The rumours that Wallis was somehow connected to these brothels probably came from these episodes. The so-called China dossier – reportedly made in 1935 at the request of the British Prime Minister – supposedly claimed that she visited these brothels with her husband and was also trained in various techniques, such as the “Chinese grip.” She supposedly not only used these techniques on her husband but also on other men, and the dossier concluded that she had become a prostitute. In any case, no one has ever been able to produce the China dossier, and there is no record of it in the Royal Archives. The Countess of Romanones, a friend of Wallis, declared that it was “absolutely preposterous, absolutely no truth in that whatsoever.”1
Wallis soon packed her bags and joined a friend of hers by the name of Mary Sadler, who was on her way from Hong Kong to Shanghai. She looked up a British diplomat named Harold Robinson while in Shanghai, and he took her under his wing. Despite being swept up in parties, the sound of gunfire was never far away. She persuaded Mary to come with her to Beijing, where a friend of hers, Col. Louis Little, was serving, and he could help her return to America. A steamer took them to Tientsin, and there they boarded a train in the midst of a regional civil war. The train took almost two days, and thankfully Louis was there to pick them up when they finally arrived. Wallis took a room in the Grand Hotel de Pekin – an oasis of peace.
One evening, she ran into an acquaintance of hers by the name of Katherine Rogers, and they immediately renewed their friendship. Katherine (then Bigelow) had married Herman Rogers in 1920, who was so wealthy he lived a retired life. They asked Wallis to stay with them, and she insisted on paying them rent. Wallis had a great time there. Mornings were for sleeping in, afternoons for shopping and evenings for dining out. Weekends were spent in the country where the Rogers had a rented summer house. She would spend a full year with the Rogers before leaving for Shanghai in the spring. However, during her stay there, she became very ill – another episode which turned into a nasty rumour.
The gossip was that Wallis had had an affair with an Italian Count by the name of Galeazzo Ciano and that she had become pregnant by him. An abortion was then reportedly performed, which went terribly wrong and left her permanently infertile. However, there is no evidence to support this at all. She was still sick when she boarded the President McKinley, and upon arrival in Seattle, she had to have emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. She was now alone and sick in a strange city, and she called Win, who was also back in America. He met up with her in Chicago and accompanied her to Washington. It would be their last meeting.
Wallis and Ernest Aldrich Simpson had met sometime in 1926 as she waited out her divorce from Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. through friends of hers, Mary (née Kirk) and her husband, Jacques Raffray. Ernest was then still married to Dorothea Webb Dechert, with whom he had a daughter named Audrey (born in 1924). Ernest’s father was British, but Ernest himself had been born in New York, and he had graduated from Harvard. During the last year of the First World War, Ernest had travelled to England and joined the Coldstream Guards as a second lieutenant, and he eventually became a British citizen. Wallis and Ernest grew closer over time, with Dorothea bitterly commenting, “From the moment I met her, I never liked her at all… she moved in and helped herself to my house and my clothes and finally, to everything.”2
Ernest and his wife decided to divorce, and he asked Wallis to marry him once they were both free. Wallis wrote in her memoirs, “I had come to admire him for his high qualities of mind, stability of character, and cultivation. But I was not altogether sure that my Southern temperament was exactly suited to such a man. Still, for the first time in a long while, I felt myself falling unmistakenly in love; and when I left Pennsylvania Station to return to Warrenton, I carried an armful of books that Ernest had chosen for me.”3
Wallis spent the following months with her mother and learned that she could obtain a decree of desertion after three years’ separation if she had a year’s residence in Virginia. So, she moved to Warrenton to the Warren Green Hotel, where she rented a single room. She waited out the year at the hotel and decorated her room with memories of China.
Finally, on 10 December 1927, her divorce from Win was finalised. Once more, Ernest asked her to marry him. Wallis wrote to her mother, “I am very fond of him, and he is kind, which will be a contrast… I can’t go wandering on the rest of my life, and I really feel tired of fighting the world all alone and with no money. Also, 32 doesn’t seem so young when you see all the really fresh youthful face one has to compete against.”4 The exact date of Ernest’s divorce is unclear, but he and Wallis were married on 21 July 1928 at the Chelsea Registry Office in London.
Win went on to remarry four times. He died on 29 May 1950 at the age of 61.5