“I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility,

and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do,

without the help and support of the woman I love.”

–King Edward VIII, from his famous abdication speech of 1936.


The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (AKA Wallis Simpson)— arguably one of the most controversial, talked about couples of the 20th century.  Their affair started while she was still married to her 2nd husband Ernest Simpson– a wealthy Englishman, through whom she gained access to British high society.  The two were introduced at a London social event, and soon she was a frequent guest at Prince Edward’s country getaway, Fort Belvedere.

In January of 1936, Edward was crowned the British Monarch upon the death of King George V. He, however, had no interest in being king. Edward’s focus was solely on marrying Wallis Simpson– the rags-to-riches American commoner who had somehow seduced the now King of England.  Many wondered aloud, what could he possibly see in her?  Give up the throne for– what? Apparently it wasn’t the sex. She’s credited with icily stating, “No man is allowed to touch me below the Mason-Dixon line.” There were also ugly and persistent rumors challenging her own physical endowments as a lady. Shady, unsubstantiated stories surfaced that Wallis Simpson was born a man, and suffered from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome— a hormonal irregularity that causes a genetic male’s body to develop as a woman, but without fully developed, err, privates. Just the the kind of story any gal would love to be the subject of.

And then there were the stories of her affairs, Nazi sympathizing, and shopping.

Many influential members the English upper class suspected that while Wallis Simpson was carrying on an affair with Prince Edward, that she she also cavorting with other men– the most damning being a Nazi Officer close to Hitler, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Reich Minister Ambassador-Plenipotentiary at Large. It was reported that the Nazi’s were using Simpson for her connection to The King, and she was happy to provide them with all the British insider information they wanted, as long as she was paid. The FBI investigated the matter, and reported to President Roosevelt with their findings. He was quoted as saying that Wallis Simpson “played around…with the Ribbentrop set.” After marrying Edward in 1937, the two met The Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler– whispered sweet pro-German sentiments, and were becoming full-blown Nazi sympathizers. It’s now well known that if all had gone as planned, the Nazis would defeat Great Britain– and Hitler had every intention of then restoring Edward to the throne. All that was enough to make the British take immediate action.

The couple was quickly rounded-up, and shipped off where they could do no harm. He became the Governor of the Bahamas, and together they were appointed the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. The Duchess hated it there, and spent a good amount of time power shopping in New York– much to the shock of the British who were tightening their belts under imposed wartime rationing. Getting the picture that there was no love lost between her and the British?


1940, Lisbon, Portugal — The Duke & Duchess of Windsor (aka Wallis Simpson) shown with their beloved dogs. — Photograph by Thomas D. Mcavoy for LIFE

1940, Lisbon, Portugal — The Duke & Duchess of Windsor, aka Wallis Simpson.  — Photograph by Thomas D. Mcavoy for LIFE

France, 1955 — The Duke of Windsor’s garden and summer home in the South of France. — Photograph by Frank Scherschel for LIFE

1936, Broadcasting House, London, England — King Edward VIII of England Gives Radio Broadcast — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

1936, London — Edward VIII Giving Radio Broadcast — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis

Wallis Simpson photographed by Cecil Beaton. “Beaton later attempted to soften her brittle image in a series of photographs taken at the Chateau de Candé during the eve of the subdued and even makeshift arrangements for her wedding to the Duke of Windsor, who had romantically given up his throne for her. Beaton was not entirely successful. Dressed in Schiaparelli’s organza evening dress printed with a giant lobster, and brandishing a sheaf of pussy willow, or stroking a whippet that was clearly not her own, Wallis makes an unlikely romantic heroine. “Since I can’t be pretty,” she told Vogue in 1943, “I try to look sophisticated,” and no detail of that sophisticated style escaped the magazine’s scrutiny as Vogue celebrated her fashion and style choices into the 1960s.” — Hamish Bowles  via

June 1937, Chateau de Cande, France — Marriage of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis. Wallis Simpson, who would marry Edward and become the Duchess of Windsor was known as the ultimate fashion trendsetter– for her impeccable manner of dress, her extensive and precious jewelry collection, and her taste in interior design. He was known as the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Windsor, and the Master of Style. Men’s fashion owes him a giant debt of gratitude to this day. Widely considered one of the best dressed men in all of history, his personal style was impeccable, at times quirky, and always legendary. ”Did he have style?” Diana Vreeland once asked rhetorically. ”The Duke of Windsor had style in every buckle on his kilt, every check of his country suits.”

June 1937, Monts, France — The Duke and Duchess of Windsor photographed outside the Chateau de Cande after the civil and religious ceremonies that united them in marriage.  At the left is Herman Rogers, who gave the bride away, and at the right is Major E.D. Metcalf, who acted as the Duke’s best man in both ceremonies. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Paris, France, 1939 — A view showing the exterior of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s new home. — Photograph by William Vandivert for LIFE

1941, Nassau, Bahamas — Governor of the Bahama Islands, the Duke of Windsor, dressed in a dapper plaid suit and two-tone wing tip shoes, smiling up at the Duchess of Windsor, as he sits at her feet in the Government House. — Photograph by David E. Scherman for LIFE

1941, Nassau, Bahamas — The Duke Windsor, and his wife the Duchess, playing a card game in their home. — Photograph by David E. Scherman for LIFE

1941, Nassau, Bahamas — The Duke of Windsor has no license plate, only a royal crown emblem. — Photograph by David E. Scherman for LIFE

1943 — The Governor of the Bahamas, Duke of Windsor, visiting with Bahamian farm laborers during WWII. — Photograph by Peter Stackpole for LIFE

1953 — Duke and Dutchess of Windsor with pet pug, Trooper. — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

1954 — Duke and Duchess of Windsor posing with their beloved dogs — Image by © Bettmann/Corbis

Paris, France, September 15th, 1967 — The Duke  of Windsor Playing Cards, Le Moulin De La Tuilerie — Photograph by Patrick Lichfield for American Vogue  via

December 1936, Windsor, Berkshire, England — King Edward VIII of England After his Abdication — Image by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis


  1. Lovely pictures of an infinitely interesting woman. Wallis was not a conventional beauty by any means and she was definitely not known for her personal warmth (but that may be an unfair characterization, spun by her detractors, I recognize), how she captured and held Edward’s interest so intensely is such a mystery to me. I do quite enjoy her penchant for bows and pearls in these images. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I agree, the Duke of Windsor had amazing style, but I personally have little respect for either one of them– it is well-known that they were particularly virulent racists (most notably Wallis Simpson), and treated the people of the Bahamas poorly during the course of their stay in the country. It’s unfortunate that they are held with such high regard in history, when they treated an entire people with such utter disrespect.

  3. The power of aristocracy – never really move out of adolescence, create a constitutional crisis that threatens to bring down the government of the day whilst actively support fascism and you can still end up with a string of luxury houses dotted around France where you can indulge in illegal financial trading whilst being exempt from any form of taxation. My apologies for any bitterness but as a British republican I find it hard to care about these people.

    Nice plaid suits though.

  4. Anyone else getting Joan Crawford in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane from the second to last photo?

  5. you will find that history definatly does not hold this pair in high regard, their right wing views are well known as are the “deals” made with the Nazis. They were moved from France and had expected to be given the Governership of Canada, as was usually expected but were practially exciled to the Bahamas as a show of “disrespect” by the British government. Contacts made by the couple were monitored by the British and US intellegence services and it is known the Duke had contact with German diplomats and it’s thought he may have been passing information to them….this though is still classified information.
    Personally I find them parasites that have been romanticised in to “victims!” who were forced to give up everything for love…..where as in reality the relationship was used by the British government to remove a dangerous man from any form of power.

    • So what if they held “right wing” views? Given the damage that the left has done, and continues to do, I consider the holding of left wing views to be far more damning.

      All contemporary reports hold the Duke to have been a sub-par intellect. People who spoke with him report his conversation to have been vapid. His own father wanted to keep him off the throne. So for all the talk of Nazi sympathizing, he was probably no more than a “useful idiot,” although I’m not sure how true the “useful” part was.

    • Saying they held right wing views is a bit like saying John Lennon wrote some nice ditties. As for sub-par intellect, generations of inbreeding will do that.

  6. Edward…patron saint of the pussy whipped.

    Not hard to see where Bowie got some inspiration from though. Thin White Duke indeed.

  7. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and this period of the Royal family seems to have dropped out of common knowledge amongst the British youth. I nor anyone else I know from Britain in my age group grew up with a knowledge of them or what they were like. They were never mentioned in school history classes. And why should they be? The Duke’s sartorial flair seems to be his only point of reference, even then I didn’t know he had been King and had abdicated the throne.

    All fascism aside (if it can ever be put aside), divorce was never widely accepted in British society until the early 70s, so its no surprise that these two were effectively disowned by the Royal family and scorned by the public.

    If The King’s Speech did anything, it reminded us of a period of British history widely forgotten. George VI is widely thought of as “The forgotten King”, either for his short reign or the overwhelming presence of monarchs before and after him.

  8. HRH Duchess of Windsor was a woman of substance as well as a Lady. She and her husband stayed married until his death.. which is more than most can say today. If you wish to know more about either of them watch Edward on Edward which gives a detailed and accutate account of thier lives by his Grand Nephew Prince Edward which is Queen Elizabeth’s youngest child.

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