Wallis Simpson Overview (02:14)
In December 1936, Edward VIII abdicated to marry an American divorcee. This film will examine her role in society and politics, and look beyond media perceptions to discover her true nature.
American Upperclass Childhood (03:00)
Bessie Wallis Warfield was born into a wealthy Baltimore family in 1896. Her mother relied on her father's disapproving relatives for financial support after his death; Bessie lived on the fringes of society. In 1911, she attended Oldfields to prepare for marriage.
Social Expectations (03:33)
At Oldsfields, Wallis focused on her debut, during which she hoped to find a husband. In 1916, she married naval officer Win Spencer, an abusive alcoholic. In 1920, she separated from him but divorce was frowned upon.
Marrying for Stability (03:33)
Wallis enjoyed the Washington, D.C. social scene. Spencer urged her to join him in Hong Kong, but continued his abusive behavior. She left for good in 1924, and met shipping executive Ernest Simpson in 1926. After divorcing Spencer, she married Simpson.
Joining London Society (03:35)
Wallis and Simpson married in 1928 and she became known for her parties. Edward VIII championed social justice, and was Britain's most eligible bachelor. Edward’s mistress Lady Thelma Furness introduced him to Wallis in 1931; they felt a mutual attraction.
Royal Mistress (03:18)
In the early 1930s, Edward and Wallis became friendly. In 1934, they became lovers and Edward broke royal etiquette by bringing her to court. Wallis tried to keep both Edward and Simpson.
Romantic Predicament (03:38)
George V died in 1936 and Edward ascended the throne. He met with Simpson; they agreed that Wallis would divorce Simpson and marry Edward—without her consent. Wallis didn’t want to risk divorcing Simpson, but Edward persisted.
Constitutional Crisis (02:48)
In 1936, Wallis divorced Simpson and Edward proposed—but Parliament and the Church of England wouldn't allow him to marry a divorcee. The scandal divided the British public.
During the constitutional crisis, Wallis fled to France for safety. Realizing she would be vilified, she tried to convince Edward not to abdicate but he was resolute. Hear Edward’s radio address to the nation. The Duke of York became king.
King George VI (03:47)
After abdicating, Edward fled England; Wallis feared public recourse. Albert was crowned king in 1937, and denied Wallis a royal title. She and Edward were married in June 1937 in France; no member of the British royal family attended. They settled in Paris.
Nazi Sympathizing Rumors (03:43)
Edward felt Britain could learn from Hitler’s economic reforms and believed friendship with Germany would maintain peace in Europe. In a controversial trip to Berlin in 1937, he and Wallis met Hitler—tarnishing their reputations. Hear Wallis' description of Hitler.
World War II (02:26)
When Hitler invaded Poland, Edward offered to help George VI, but the royal family wouldn't receive Wallis. They returned to France and Wallis volunteered with the French Red Cross. When Paris fell, they fled to Spain and hoped to return to England.
Caribbean Exile (02:11)
As England prepared for war, Edward and Wallis' earlier trip to Germany raised suspicions that they were Nazi sympathizers. Churchill appointed Edward Governor of the Bahamas. Wallis volunteered in child welfare, but her work went unrecognized.
Post-War Retirement (02:07)
George VI's visit to London during the Blitz, compared to Edward's life in the Bahamas, further damaged Wallis' reputation. After Germany surrendered, they returned to Paris and Edward grew bored. They wanted forgiveness from the royal family but none came.
What Might Have Been (04:08)
George VI died in 1952; only Edward was invited to the funeral. The Queen mother believed Wallis had led to George's premature death by forcing Edward's abdication. Wallis and Edward became resigned to permanent exile. In a CBS interview, they express no regrets about marriage.
Royal Olive Branch (03:44)
In 1967, Edward and Wallis were invited to a memorial dedication to Queen Mary. Edward died in 1972; Wallis stayed at Buckingham Palace for the funeral. She died in France in 1989, and was buried with her husband at Windsor.
Credits: Wallis Simpson: Extraordinary Women (00:47)
Credits: Wallis Simpson: Extraordinary Women
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