Thursday, August 30, 2012

That Woman by Anne Sebba

It was 1936 when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England lamenting he could not face the burden of the job “without the help and support of the woman I love.” As profiled in That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, the woman at the heart of the controversy still fascinates over 75 years later.

Bessiewallis Warfield was raised in Baltimore, the poor relation of a society family. Money was always in short supply. Seeking a measure of independence from her impoverished mother and rich but manipulative uncle, she married a naval aviator at the age of twenty. He proved to be a distant and cruel man. Wallis divorced her first husband and went in search of a more stable, wealthier mate. She found him in Ernest Simpson, who left his wife and daughter for Wallis.

It was while Ernest Simpson was working in London that Wallis’ social circle intersected with that of the Prince of Wales. David, as he was known informally, had a penchant for relationships with married women. In the past he had moved on to new conquests after a dalliance ran its course, but the Prince was determined to have Wallis forever.

Crowned King Edward VIII by this time, the microscope of world attention focused on him. This scrutiny unnerved Wallis who got cold feet when criticism of the relationship reached the extreme. Some historians say she tried to avert a constitutional crisis by breaking it off with the King. Others posit that she was a heartless gold-digger who connived to send the British monarchy toppling by causing the king to abdicate. Regardless, she and Edward—known thereafter as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor—were destined to be a lightning rod for speculation and controversy their entire lives.

For more about this intriguing couple, search he Virginia Beach Public Library catalog for Greg King’s biographical work The Duchess of Windsor. For a fictionalized retelling of the saga, the dvd Edward & Mrs. Simpson fits the bill.

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