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Wallis Simpson

Wallis Simpson (June 19, 1896 - April 24, 1986), Duchess of Windsor, was the mistress, and later wife, of Edward VIII of the United Kingdom and is indirectly responsible for his abdication of the throne.

Born in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania[?] to Teackle Wallis Warfield and his wife, the former Alice Montague, and raised in Baltimore, she was christened Bessie Wallis Warfield but was best known as Wallis. Her first marriage was to Earl Winfield Spencer, a hard-drinking, reportedly abusive U. S. Navy pilot, in 1916; she divorced him in 1927. Her second marriage, to Ernest Simpson, a mild-mannered half-English, half-American businessman, lasted from 1928 until their divorce in 1936 (he later married his former wife's close friend Mary Kirk Raffray, by whom he had a son). By then Wallis Simpson was living in Britain and had been introduced to the prince of Wales. She soon became his mistress -- after ousting the prince's previous companion, the exotic American-born Viscountess Furness (nee Thelma Morgan), and distancing him from a former lover and confidante, Freda Dudley Ward -- and was regarded by the royal family as a totally unsuitable wife for the heir to the throne.

It is generally believed that it was her status as a twice-divorced woman that made it problematic for the Prince to marry Wallis. As king, he would become head of the Church of England, and remarriage for divorcees was strictly forbidden by that church, but both were determined to make their relationship legal. On his accession to the throne as King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, he looked for way around the problem and consulted the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury, but no acceptable compromise was found. The result was the abdication crisis of 1936. King Edward renounced his throne, and then his brother, the new king, George VI, made him HRH the duke of Windsor. The following year he married Wallis, who thus became the duchess of Windsor, though her in-laws' denied her the designation Her Royal Highness.

FBI files compiled in the 1930s, released under the FOIA in 2003, portray Wallis as a possible Nazi sympathiser. It has been suggested that this may have been the real motivation for the abdication crisis, although officially released British documents do not appear to confirm this. British documents released on January 30, 2003 do reveal that in 1935 Wallis Simpson was being followed by Special Branch detectives and was secretly conducting a love affair with Guy Marcus Trundle, an Englishman who was an engineer and salesman for Ford Motor Company.

The British royal family never accepted Wallis and would not receive her formally, although the former king sometimes met his mother and brother after his abdication. The couple lived in Neuilly, near Paris, for most of the remainder of their lives. They had no children. Upon the duke's death from cancer in 1972, the increasingly addled and frail duchess travelled to England to attend his funeral, her first trip to the country since her marriage. Wallis lived the remainder of her life as a recluse and followed her husband in death fourteen years later, in Paris. She is buried next to her husband at Frogmore, the royal mausoleum at Windsor Castle.

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