This selection of photographs from the private collections of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, many of them never published before, is an opportunity for a fresh look at their lives. In 1986, Mr Mohamed Al Fayed was granted the lease of the house in the Bois de Boulogne which had been the last home of the Duke and Duchess, and also purchased the contents. A few photographs soon began to emerge from drawers and cupboards, together with old scrapbooks, newspaper cuttings, and other reminders of the couple's extraordinary story. But it was not until 1988 that the mahogany lid covering the bathtub in the Duke's bathroom was lifted to reveal the most exciting find: an additional hoard of some ten thousand photographs. The loyal staff had concealed them here from prying visitors during the Duchess's long final illness, when many private papers were being spirited away from the house.
The photographs range from family snapshots to formal portraits by leading photographers such as Dorothy Wilding and Cecil Beaton. They document all phases in the lives of the couple.
We have a chance to compare their very different childhoods - the Duke as a royal prince, brought up to be heir to a worldwide empire, the Duchess as the well-bred but impoverished member of an old Southern family in America. And we can follow them through their early adult lives, the beginnings of their relationship, and their thirty-five years of married life together.
Hugo Vickers has made a wide-ranging study of the royal world. He brings this to bear on his evaluation of the career of the Duke, reassessing the reasons behind the Abdication, and tracing how the Windsors coped with the long years of exile. Comments of contemporaries, both published and unpublished, cast a new light on the familiar story.
At a time when the role of the British monarchy came under intense scrutiny, the Abdication Crisis and its aftermath took on a new interest. Here, starkly delineated, was the royal predicament, the conflict between public duty and private happiness.
The book also tells the story of Fayed's restoration of the Paris house, with specially commissioned colour photographs showing the impressive interiors of this royal palace in miniature created by the Duchess for her husband.
The question of the Royal Titles and the recognition of the status of Wallis become pathetically obsessive ... to the point of omnipresent Royal symbols in their interior ...
Edward was created Duke of Windsor by his brother, the new George VI. However, letters patent, passed by the new King and unanimously supported by the Dominion governments, prevented Wallis, now the Duchess of Windsor, from sharing her husband's style of Royal Highness. The new King's firm view, that the Duchess should not be given a royal title, was shared by Queen Mary and George's wife, Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother). At first, the Royal Family did not accept the Duchess and would not receive her formally, although the former king sometimes met his mother and siblings after his abdication. Some biographers have suggested that Queen Elizabeth, Edward's sister-in-law, remained bitter towards Wallis for her role in bringing George VI to the throne (which she may have seen as a factor in George VI's early death), and for prematurely behaving as Edward's consort when she was his mistress. But these claims were denied by Queen Elizabeth's close friends; for example, the Duke of Grafton wrote that she "never said anything nasty about the Duchess of Windsor, except to say she really hadn't got a clue what she was dealing with." On the other hand, the Duchess of Windsor referred to Queen Elizabeth as "Mrs Temple" and "Cookie", alluding to her solid figure and fondness for food, and to her daughter, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II), as "Shirley", as in Shirley Temple. The Duchess bitterly resented the denial of the royal title and the refusal of the Duke's relatives to accept her as part of the family. However, within the household of the Duke and Duchess, the style "Her Royal Highness" was used by those who were close to the couple.
Thus letters patent creating the title in May 1937 restricted the attribute of Royal Highness to the Duke of Windsor alone, denying it to the woman for whom he had given up the throne. This denial became the focus of constitutional debate for the rest of the duke's life. The most easily understood notice of the issues involved is found in Lady Donaldson's book, published in the United States as Edward and Mrs Simpson. A detailed review of the original documents which record the discussions between the Crown's advisors on the topic, and the considerations which led to the letters patent of 1937, has been produced by Francois Velde from documents released into the public domain in 2003.
Letters patent issued by Queen Victoria in 1864 provided that the children and male-line grandchildren of a British Sovereign bear the attribute of Royal Highness by right of birth. Victoria made no provision for an abdicated Sovereign since in 1864 that possibility was virtually unimaginable. A straightforward construction of those letters patent leads to the conclusion that the Duke of Windsor reverted to Royal Highness on his abdication, since the language of the Instrument and Act of Abdication can only be construed to mean that he relinquished the throne, but not his status as a Sovereign's son. Given the general rule in British law that a wife automatically takes her husband's rank upon marriage, Mrs Simpson consequently should have been addressed, upon marriage to the duke, as Her Royal Highness.
Queen Victoria's Letters Patent, however, made reference to birth in the "lineal succession to the Crown", and the Duke of Windsor, although born in the line of succession, had succeeded to the Crown and then relinquished it. Furthermore, the Act that gave effect to the abdication excluded the Duke's potential descendants from the line of succession established by the Act of Settlement. George VI's Letters Patent interpretively declared that the intention of Queen Victoria's Letters Patent was only to grant the style of Royal Highness to children and grandchildren of the monarch who were in lineal succession to the Crown, a situation which no longer held for the Duke. There was, consequently, the possibility of conflicting interpretations of Queen Victoria's letters patent. A meeting of high-ranking royal advisors concluded that resolution of the matter rested with the Sovereign, who as the fount of honour was alone empowered to decide who could and could not bear the attribute of Royal Highness. George VI then granted the attribute of Royal Highness to the Duke as a matter of royal favour, but restricted the use of the style so as not to include its enjoyment by a wife.
As Lady Donaldson explains, moreover, the Royal Family and ranking members of the Establishment were unwilling for the former Wallis Simpson to receive the HRH because no one believed that the Windsors' marriage would endure. In the event of divorce, there was then no mechanism in place to deprive the duchess of the attribute of Royal Highness; such provision came about only in 1996 before the divorce of the current Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson, when Elizabeth II issued Letters Patent providing that divorced wives of Princes of the United Kingdom lose the royal attribute. Thus at the time the Duke of Windsor married Mrs Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor would remain HRH for life even if she and the Duke divorced, no matter whom else she might marry. The duke, moreover, might marry again – for which he no longer needed the Sovereign's assent – and in that case another new HRH would come into existence, perhaps even less suitable than Mrs Simpson was judged to be.
The only solution was for George VI to proceed as if the Duke of Windsor had to be re-created HRH, and that creation was framed so as to restrict the HRH to him and deny it to his wife and future offspring. With the deaths of the Duke in 1972 and of the Duchess in 1986, without issue, the matter has become purely academic.
Wallis and Edward
A succession of stylish nostalgic empty days in a Golden Cage ?
"The remainder of their lives was to be spent in an aimless, boring round of luncheons with dressmakers and dinners with jewellers"
Books About Edward VIII & Wallis Simpson
Unless otherwise noted, these books are for sale at Amazon.com. Your purchase through these links will help to support the continued operation and improvement of the Royalty.nu site.
Book categories: Books by the Duke & Duchess, Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor,Duchess of Windsor, Fiction, DVDs, George V, George VI, The Royal Family, Royal Scandal, 20th Century, British Royal History
Books Written by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor
A King's Story: The Memoirs of the Duke of Windsor by the Duke of Windsor. Written in 1951, in his own hand, the Duke recalls his austere upbringing, his days at Oxford, the Great War, his profound love for Wallis Simpson, and the dilemma that confronted him in the months leading up to his abdication. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
The Heart Has Its Reasons by the Duchess of Windsor. The memoirs of the woman Edward VIII loved, first published in 1956. Out of print, but sometimes available from Abebooks.
Wallis Simpson's Diary edited by Helen Batting. This diary for 1934 provides insight into the thoughts and lifestyle of a woman who was accused of setting out to steal the throne of England.
Books About Edward VIII
The People's King: The True Story of the Abdication by Susan Williams. Through contemporary letters and diaries, this book discusses the huge popularity of King Edward VIII and the events that led to his downfall.
King Edward VIII: The Official Biography by Philip Ziegler. A study of the life of Edward VIII, from boyhood to Prince of Wales, uncrowned King, in exile, and as governor of the Bahamas. It also examines his relationships with George V, Queen Mary, George VI, Freda Dudley Ward, Wallis Simpson, and Adolf Hitler. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
More Books About King Edward VIII
More Books About King George VI
Books About King George V & His Family
Books About the Duke of Windsor
The King and Mrs. Simpson: The True Story of the Commoner Who Captured the Heart of a King by Erin Frances Schulz. A narrative history that uses flashbacks and passages from the couple's memoirs.
The Royal Governor.... and the Duchess by Oliver Platt. About the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the Bahamas, 1940-1945.
Blood and Fire: The Duke of Windsor and the Strange Murder of Sir Harry Oakes by John Marquis. About a murder that took place when the Duke of Windsor was governor of the Bahamas. This book asks, "Was the Duke a conspirator in a gigantic cover-up? Did he try to execute an innocent man to protect himself and his friends?"
More Books About the Duke of Windsor
Books About the Duchess of Windsor
That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anna Sebba. This biography explores the obsessive nature of Simpson's relationship with Edward VIII, and new evidence that she may never have wanted to marry him at all.
Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor by Hugo Vickers. Focuses on the Duchess's final years, when according to the author she was a victim of exploitation after the death of her husband.
Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor as I Knew Her by Richard René Silvin. The author knew the Duchess in her later life, and describes her as a clever, funny, and loving woman.
The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson by Greg King. Biography. Draws on newly declassified documents to chronicle the story of Wallis Simpson from her Pennsylvania birth through her long marriage to the former King Edward VIII, exploring the myths that surround her.
The Duchess of Windsor: The Secret Life by Charles Higham. Very trashy, gossipy biography that repeats every rumor about Edward and Wallis.
The Duchess of Windsor: An Illustrated Biography by Diana Mosley. An intimate friend of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Diana Mosley (wife of British fascist leader Oswald Mosley) was a frequent guest at their parties. This book also includes portraits of Mosley's other friends, such as Evelyn Waugh and Lytton Strachey.
The Woman He Loved by Ralph G. Martin. Tells the story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Out of print, but available from Alibris.
The Last of the Duchess by Caroline Blackwood. The Duchess of Windsor spent her last days guarded by her lawyer. This book takes the reader behind the facade of the Windsor myth to give an account of the Duchess's life and death. Available from Alibris.
Dancing With the Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue by Christopher Wilson. King Edward VIII of England abdicated his throne to marry the woman he loved, but was theirs really a perfect storybook romance? Maybe not, according to this book, which alleges that during their marriage the Duchess of Windsor had a four-year affair with a wealthy gay playboy named Jimmy Donahue -- and that the duke didn't mind. From Alibris.
The Private World of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor by Hugo Vickers; photographs by Fritz Von Der Schulenburg. Photos from the private collection of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. 400 color illustrations. Out of print, but sometimes available from AbeBooks.
More Books About the Duchess of Windsor
Wallis: My War by Kate Auspitz. A fictional account of the Duchess of Windsor's life, narrated by the Duchess herself.
Gone With the Windsors by Laurie Graham. Humorous fictional diary of a social climber who witnesses the romance of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
The Golden Prince by Rebecca Dean. Novel set in 1911 in which the future King Edward VIII has a romance with a high society girl.
Movies & Documentaries
These DVDs are formatted for North American audiences.
Edward & Mrs. Simpson. A critically acclaimed British mini-series from 1978, finally available on DVD. Seven episodes shot in sumptuous period detail, starring Edward Fox as King Edward VIII and Cynthia Harris as Wallis Simpson. The DVD also features the "Wallis Simpson" episode from A&E's "Biography" series.
Wallis & Edward starring Joely Richardson. A 2005 TV movie about British king Edward VIII's love affair with Wallis Simpson, which began when he was Prince of Wales and she was still married to Ernest Simpson.
W.E. The singer Madonna co-wrote, produced, and directed this 2011 movie about the romance of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
Edward on Edward. In this documentary, Prince Edward presents the life story of his great-uncle, the Duke of Windsor, who gave up the throne to marry the woman he loved. Two videotapes. Sometimes available from Amazon.