Thursday, 30 August 2012

Edward and Mrs Simpson

Last night I watched 'WE,' the latest film about Wallis Simpson and her affair with Prince Edward. I expect many of you will know the film I'm talking about. Now whilst I usually focus on writing and book reviews, I couldn't resist giving this a mention. All the tales I've ever read about Wallis Simpson and her affair with Edward have been rather one sided, focusing mainly upon the harm to the British Monarchy and constitution. Even films such as The King's Speech portray the former Monarch in a most negative light, along with Wallis herself. I'll confess now to having marked her out as a femme fatale a long time ago. This film has delved in to the private life of Wallis, offering up a fresh, new perspective of the relationship which rocked a nation and resulted in the abdication of a British King. I enjoyed it and it had me riveted to my seat with thoughts bounding to and fro.

Author Anne Sebba has a new book out about the Duchess and has spoken of her luck in tracing someone who possesses some of the former Duchess's letters. If the provenance of the letters can be proven, it would seem that Wallis tried to end her affair more than once. She realised how badly she was hated by the public and she clearly seemed to have a conscience, feeling guilty for thinking that she was robbing a nation of its King. However, Edward apparently threatened suicide on more than one occasion and seemingly would not allow her to give him up. To say he was completely and utterly besotted with her would perhaps be an understatement.

Her subsequent letters, following the years after the abdication reveal her inner sadness and also seem to indicate a sense of incarceration as an exile abroad; her life changed forever. I think it is questionable as to whether she truly desired to live with her Prince after all or whether she would have returned to her ex-husband, Ernest, given the chance. Certainly her letters seem to possess such underlying subtext and one has to question whether in fact she had realised that she had made a terrible mistake in choosing the path with Edward.

Anne Sebba's new book, 'That Woman,' offers perhaps a more balanced portrayal of Wallis Simpson. She speaks of a woman who suffered torment during the height of her affair with Edward. Hints that she might have regretted her actions and the subsequent events are all too vivid and we see a woman who was literally terrified for her own life, having received death threats. Her husband, Edward had given up so much for her, including his family. In reality, his family closed ranks and cast him adrift. Blame her if you will but there was far more to her than the wicked woman the public made her out to be. I can't help but be reminded of Daphne Du Maurier and her novel, 'Rebecca.' A dark and Gothic tale with romance and tragedy which sees the protagonist living in exile with her man at the novels end; living a life of incarceration and oppression.


  1. I have this book on my shelf. I recently read the Elizabeth II biography and have Prince Phillip's as well. But I thought this one sounded especially intriguing. I read "Mistress of the Monarchy" about Katherine Swynford last year. Another royal mistress. I love reading biographies. Great review- feel more motivated to go digging for this book now. It's buried somewhere in a book pile or stack.

  2. Hi, thanks for commenting. I've put the book on my wish list. I haven't got the time to read at present due to my current list of books to review, so Christmas will do fine for that one.
    I love a good piece of historical biography -it's rather like a historical gossip column equivalent for readers, but far better of course. As for the writers, no disrespect intended at all. You are all masters in your craft,recreating past lives and bringing them fresh and vivid to our hungry minds.
    All the best.