The King and Mrs Simpson

It was Tuesday 27th October 1939 that Mrs Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, received divorce papers ending her marriage to Ernest Simpson.

This was part of a chain of events that changed the course of history in Great Britain. Wallis Simpson was having an affair with King Edward VIII and the relationship made him very unpopular with the Government, the Church and the Royal Family.  She had been divorced twice, and, under British law, her second marriage may have been considered bigamous!  Notwithstanding this, Edward loved her and abdicated to marry her.

With all of this it is little wonder that the whole business was – and still is – referred to as ‘the abdication crisis’.  For many people it was shocking to think that the King, who was the head of the Church of England – did not approve of divorce and remarriage, was carrying on with a woman who had two ex-husbands, and was regarded as something of a gold-digger.

After the abdication, the former king was created Duke of Windsor by his brother and successor, King George VI.  Six months later Edward married Wallis and, after which, she was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor, without the reference “Her Royal Highness”. She was instead styled as “Her Grace”, a style normally reserved for non-royal dukes and duchesses.

In 1940 the Duke was appointed Governor of the Bahamas and the couple moved to the islands.  At the end of the war, in 1945, the Duke relinquished the office.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the Duke and Duchess shuttled between Europe and the United States living a life of leisure as society celebrities. After the Duke’s death in 1972, the Duchess lived in seclusion and was rarely seen in public. She died on Wednesday 24th April 1986.

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