It seems likely that when Meghan Markle walks down the aisle on Saturday and says, “I do,” this divorced bride will be greeted a lot more warmly by her crown-wearing in-laws than was a previous American royal newlywed.
But then, the wedding of the biracial former actress to Prince Harry is unlikely to create a British constitutional crisis or alter the fate of the free world.
Here’s what we know about the “other” Yankee who became a member of England’s ruling family, Baltimore’s own Wallis Warfield Simpson:
Who was she? Wallis Warfield Simpson was born June 19, 1896, the poor relation of a wealthy Baltimore family. Her father died when she was an infant. She was raised by her widowed mother, and to make ends meet, the pair survived on handouts from an uncle.
What are her Baltimore roots? She lived for a time at 212 E. Biddle St. She attended Oldfields School, the girls’ boarding school in Sparks-Glencoe, and, according to one biography, as a teen she would sneak out her bedroom window to rendezvous with boyfriends. Since 2005, a local collection of her memorabilia known as the Wallis Simpson Museum was located at 206 E. Biddle St. That collection is being auctioned this week on EBay, with a starting bid of $7,000, because the collection’s owners are moving to a warmer climate.
She must have been beautiful. Not quite. Stylish — yes, but in her opinion, her jaw gave her face a mannish air. “I’m nothing to look at,” she once told a friend, “so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else.”
Why did the British royal family get in such a tizzy when King Edward VIII proposed marriage to Wallis? Simpson was not only American, she was divorced from her first husband and estranged from her second. A royal marriage would have conflicted with the king’s role as head of the Church of England, which at the time forbade marriage to a divorcee with a living former spouse.
What secured Wallis Simpson her place in the history of romance? On Dec. 10, 1936, Edward announced in a broadcast that he was abdicating the throne because he “found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as King...without the help and support of the woman I love.” He was given the title of Duke of Windsor.
How did the royal family snub the new duchess? Simpson desperately wanted a title that matched her husband’s and to be addressed as “her royal highness” — an honor the new king, George VI, refused to permit. Instead, she was referred to by those of much lower status as “her grace.”
Did it matter that Edward abdicated his throne? It might have changed the course of history. Unlike the brother who succeeded him, Edward was a Nazi sympathizer who once said of the German Fuhrer: “Hitler is a very great man.” Jokesters have suggested that a statue to Simpson be erected on the famously empty fourth plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square in honor of the divorcee who “saved” England by pulling Edward off of the throne.