The Duchess of Windsor – The adventuress

wallis windsor
Keystone Press / Alamy Stock Photo

One of the more persistent stories that have continued to haunt the Duchess of Windsor after her death is that she had affairs following her marriage to the Duke.

Perhaps the most famous story is that of Joachim von Ribbentrop, a German diplomat and later Minister for Foreign Affairs. Wallis was introduced to von Ribbentrop by Lady Cunard, a London hostess known for her lavish dinner parties. At the time, Wallis was still married to Ernest Simpson but also deeply involved with the then Prince of Wales. It has been speculated that she and von Ribbentrop became lovers and that he often sent her roses (or carnations). The affair seems doubtful, especially considering Wallis had witnessed first-hand how jealous the Prince of Wales had become when his previous favourite Thelma, Viscountess Furness, had a flirtation with Aly Khan. In an interview in May 1937, Wallis declared that she had only met von Ribbentrop twice.1 Although he may have sent her flowers in the hope of gaining her favour, the notion that the number of these corresponded with the number of times they supposedly slept together is ridiculous.

Ten years into their marriage, Wallis’s flirtation with the homosexual Jimmy Donahue had tongues wagging yet again. The Duke and Duchess first met Jimmy in 1947, and Wallis was intrigued by him. The Countess of Romanones later recalled, “Jimmy made no bones about the fact that he was a homosexual. Everyone knew of his pursuit of men – it happened all the time, and he never tried to hide it from either the Duke of the Duchess.”2

At the time they met Jimmy, the Duke was busy working on his memoirs, and Wallis was often by herself. Jimmy quickly filled that temporary gap in her life, and many began to assume that he and Wallis were lovers, despite his homosexuality. Jimmy was quite willing to keep the rumour mill going with outrageous alleged remarks such as, “She’s the best cock sucker I’ve ever known!”3 Those around Jimmy knew he was full of it, saying, “Everyone knew he lied and lied and lied – nobody believed a word he said.”4 Wallis herself joked, “Really, David! What could possibly be more harmless? Everyone knows what Jimmy is! Why, his friends call me the Queen of the Fairies!”5 Wallis had plenty of gay friends, and as a socialite, she lived in a world of decorators and couturiers.

Even if there ever was any hint of trouble in the Windsors’ marriage, this would have been the time. But for the outside world, they continued to portray a united front. An incident in 1951 fuelled rumours of an imminent divorce when Walls – while waving a large feathered fan – received flowers from Jimmy. She remarked, “Put the flowers on the fan. Isn’t it amazing? The Donahue roses on the Prince of Wales’s feathers!” The Duke appeared to take the joke as an insult, which gave even more rise to gossip.6 By the mid-1950s, the friendship had begun to turn sour. Jimmy reportedly had been drinking one night and had begun to belittle the Duke, saying he only kept him around to pay the bills. Wallis then told him to be quiet, and in response, he kicked her beneath the table. The Duke rushed to help Wallis, who was bleeding from her leg. He then screamed at Jimmy, “We’ve had all we can take of you, Jimmy! Get the hell out of here!” They never saw Jimmy again.7

Anna Pasternak, the author of The American Duchess, wrote of Wallis’s flirtation with Jimmy, “Wallis’s flirtation with this spoilt hedonist, who once bought her a jeroboam of perfume at a Paris nightclub, was her visible rebellion against the pressures constraints of her marriage and the cloying over-attentive affections of the duke. Donahue shares Wallis’s taste for witty retorts, nightclubs and dancing until dawn. Sadly, though, Wallis hurt her husband with this liaison and, uncharacteristically, behaved recklessly, generating ugly rumours.”8

In the midst of the Jimmy Donahue gossip, a man by the name of Russell Nype9also briefly appeared. In January 1951, a columnist wrote, “From New York comes the word that Russell Nype, Manhattan’s new rave – he’s with Ethel Merman in ‘Call me Madam’ – is the Duchess of Windsor’s favorite dancing partner. She and the duke, who are admirers of his, are reported giving a big party at the St. Regis, where he is booked for a midnight stint after the show.”10 Nype was pursued by the press, and in October, he stated, “What could there be romantic between a middle-aged Duchess and a young man who reminds her of an invisible rabbit?”11

It was Queen Mary who had first called the Duchess an “adventuress.” In 1936, her son informed her that he intended to marry Wallis and asked if she would be willing to receive her. Queen Mary refused this and when asked why, Queen Mary replied, “Because she is an adventuress!”12 However, there does not appear to be much truth in Wallis have had affairs during her marriage to the Duke.


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

  1. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 128
  2. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 441
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 442
  4. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 442
  5. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 443
  6. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 445
  7. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 445
  8. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.253-254
  9. who was in the musical Call Me Madam at the time
  10. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 443
  11. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p. 444
  12. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.196

About Moniek Bloks 2732 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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