Queen Elizabeth, who died in 2022, suffered various scandals during her long reign, but none that matched the fervor caused by her uncle, King Edward VIII. That scandal was precipitated by a love affair with his paramour, Wallis Simpson.

• Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in 1896 in Pennsylvania to wealthy parents and learned to be a debutante.

• She fell in love with a young pilot, Earl Winfield, and married him in 1916. Unfortunately, Earl was a drinker, and Wallis was a flirt. The divorce was soon finalized.

• Wallis soon married again, to the wealthy social-climber Ernest Simpson.   

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• They moved to London and began climbing the social ladder. This meant getting to know the royals. Wallis made quite an impression on Edward, the playboy prince and next King of England, regardless of the fact that he already had a mistress and she was married.

• Edward began spending more and more time with Wallis. Wallis began showing up at parties wearing royal jewels, gifted to her by Edward. Tongues began to wag, but everyone looked the other way.

• Eventually, however, royal family members grew increasingly irritated at Edward spending time with another man’s wife when he should have been tending to royal duties.

• In January of 1936, King George V died and Edward was crowned King of England as Wallis Simpson stood by his side.

• As King of England, Edward’s affair with a married woman could not continue. The Crown, Parliament, and the British Commonwealth were up in arms about the relationship. If Edward could not earn their support, a marriage to Wallis would create a constitutional crisis. (cont)

Wallis fled to France to wait for her second divorce to be finalized.

• Edward’s advisors told him he could not marry Wallis and keep the throne. On December 10, 1936, he announced that he was renouncing the throne so he could be free to marry Wallis. His brother took his place on the throne, becoming King George VI.

• Edward fled to Vienna but joined Wallis in France the moment her divorce came through.

• Edward’s brother, King George VI, found a chateau in France for a wedding venue. None of the royal family attended the wedding. However, public opinion began to turn in their favor after such a turn of events.

• In 1940, King George took pity on his brother and appointed him Governor of the Bahamas where they lived with a comfortable salary.

• However, they continued to feel the royal cold shoulder. They were not invited to Elizabeth II’s wedding to Philip in 1947. When King George VI fell ill, Edward was not invited to visit. Edward was invited to King George’s funeral after he died, but Wallis was not.

• When it became clear he was dying, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Philip paid Edward a visit. Edward died ten days later, on May 18, 1972. Following his death, the royal family extended a brief moment of hospitality towards Wallis. Queen Elizabeth II arranged for Edward’s body to be flown to England and for Wallis to stay at Buckingham Palace while she attended the funeral. Afterwards, the royals washed their hands of her.

• Wallis entered a long slow decline – mental, physical, and financial. She died at her home in Paris in 1986. It was a surprise when the royal family arranged for her funeral to be held at Windsor Castle, and for her to be buried alongside Edward. Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and the Queen Mother all attended.