Winston Churchill once said that every town in Britain should erect a statue to Wallis Simpson, because she saved England from Edward. He meant that insofar as Edward VIII abdicated the throne so he could marry the woman he loved in 1936. He also meant that Edward would have been an absolutely terrible King of England during wartime. Churchill was being a jerk about that. A jerk who was correct.
As Nazi sympathizers, Wallis and Edward both met with Hitler. Here is a picture of Adolf Hitler kissing Wallis Simpson’s hand:
I wanted to get that out of the way early in this story, to make it clear that the meeting happened, because I refuse to do the elaborate dance director Madonna did in W.E. where she tried to explain that really, the notion of Wallis and Edward being Nazi sympathizers was blown out of proportion and nothing was on record. Since I saw W.E. six times – there’s a scene where Wallis Simpson swirls around in a beautiful gown -
I am familiar with that argument, and that argument is wrong. Edward and Wallis were both glamorous, fashionable people who loved parties and who had moral compasses permanently set to “fun.” They probably would have been very poor rulers of England.
Fortunately, Edward was King for a very brief time, because he was forced to abdicate in order to marry Wallis Simpson, as she had been divorced not once, but twice. This governmental decision has to do with the concern about a woman married to a prince possibly carrying another man’s child that has been a part of the monarchy really up until Will and Kate. Edward’s abdication speech is still remembered as one of the most moving in recent history. He said:
At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak.
A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart.
You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.
But you must believe me when I tell you that I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.
And I want you to know that the decision I have made has been mine and mine alone. This was a thing I had to judge entirely for myself. The other person most nearly concerned has tried up to the last to persuade me to take a different course.
I have made this, the most serious decision of my life, only upon the single thought of what would, in the end, be best for all.