For the last two years, we've heard all about the drama and scandals of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's exit from the royal family, as the media, particularly in the U.K., have been on a rampage, reporting practically every breath. After Meghan Markle and Prince Harry sat down for an explosive interview with Oprah Winfrey, the family drama continued with alleged feuds between brother Prince William and Harry and their father, Prince Charles.
But before "Megxit," there was another royal couple who was exiled for their love. Wallis Simpson, a two-time divorcee, and King Edward VIII met and fell in love, and what followed was mass scrutiny and a media berating that led to their eventual exit from England and royal duties. Sound familiar? Read on to learn all about Wallis Simpson and King Edward's love story and the sacrifices that came along with it.
- The two met and became friends in the early 1930s. At the time, Wallis was married to Ernest Simpson, and Prince Edward was in line to become king.
- In 1934, family members and household staff started whispering and speculating that the pair's relationship had become romantic, though Prince Edward denied it.
- In 1936 and 1937, Edward takes the throne before Wallis filing for divorce. King Edward VIII reveals his love for her to the prime minister and his family. He decides to abdicate the throne for her.
- On June 3, 1937, at the Château de Candé, they tied the knot in a small ceremony without any family present.
1931: Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward Meet
Wallis and then-Prince Edward first met at a party thrown by Edward's mistress Lady Furness at Burrough Court. Wallis, an American socialite, had met Lady Furness, a fellow American, back in 1928. She and her husband Ernest received an invite to the house party when another couple became ill and could not attend. Simpson's husband at the time Ernest (her second husband—she married Earl Spencer in 1916) attended the party, met the Prince of Wales and the rest is history.
According to The History Press, the prince found her elegant and well-dressed, as well as "sympathetic, understanding, and witty." A year later, the couple invited the Prince to dine with them in London and soon Wallis and Edward became friends.
January 1934: Staff and Family Suspect a Relationship
Wallis soon earned the attention and affection of the Prince of Wales. After the prince dined with Wallis and her husband, Ernest, in London, the three took a weekend trip to Forte Belvedere. Soon friends and members of the household noticed Edward's attraction to Wallis. Though he denied the relationship to his father, King George V, Edward still insisted on inviting her to the Jubilee Ball at Buckingham Palace and Ascot.
Edward maintained for the rest of his life that the two did not have an affair during the course of her second marriage.
January 20, 1936: Edward Takes the Throne
On January 16, 1936, the Prince of Wales received word from Queen Mary that his father was not in great health. He flew to Sandringham the next day, and a few days later, on January 20, King George died. The newly appointed king called Wallis soon after to let her know the news.
October 27, 1936: Wallis Files For Divorce from Ernest Simpson
When word of Wallis's divorce spread, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin warned King Edward of the consequences of their relationship and urged him to prevent the divorce. The King consequently refused, and soon rumors began to spread that the king and Wallis' relationship caused her divorce.
Wallis listed Ernest's extramarital affairs as a reason for the divorce, but people speculated that she and the king were the ones having an affair.
December 1936: Edward Abdicates the Throne
On November 16, King Edward invited the Prime Minister to the palace and admitted that he planned to marry Simpon and was prepared to abdicate the throne. He later told his mother, Queen Mary, and the Princess Royal. The Queen insisted he give up Wallis, but Edward said he would not properly serve as king without Wallis by his side.
Before his abdication was even finalized, Edward proposed to Wallis with a 19.77-carat emerald ring by Cartier. On December 10, he signed the Instrument of Abdication. His brother Albert (father of Queen Elizabeth II) was named king—he became King George VI—and gave Edward the title of HRH Duke of Windsor.
May 1937: The Divorce Is Finalized
When Wallis received word in May that her divorce was finalized, she called the newly-minted Duke of Windsor in Austria. The next day, the two reunited at the Château de Candé in France, where they would be married.
June 3, 1937: Marriage
The two tied the knot on June 3, 1937, at the Château de Candé, where Sir Edward Metcalfe served as the duke's best man since none of his family attended. A civil marriage was performed by the Mayor of Monts before the couple had a religious ceremony officiated by Reverend R. Anderson Jardine. Wallis received no royal titles after the two wed.
1940: Wallis and Edward Relocate
After the Germans invaded France, the two uprooted to South France and then again to Spain. In July, the British government appointed Edward to become the Governor of the Bahamas, a British territory, according to the BBC. They remained there until the war was over and then moved back to France. In 1953, the two move to Bois de Boulogne.
May 28, 1972: Edward Dies
According to the BBC, Edward was diagnosed with throat cancer and died in Paris on May 28, 1972. He was buried near Windsor, and Wallis attended his funeral.
April 24, 1986: Wallis Dies
On April 24, 1986, Wallis died at her home in Bois de Boulogne. She was buried next to her husband, and a service was held at the St. George’s Chapel at the Windsor Castle.