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The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson

by Greg King

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55972-471-4
Publisher: Birch Lane Press

This readable, thoroughly researched biography of the much maligned duchess convincingly lays to rest much of the negative gossip—including reports of her sexual eccentricities—that swirled around the duchess and her husband in the nearly 40 years they were married. King (The Last Empress, not reviewed, etc.) set out to write “a fair and favorable” biography of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the twice-divorced woman whose last husband, King Edward VIII of England, abdicated his throne in order to marry her. King has succeeded for the most part, illuminating details of Wallis’s dramatic life from her birth near Baltimore in 1896 to her lonely death in Paris nearly 90 years later. Outlining a privileged, although not affluent, upbringing in Baltimore society, the author describes her subject’s first marriage to a US Navy flier who was verbally and physically abusive; and her second marriage to Ernest Simpson, who brought her to live in London, where she met the then prince of Wales, soon to become king. Although Wallis was neither beautiful or brilliant, Edward (called David by intimates) “seemed bewitched,” showering her with attention and jewels. Her appeal lay in her southern charm and ability to focus completely on the man she loved, asserts King. Once she was married, Wallis’s commitment to decorating houses, visiting couturiers, and creating for her husband a life appropriate to the former king of England was relieved by the Windsors’ service in the Bahamas during WWII. Wallis worked long and arduous days to improve health and education facilities for the poor of the Bahamas. Throughout the Windsors’ marriage, the British royal family remained intransigent over extending any recognition to Wallis; the couple remained exiles from England, riding the social circuit between France and the US. It still seems a shallow and self-indulgent lifestyle, despite King’s efforts to give it heft. Still, an intriguing slice of history with its centerpiece a royal romance nearly as riveting as the saga of Charles and Diana. (24 pages photos, not seen)