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Before Meghan Markle, there was Baltimore's Wallis Simpson

American actress Meghan Markle has made history and headlines after her engagement to Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, was announced Monday (even former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle congratulated the couple). But long before the “Suits” star crossed the pond and began her romance with British royalty, there was the intriguing and much more controversial love affair-turned-marriage between Baltimore’s very own Wallis Warfield Simpson and King Edward VIII.

Simpson, born Bessie Wallis Warfield, became the alluring woman of King Edward VIII’s affection after the two first met in 1931, when the American socialite was still married to Ernest Simpson, an American-born British citizen who lived in London, and Edward was still Prince of Wales.

In 1936, Simpson divorced from her husband, and news of Edward’s forbidden love affair with a twice-divorced American woman quickly spread, causing a stir and disapproval among British aristocracy. Simpson fled to France, but Edward couldn’t be away from her.

In December 1936, Edward abdicated his throne amid pressure, stating, "I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility ... without the help and support of the woman I love."

The two went on to cause even more controversy. The couple wed in 1937 in a villa owned by Charles Bedaux, who later worked actively for Nazi Germany, and Edward, who became the Duke of Windsor, and Simpson, the Duchess, visited Adolf Hitler later that year.

The couple remained together until Edward’s death in 1972. Simpson died 14 years later and was buried next to her husband in the Royal Burial Ground near Windsor Castle.

Baltimore Sun reporter Mary Carole McCauley contributed to this article.

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A previous version of this article wrongly stated the year in which Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII met. It was in 1931. The Sun regrets the error.
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