Retro: When an English king left the throne for a Baltimore woman

Edward, Duke of Windsor, and formerly Edward VIII of England, and his wife, Wallis Simpson, are seen June 3, 1937, during their wedding, at Château de Candé in Monts, France. Edward, eldest son of George V and Mary of Teck, abdicated because of his love affair with American-born divorcee Simpson. After his abdication, he became Duke of Windsor and married Mrs. Simpson, who had changed her name by deed poll to Wallis Warfield.

In the wake of the recent coronation of King Charles III, another English king, while uncrowned, nearly spent eternity in a quiet corner of historic Green Mount Cemetery with his Baltimore wife.

Even after the passage of 86 years, the upper-class soap opera love affair between Edward VIII and Baltimore’s Wallis Warfield Simpson, for whom he abandoned the English throne — “For the woman I love” — shows no signs of slowing down or going away.


Their love story captured a global audience fascinated as it is today by the high-jinks and lows of the royal family and the British aristocracy.

Bessie Wallis Warfield, the only child of Teackle and Alice Montague Warfield, was born in 1896 in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, then a fashionable summer resort for the fashionable.


Her father died when she was an infant, and to make ends meet, mother and daughter were forced to live in rented rooms on East Biddle Street, while her mother worked as a host at the Chevy Chase Country Club.

Despite finances being tight, the ever-socially ambitious Wallis attended the Arundel School on Mount Vernon Place and Oldfields School in Sparks Glencoe. Her destiny seemed to be foretold when she scrawled in the school’s yearbook, “All is Love.”

She made her debut Dec. 7, 1914, at the Bachelors Cotillon that was held at The Lyric, and when her uncle, Solomon Warfield, balked at paying for a coming-out ball during World War I, Wallis fled Baltimore for Pensacola, Florida, to avoid social humiliation.

But all was not lost during her exile in Pensacola, where she met and fell in love with a Naval Academy graduate, Lt. Earl Winfield “Win” Spencer Jr., an aviator with movie star looks but cursed with a drinking problem.

They married in 1916 at the old Christ Episcopal Church on St. Paul Street, and at the time of her marriage, Wallis dropped “Bessie” from her name on the grounds that it was a name given to bovines.

Coupled with her husband’s chronic alcoholism and her relentless pursuit of lovers, the marriage ended in 1927.

“Nobody ever called me beautiful or even pretty,” she once said. “I was too thin in an era when a certain plumpness was a girl’s ideal. My jaw was clearly too big and too pointed to be classic.”

But that didn’t stop her. After divorcing Spencer, she moved on to Ernest Aldrich Simpson, a married British shipping executive with dual British American citizenship, and once his divorce was final, they married in 1928.


This marriage afforded the Belle of Biddle Street certain social advantages, mainly a direct line into the British aristocracy and fancy weekends at country estates, and this is where she met Edward, then Prince of Wales, in 1930.

So captivated was the prince with Wallis that by 1934, as friendship turned to love, he abandoned his mistresses and set his sights on the married Mrs. Simpson, whose husband was no longer amused by his wife’s antics.

Edward ascended the throne in 1936, after the death of his father, King George V.

Although news of the ongoing affair was kept from the British public, American newspapers reveled in it.

Annoyed at the situation, Edward’s mother, Queen Mary, fumed and labeled Wallis “that woman,” while Winston Churchill, a confidant of the king, referred to her as his “cutie.”

Edward abdicated on Dec. 11, 1936, and Wallis left England under an assumed name and went into exile at the Château de Candé, near Tours, France.


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Wallis’ divorce from Simpson was final May 3, 1937, and she and Edward married a month later, launching a life as international vagabonds, floating from one fashionable hotel and resort to another when not pausing at their home in the Bois de Boulogne in Paris.

The official royal freeze-out of the couple was only heightened by a refusal to acknowledge Wallis as “Her Royal Highness” and that burial for the Windsors at Windsor Castle’s Frogmore Gardens cemetery would not be allowed.

When it became apparent that royal ostracism would continue even in death, the duke instructed his American representative, Clarence W. Miles, a noted Baltimore lawyer, in 1957 to purchase a plot in Green Mount Cemetery, where a mausoleum with two crypts would be constructed to hold their remains.

The site selected was Rose Circle in the cemetery’s southeastern corner, near Ensor and Hoffman streets.

In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II relented, and interment for the duke and duchess was sanctioned at Frogmore, at which point the plot in Baltimore was quietly disposed of.

He died in 1972 and she in 1986.


Were it not for the gesture of his niece, the former King of England and his consort would have for all time had their deathly slumber disturbed by the daily sounds of passing Amtrak and MARC trains.