (without her husband).

However once he became King after his father George VI death in January 1936 and he wanted to marry her it became was a different story.

In the Dark

Ironically while the American’s seemed to have an insatiable appetite for all the juicy details fed to them by a more than willing press, the British people were mostly kept in the dark about the romance, as the British press had a blackout on any story dealing with their King and his romance. But rumors were confirmed by gossipy stories cut from American newspapers and mailed to relatives back in the UK.

King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia in summer of 1936 Wiki Commons photo

That summer when the King rented a yacht and took a party sailing off the Dalmatian Coast, Wallis was included though not her husband and they were photographed intimately together by the press.

Armed with the photos, American reporters were now falling over themselves to tell the story about the American girl and the bachelor King, and speculated about the romance. When these publications arrived in Britain the offending photos were cut out and the nation remained in the dark.

Once Mrs. Simpson got divorced in October 1936 opening the door for marriage, the press went into overdrive. Even respectable papers like The New York Times and the Chicago Daily Tribune began reporting daily on the soap opera that the relationship between the two had become.

It took a public denunciation by a British Bishop who bluntly condemned the relationship of the King and the divorced Mrs. Simpson, warning of the abdication crisis that might follow to finally expose the whole crises to the British public.

With no gag order,  Fleet Street hurriedly churned out as much copy as they could in order to satisfy the public’s curiosity.

With the story confirmed the relationship between King Edward  and his unsuitable mistress was cause for grave anxiety in government circles. Could the King really intend on marrying her and making her Queen?

Newspaper Headline King Abdicates December 1936

It is reported that when the king announced to her his determination to marry her, she cried, “Are you out of your mind?”

After Edward broadcast to the nation revealing his shocking decision that he had given up his throne for the woman he loved, he bade farewell and sailed the channel into exile.

Known as Duke and Duchess of Windsor after his abdication the couple continued to captured the public’s imagination.

Duke and Duchess of Windsor cover of Look Magazine 1956

Twenty years later in 1956 The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were still captivating the public’s imagination. Look Magazine October 1956

Demonized for decades, Wallis Simpson was everything from a victim, a villainess, a romantic heroin and fashion icon. She was accused of everything from being intersex, to being a Nazi sympathizer.

In time  the public saw their love affair as a storybook fantasy of romance winning out over duty and defying the contempt of government.

In the end it was love that trumped hate. And still does

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

6 comments

  1. Nice historical sketch. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fern Cohen

    The irony is: if the King and Simpson had been allowed to marry, today’s Royal Family would not exist. The only reason Elizabeth became Queen was due to Edward’s abdication putting her father on the throne. AND Prince Charles would have been able to marry Camilla because he probably would not have been one of the 6 in line to the throne and thus wouldn’t need the King’s permission to marry. So, if he was able to marry Camilla, we never would have known about Diana. What a chain of events was caused by Edward’s abdication! That said, are you familiar with George III’s wife Queen Charlotte who was of mixed race? Check this out: http://www.refinery29.com/2017/11/182878/black-queen-charlotte-meghan-markle-biracial-royal-family?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=facebook_share

    Liked by 1 person

    • Its simply mind boggling how history would have changed if King Edward had not abdicated and married the woman he loved. With rumors that he was sympathetic to Hitler, might world events have changed as well? I was not familiar with the story of Queen Charlotte and that is absolutely fascinating. Thank you for sharing it.

      Like

  3. Thanks for sharing these amazing images, Sally. You are unsurpassed when it comes to keeping these artifacts alive and relevant

    Liked by 1 person

  4. “about the American girl…” Um, Wallis was 35 years old when she first met the prince!
    There were serious concerns that she was incapable of producing an heir (her previous two marriages were childless.)
    (As an aside, Wallis looked older than her years… There are a few published unretouched photos of her in existence that drastically differ from the image she worked so hard to portray.)
    Edward was sexually involved only with married women before his marriage as this was deemed “royal oblige” by his inner circle. It was only when Wallis divorced after becoming physically involved with the prince, that the royals, parliamentarians, and foreign media became worried!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: