This morning, I rose late (7:45am) having spent a late night watching DVD’s on the history of New York City. I chatted with Mother and ventured into the front yard to trim, edge the walk, trim the shrubs, and blow away the debris.

Jose is with the neighbors to visit their family in Xenia and fish. I am taking the opportunity to write on the Wright Brothers musical, and watch (as I write) Wallis & Edward, a 2005 British motion picture about the romance between American born Wallis Warfield Simpson and Britain’s King Edward VIII. Edward, the son of King George and Queen Mary, was the uncle of the current queen, Elizabeth II. In 1936, Edward abdicated the throne due to opposition from his ministers that he could not marry Wallis, finally divorced.

Video:  Duke of Windsor reads his 1936 abdication speech in 1968

King Edward, known as “David” to the family, was adored by his two nieces, Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, daughters of The Duke & Duchess of York, the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mum). Despite the adoration of the nieces, Elizabeth of York despised Wallis Simpson.

I can remember mentioning this to my grandfather one night as we were eating at Jim Dandy in Elwood, and he remembered their romance vividly. Grandpa said the newspaper banners read for weeks, “What Will The King Do?” He said that the night of the abdication, the entire family, and neighbors and friends, piled around the radio to listen to King Edward’s speech. I learned later that the rest of the world knew about the romance more than the citizens of Great Britain where the media had been silenced.

After the abdication, Edward left England for France, with the title HRH Duke of Windsor. Even after their marriage the following June, the new king, George VI, Edward’s brother (Queen Elizabeth’s father) refused Wallace the title of HRH, though she was referred to as Duchess of Windsor.

The story following the abdication was just as delicious as the romance leading up to it. One of my favorite books is Royal Feud by Michael Thornton – a fantastic book:

Although they were contemporaries with only six years between them, Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon and Wallis Warfield were totally unlike in personality and seemed destined to lead very different roles. Elizabeth was the daughter of a Scottish earl and married the Duke of York, second son of King George V. Wallis had emerged from a childhood of financial security in America and had already been through one divorce by the time she met Edward, Prince of Wales, heir to the throne.

The Duchess of York never trusted Wallis, who became Mrs Simpson on her second marriage, and like the rest of the family she resented her for her increasing domination of Prince Edward. He became King in 1936 on the death of George V, but his refusal to give Mrs Simpson up after her second divorce resulted in his abdication and the succession of the Duke of York as George VI.

Edward and Mrs Simpson were made Duke and Duchess of Windsor, but she was denied the style of Royal Highness – something for which she and the Duke always blamed Queen Elizabeth. The latter always refused to receive the Duchess, and when George VI died at a comparatively early age, the widowed Queen Mother referred to her as “the woman who killed my husband’. It was a feud between two determined women which continued until they came face to face in 1967, for the first time in over thirty years.

The first meeting of the Royal Feuders – Elizabeth the Queen Mother and the Windsors. In this photo: (L-R) Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth, Duke of Glouchester, Duchess of Glouchester, Duke of Windsor, Duchess of Windsor. This particular cast was gathered for the dedication of a plaque commemorating the centennial of Queen Mary’s birth.

One of my favorite stories: In 1972, the dying HRH Duke of Windsor, living in France, was visited several times by his great-nephew, Prince Charles of Wales. Several weeks before succumbing to stomach cancer, the dying former monarch was visited by his niece, Queen Elizabeth. Doctors and nurses spent hours dressing the Duke so that curtains and clothing would conceal the tubes and machines. The Duke insisted on sitting in a chair to greet The Queen, but was under strict orders to not rise. He agreed. Wallis greeted the Queen, Prince Phillip and Prince Charles on the front steps, bowing to the royals – something she refused to do for Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. Upstairs, the doors opened and The Queen entered. HRH The Duke of Windsor rose from his chair, unaided, and bowed to his niece – something reported to have touched Elizabeth greatly – her dying uncle, once The King of England, rose painfully, yet steadily, to acknowledge his monarch.

During this meeting, Queen Elizabeth shared with her beloved uncle that she was granting him permission to be buried in the gardens of Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle, and near his family. This infuriated The Queen Mother who could never let go of her animosity for Wallis.

When The Duke died, The Royal Air Force brought home his remains from France, and some 60,000 people filed past his coffin at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor over two days. The Duke was buried at Frogmore, and The Duchess was invited to stay in a suite at Buckingham Palace, and was appreciative of the many kindnesses shown her by The Queen. During the Trooping of the Colors, Wallis watched The Queen – her niece – pay tribute to The Duke of Windsor.

Wallis watching the Trooping of the Colours from her Buckingham Palace suite.

In 1986, Buckingham Palace put on a low-key ceremony for the Duchess of Windsor, the former Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry in 1937.

While she had been ostracized by the royal family in life, after her death the duchess’ body was brought back to England by the Royal Air Force for interment beside her husband at Windsor Castle. The funeral was marked by a period of formal royal mourning. In attendance was HRH Diana, Princess of Wales.

He was buried at Frogmore, the private family cemetery at Windsor, but some of the trappings were absent. For example, there was no gun carriage processional, as is planned for Diana funeral.

Once the Wright Brothers’ musical is completed, I would like to finish Love Is Eternal: Abraham & Mary Todd Lincoln, and then consider writing a musical on Wallis & Edward.

Advertisements