December 11, 1936: A Love Story
It is so gratifying when two rotten people find each other, a true meeting of the heartless. Otherwise, they might be afflicting the lives of more innocuous souls. In the case of Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Windsor (nee Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) he would have been ruining an entire nation.
If the British throne were reserved for the greatest upper class twit of the day, Edward VIII was indeed the rightful king. He had impeccable taste in clothing and complete distaste for democracy, tolerance, and any other manifestation of intelligence. In fact, he could not even master the well-mannered hypocrisy to mask his royal snits. As the Prince of Wales, he travelled throughout the Empire and generously conferred his racist opinions of the very people he was visiting. When a guest at a home, he expected the hostess to offer to sleep with him. However, he looked so good in his clothing that the infatuated Press and public never cared to delve beneath that dapper surface.
Since women were always throwing themselves at him, it is remarkable that a homely American social-climber made so great an impression on his self-satisfied mind. Bessie Wallis Warfield wanted to rise in the world and had the predatory talent to do it. The impoverished Baltimore girl won scholarships to the best schools, but her aim was not the education but the social contacts. That acquired cachet and its admission into better circles afforded her marriage into the minor gentry; from there, she progressed to a second marriage into the nouveau riche. (Mr. Simpson’s family name was originally Samuels; at least he and his wife had social-climbing in common.) But Wallis Simpson aspired to old money, and the heir to the British throne certainly had that.
They met in 1934, and she quickly established herself as his mistress. No one then or now can explain how a homely, married American could have so completely enthralled the Prince of Wales. His mother, the Queen, conjectured that Mrs. Simpson was a sexual contortionist. (Of course, to Queen Mary, that could describe anything beyond the missionary position.) Others have speculated that Wallis Simpson bullied him and gratified some masochistic quirks. They did share a vicious, selfish nature with a soft spot for pug dogs. We can only speculate. Love is blind, probably from a veneral disease.
After the death of his father in 1936, the prince, now Edward VIII, let it be known that he intended to marry Mrs. Simpson and have her reign as Queen. The British government opposed it. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin could ignore Hitler but not this affront to good taste. Everything was wrong about the twice-married American social climber, including the fact that she had yet to divorce Mr. Simpson. If the King persisted, then Baldwin threatened to resign. Nor was the King finding any support from the royal family; the people who knew him best liked him least. And the Press too had finally noticed the King’s behavior. His tantrums didn’t wear as well as his clothing.
So, since he could not rule “with the woman I love”, Edward abdicated the throne and left Britain. Wallis finally got a divorce but not a king; she had to settle for a Duke. Nonetheless, the newly-wed Duke and Duchess of Windsor did have friends. American tabloids were touched by such a love story. There also was that nice little Herr Hitler; in fact, he even expressed a hope to put Edward back on Britain’s throne. The Duke and Duchess would frequently express their appreciation of that thoughtful Herr Hitler. (So Winston Churchill put them unofficially under house arrest in the Bahamas.)
But the Duke and the Duchess lived happily–well-dressed, selfish and vacuous–ever after.
This is the anniversary of his abdication. And history remembers it as the only decent thing that he ever did.