Style Icon: Wallis Simpson

She was not comely, but wickedly witty.  She was scandalously divorced.  She may have had Nazi sympathies.  On her wikipedia page, it is listed that, “According to Hui-lan Koo, the second wife of Chinese diplomat and politician Wellington Koo, the only Mandarin Chinese phrase that Wallis learned during her sojourn in Asia was “Boy, pass me the champagne”.

For those of you who are uninitiated, the woman in question is Wallis Warfield Simpson, the divorcee whom King Edward VIII abdicated the throne to marry.  Previously married to a U.S. Navy aviator, Simpson was married to a shipping executive when she met Edward through friends.  She quickly became the prince’s latest mistress and when he took the throne two years later and realized that he would never be able to legitimize his relationship with her, she was vehemently against his abdication.

She enjoyed her access to the corridors of power, but she did truly love Edward and married him a year later in 1937, after the scandal of the abdication and the finalization of her divorce had passed.  They spent many years abroad before finally settling in France to live out the rest of their days.

I have always secretly been tickled by the couple as they once attended the Mardi Gras ball of Rex, who is the King of Carnival.  When the Duke and Duchess were presented to the court of Rex, there was a bit of a flummox on protocol.  Real royals vs. the tradition of Mardi Gras.  Gracefully, and with a wry grin, the Duke bowed and the Duchess curtsied, and the room broke out in applause.

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Never known as beautiful, she was reputed to be very handsomely dressed and her jewelry collection was legendary.  In her own words, “I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else.”

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She intended to be the mistress of the King of England, and instead wound up as the wife of the Duke of Windsor, ostracized from court and the Royal Family.  Her life alternated between glamorous jet setting and unwanted official positions like First Lady of the Bahamas.  After her marriage, she was no longer free to live quite the devil-may-care lifestyle that she had preferred.  As she famously said, “You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.”  At least she got to do it in style.

 

 

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