Monthly Archives: December 2013

King Edward Vlll and Wallis Simpson: An Historical Snippet

Most are familiar with the story of King Edward Vlll abdicating the British throne to “marry the woman I love”. Wallis Simpson was an American socialite with two living prior husbands who became the mistress of Edward, the then Duke of Windsor. When he became king, she wished to divorce her husband, marry Edward, and become Queen of England. Naturally this shuffling of bedrooms created quite a stir in the UK and its Dominions.

OSTENSIBLY to avoid a constitutional crisis, the king abdicated to marry Mrs. Simpson, as the British press was fond of calling her. In August of 1939, Edward and Wallis, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, boarded a commercial liner going from Lisbon to the Bahamas. There they would sit out the war, carrying out mostly ceremonial functions in the British territory.

According to a now deceased close family friend who worked for the U.S. State Department , another reason existed for their virtual exile that Wallis tartly characterized as her own “Saint Helena” in reference to Napoleon’s six year exile by the British. This family friend, Fletcher Warren, shared this story with me one evening years after his retirement from the State Department. I never forgot his shared insights or his gentle nature.

Fletcher Warren who went on to a distinguished career as U.S. ambassador to several major countries described certain curious facts about the Duke and Wallis Simpson while in the Bahamas. He had been asked to monitor Edward and Wallis during their stay there. While acting as a liaison with the U.S. Department of State, he also was tasked with watching their activities and those with whom they fraternized.

While both Edward and Wallis had been suspected Nazi sympathizers and had ongoing relationships with Nazi officlals, to my knowledge no documented conspiracy with the enemy has been previously shown.

Mr. Warren described to me finding cryptic messages intended for Nazi spies sewn into Edward’s and Wallis’ clothing that was going out for cleaning. Their ruse to provide sensitive information to the enemy was discovered by Mr. Warren and the messages read. These actions were directly against the interests of the UK and would have represented treason. But what does a government and its allies do with an ex-king and his wife, a Duchess, who are so involved?

One thing would be to maintain a cover story related to the Duchess being unacceptable because of a lesser offense, say being a three time divorcee, and then encouraging the King to abdicate. Such a story of marital infidelities appealed to prurient interest but left the royal family unscathed from charges of treason. Such a charge conceivably might have brought down the British monarchy.

Based on Mr. Warren’s information, I strongly suspect  suspicions of Nazi leanings by Edward and Wallis were precisely on target. Their friendly dealings with Nazis and their statements of support for Nazi Germany after the outbreak of WW11 speak to this end. It is clear that the British government did not trust Wallis Simpson. The snippet of information shared herein suggests they also did not trust their own, recently abdicating king.

Makes for an interesting snippet don’t you think?