Great Britain

Who was Wallis Simpson? Socialite who led King Edward VIII to choose love over duty

WALLIS Simpson will forever be known as the woman who rocked the Royals and plunged the monarchy into crisis.

Her marriage to King Edward VIII in 1937 meant that he became the first ever monarch to abdicate, changing the path of history - and eventually leading to Queen Elizabeth II ascending to the throne.

Who was Wallis Simpson?

The American socialite was born in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, as Bessie Wallis on June 19, 1886.

Her dad, wealthy flour merchant Teackle Wallis Warfield, died from tuberculosis when Wallis was a baby.

In 1901, her and mum Alice moved in with Wallis's aunt in Baltimore until they finally got an apartment of their own and Alice remarried.

Wallis attended Oldfields School - the most expensive in Maryland - after her uncle stumped up the fees.

A fellow pupil said: "She was bright, brighter than all of us. She made up her mind to go to the head of the class, and she did."

How many times was Wallis Simpson married?

In April 1916, Wallis met her first husband Earl Winfield Spencer Jr, a US Navy aviator in Florida, while she was visiting her cousin.

They married in November of that year in Baltimore and a year later, Spencer was posted to San Diego when the US entered WW1.

Wallis was separated from her alcoholic husband for months at a time, so she travelled alone in China when the marriage began to break down.

The pair divorced in 1927 and Wallis became involved with shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson.

They wed in London after Simpson left his first wife on July 21, 1928, and moved into a large house with servants.

Around this time, Wallis met Lady Furness, the then mistress of Edward, Duke of Windsor.

When did Wallis Simpson become Edward's mistress?

Their relationship allegedly started in 1934, but Edward - then a prince - denied this to his dad King George V.

By 1935, Wallis had been presented in court to the outrage of the royal family, who were shocked by her marital history.

The pair holidayed together in Europe and Edward lavished Wallis with money and jewels.

What was the Edward VIII abdication crisis?

On January 20, 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne.

Fears were beginning to grow that the new king planned to marry Wallis as the Church of England felt Edward could not marry a divorced woman with two living ex-husbands.

Brits were also reluctant to accept an American as a queen - prompting Wallis to flee to France to avoid the heavy press coverage.

She filed for divorce from Spencer on the grounds he had committed adultery, and it was granted in October 1936.

Two months later, Edward was told he could not keep the throne and marry Wallis, so he sent shockwaves across the world when he decided to abdicate.

Edward was forced to abdicate in December. His stammering younger brother “Bertie”, the current Queen’s father, became George VI.

He made a BBC broadcast saying he could not do the job of the king "without the help and support of the woman I love".

The pair married on June 3, 1937, at the Château de Candé but no members of Edward's family attended.

They became Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Who will play Wallis Simpson on Netflix's The Crown?

Geraldine Chaplin will be playing the American Socialite in the new series of The Crown. She was nominated for a Golden Globe for playing Tonya in Doctor Zhivago (1965) and played her own grandmother Hannah Chaplin in the 1992 biopic Chaplin. The actress is also known for her Spanish cinema work, but her recent English-language work has included Electric Dreams (as Irma) and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (as Iris).

What are the Edward VIII spying rumours?

Channel 4 show Spying on the Royals claimed that PM Stanley Baldwin sanctioned the tapping of Edward's phone.

Thomas Argyll Robertson – or ‘Tar’ - apparently placed a wiretap in the junction box outside 145 Piccadilly in Green Park - the home of Edward’s younger brother the Duke of York.

The phone tap was planted on December 5, 1936 - six days before Edward gave up the throne.

He listened to the call from Edward to his brother announcing he was handing the throne over.

Robertson was a top spy at MI5, and the wiretapping was reportedly authorised by the Home Secretary.

The documentary explores how Baldwin's government spied on the House of Windsor during the tense time and draws on Cabinet Office documents released in 2013.

Prince William, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle join the audience in a standing ovation to Queen Elizabeth