Childhood & Early Life
Wallis was born Bessie Wallis Warfield, on June 19, 1896, to Alice Montague and Teackle Wallis Warfield, in ‘Square Cottage’ at ‘Monterey Inn,’ in Blue Ridge Summit, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Reportedly, she had been conceived before the marriage of her parents, as some documents state that her parents got married on November 19, 1895. However, Wallis claimed that her parents’ wedding had taken place in June 1895.
Wallis was named after her father and Bessie Merryman, her maternal aunt. However, at some point in her youth, “Bessie” was omitted from her name.
She lost her father to tuberculosis on November 15, 1896. Following this, she and her mother stayed with her late father’s wealthy brother, Solomon Davies Warfield.
In 1901, Wallis’s aunt Bessie lost her husband. Thus, in 1902, Wallis and her mother moved into Bessie’s house in Chase Street, Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. In about a year, they moved to another apartment. They later shifted to a house owned by them.
In 1908, Wallis’s mother got married to John Freeman Rasin.
She received her confirmation at the ‘Christ Episcopal Church,’ Baltimore.
Between 1912 and 1914, she attended the ‘Oldfields School,’ where she proved herself to be a promising student.
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First & Second Marriages
Wallis went to Pensacola, Florida, U.S.A., in April 1916, where she met Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a ‘U.S. Navy’ aviator. They got married on November 8, 1916, at Wallis’s parish, the ‘Christ Episcopal Church.’
When the U.S.A. began to participate in the First World War in 1917, they left for San Diego, as Spencer was posted as a commanding officer of a training base at the ‘Naval Air Station North Island’ in Coronado.
In late 1920, Spencer left Wallis. They were reunited in Washington, D.C. after 4 months, in 1921, when he was posted there.
In 1922, they separated again, as Spencer was posted as a commander on the ‘U.S.S. Pampanga’ in the Far East. Around this time, it was reported that Wallis was having an affair with Felipe de Espil, an Argentine diplomat.
She reunited with Spencer again in 1924. However, after she became sick, they separated again, and she moved to Hong Kong.
After recovering, she traveled around China. It was rumored that she had undergone a botched abortion after becoming pregnant with the child of Count Galeazzo Ciano, who later became Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law.
In September 1925, she and Spencer returned to America but stayed separately. They legally separated on December 10, 1927.
Before her divorce from Spencer, she had an affair with Ernest Aldrich Simpson, who was a shipping executive and had earlier served as an officer at ‘Coldstream Guards.’ He divorced his wife to marry Wallis on July 21, 1928, in Chelsea, London, U.K.
The newly married couple moved into a house in Mayfair, London.
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As the Great Depression began in 1929, she lost her investments in the U.S. stock markets.
Her mother passed away on November 2, 1929. After attending her mother’s funeral, in the U.S.A., she returned to England and moved into a large apartment, along with her husband.
On January 10, 1931, she met Prince Edward of Wales, son of King George V and Queen Mary and successor to the throne of the U.K.
Between 1931 and 1934, they continued to meet at various parties. Both of them were reportedly caught in a compromising position in bed, by Edward’s staff. However, Edward denied these reports when his father inquired about them.
Some sources state that she had declared her love for Edward in August 1934 and that the latter was smitten by her. The affair upset his father, as it interfered with Edward’s duties.
In 1935, the ‘Metropolitan Police Service’ reported that Wallis had been having an affair with Guy Marcus Trundle, who was supposedly an employee of the ‘Ford Motor Company.’
On January 20, 1936, King George V passed away, and Edward succeeded to the throne. The following day, he watched the announcement of his succession as King Edward VIII from a window of ‘St. James’s Palace,’ along with Wallis, who was still married. This act amounted to breach of royal protocol. This also sent a clear message to everybody that he wished to marry her.
The relationship upset the royal family, including the queen and his brother, the Duke of York. Additionally, the governments of the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and South Africa, along with the ‘Church of England’ (of which the reigning king would be the Supreme Governor), too, did not approve of this.
Before her divorce from Simpson and after the death of King George V, she had reportedly announced that she would be the queen of England. On October 27, 1936, she filed for divorce from her second husband.
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In November 1936, the king discussed his wish to marry Wallis, with the prime minister of the U.K., Stanley Baldwin, who advised him against it. Apparently, the king had proposed a morganatic marriage, which would not harm his status as the king, as Wallis would not be considered the queen.
By December 1936, Wallis’s relationship with the king became known to the people of the U.K., and the media began chasing her. To avoid the paparazzi, she fled to France.
On December 7, 1936, Wallis’s renunciation of the king was revealed to the press by Lord Brownlow, the king’s lord-in-waiting. He had apparently got the news by pressurizing her.
However, unable to give up on his love for Wallis, Edward signed the instrument of abdication on December 10, 1936, and then moved to France. Nevertheless, he was restricted from meeting her until her divorce was granted. Edward’s younger brother was crowned as King George VI. Later, Edward was made the Duke of Windsor by the latter.
Her divorce was finalized in early May 1937, and they were reunited on May 4, 1937. Following this, she officially changed her name to “Wallis Warfield.”
Married Life with Edward
Wallis and Edward married on June 3, 1937, at the ‘Chateau de Cande,’ in the commune of Monts, Indre-et-Loire, France. However, the reigning king and other members of the royal family unanimously refused to grant Wallis the style “Royal Highness,” which was used to address Edward.
The royal family did not receive her formally. Her relationship with Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, too, was reportedly hostile.
In 1937, the couple met Adolf Hitler in Germany, an event that was highly publicized. This incident and a report that she was in a relationship with a leading ‘Nazi,’ Joachim von Ribbentrop, led to rumors that stated she was a ‘Nazi’ sympathizer and a spy.
Until the Second World War began, the couple stayed in France. After the war started, they moved to different countries and finally sailed to the Bahamas in August 1940. There, Edward was made the governor.
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As the First Lady of the Bahamas, Wallis diligently performed her duties. However, she was not happy with the local population and her prevailing circumstances.
After the war, they returned to France, and in 1946, they moved to ‘Ednam Lodge,’ Sunningdale, England.
In 1952, they moved to a villa named ‘4 Route du Champ d'Entraînement’ in the ‘Bois de Boulogne,’ near Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris. The residence was provided by the authority of Paris.
In their later years, Wallis lived a comfortable retired life with her husband, traveling across Europe and America. Their relationship with the royal family also improved. They visited the royal family in England on many occasions, and the members of the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth II, visited their residence in France.
Edward succumbed to cancer on May 28, 1972. Wallis traveled to the U.K. to attend the funeral
Life as a Widow & Death
After being widowed, Wallis became extremely weak and eventually started to suffer from dementia. She fell multiple times and also broke her hip twice.
She lived her last few years in isolation, sustaining with the help of Edward’s estate and an allowance from the queen.
Her lawyer, Suzanne Blum, was accused of selling her property at prices below their market value.
In 1980, Wallis lost her ability to speak.
During her last few days, she was bedridden, and no guests, apart from her doctors, nurses, and caretakers, visited her.
She breathed her last on April 24, 1986, at her home in Paris.
Her funeral was conducted at the ‘St. George’s Chapel’ of ‘Windsor Castle,’ Berkshire, England.
On April 29, 1986, she was buried in the ‘Royal Burial Ground’ near ‘Windsor Castle,’ next to Edward, as “Wallis, Duchess of Windsor.”
The ceremonies were attended by many of the members of the royal family, including the queen of England.