The Duchess of Windsor – Breaking up with the King

wallis windsor
Granger Historical Picture Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

By September 1936, Wallis’s marriage to Ernest had completely broken down, and Ernest was living with Mary Raffray, whom he would later marry. Wallis’s divorce had been set in motion, the King had settled a very generous sum of money on her, and he was determined to marry her. Wallis began to panic, wondering how it would all end up. She could no longer escape; the King would not let her go, but that did not mean that she did not try.

On 16 September 1936, two days after arriving in Paris, she wrote him a frank letter breaking off their relationship.

She wrote,

“It is too stupid to have a cold at just this moment. However I am tucked up in bed feeling very very rotten. But I did have a trout and 2 ears of delicious corn. This is a difficult letter to write – but I feel it is easier than talking and less painful. I must really return to Ernest for a great many reasons which please be patient and read. The first being because we are so awfully congenial and understand getting on together very well – which really is an art in marriage. We have no small irritations one for the other. I have confidence in his being able to take care of me and of himself. In other words I feel secure with him and am only left with my side of the show to run. We each do our little jobs separately – with occasional help one for the other and it all runs smoothly no nerve strain. True we are poor and unable to do the attractive amusing things in life which I must confess I do love and enjoy – also the possession of beautiful things is thrilling to me and much appreciated but weighed against a calm and congenial life I choose the latter for I know I shall suffer greatly now I shall be a happier calmer old lady.

I have been here alone tonight but seen my friends etc. I should rather have my husband than mere friends. No one can fill that place and no one can care (unless one has a family) so much. I know Ernest and have the deepest affection and respect for him. I feel I am better with him than with you – and so you must understand. I am sure dear David that in a few months your life will run again as it did before and without my nagging. Also you have been independent of affection all your life. We have had lovely beautiful times together and I thank God for them and know that you will go on with your job doing it better and in a more dignified manner each year. That would please me so.

I am sure you and I would create only disaster together. I shall always read all about you – believing only half! – and you will know I want you to be happy. I feel sure I can’t make you so and I honestly don’t think you can me. I shall have Allen arrange the return of everything. I am sure that after this letter you will realize that no human being could assume this responsibility and it would be most unfair to make things harder for me by seeing me. Good-bye WE all say. WALLIS.”1

They spoke later that night on the telephone while he had not received the letter yet, and she voiced the same sentiments over the phone. He wrote that night, “Why do you say such hard things to David on the telephone sometimes? Hard things like you would prefer someone else with you tonight when you are sick that I would be bored that I don’t understand you and lots of others which hurt me so and show that lack of faith and confidence in me which makes me so terribly unhappy.[…] Please try and trust me like you love me and don’t have any doubts. I promise you there is not the slightest reason to.”2

When the King finally did receive her letter, he reportedly telephoned her at once, and according to Alan Lascelles, threatened to cut his throat if she did not come to him in Scotland.3 Wallis’s attempt to break up with him died a quiet death, and she duly appeared in Scotland not much later.


Our book The Duchess of Windsor – A Collection of Articles is available now in the US and the UK.

  1. Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.217-218
  2. Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.220
  3. King Edward VIII by Philip Ziegler p.287

About Moniek Bloks 2730 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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