Wallis Simpson has popped up on my cultural radar several times since I first heard her name in the 2010 movie The King’s Speech: Elizabeth Taylor bought some of her jewelry and Coco Chanel partied with her in France.
She was born Bessiewallis Warfield in 19th century Pennsylvania but she changed the British monarchy forever. Author Anne Sebba does a mostly excellent job is telling the story of Wallis both before and after her fateful relationship with the future king of England. In one, too long passage, Sebba details her personal opinion that perhaps Wallis was a hermaphrodite or suffered from DSD ( Disorder of Sexual Development) in order to explain her more masculine good looks and her lack of children. It is all hypothetical speculation but Sebba quickly recovers and writes an otherwise fact based biography using personal diaries and correspondence to flesh out her book.
The facts most people know is that Wallis Simpson caused Prince Edward to abdicate the English throne in order to be with Wallis, a common American with two living husbands. Sebba tries to humanize Wallis and heavily implies that the whole situation got out of hand; she offers evidence that Wallis tried to persuade Edward to keep the throne and perhaps didn’t want to get married at all. However, Edward was a man obsessed and in the end abdicated the throne after less than a year forever altering the British monarchy. He spent the rest of his life trying to get Wallis to be welcomed by his family (she wasn’t) and to have her receive a royal title (she never would).
In the end, I felt like the author did her best to give us all the gory details the love affair between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor without stomping too much on their graves. It was an engrossing read and I was glad to finally read a book with Wallis as a focus.