In February 1935, the Prince of Wales invited Wallis and Ernest Simpson to join him for a ski holiday in Kitzbühel in Austria. Wallis had eagerly accepted the invitation, but Ernest had no interest in skiing, and the two ended up quarrelling about the trip. Wallis remained determined to go, with or without Ernest. In the end, Wallis went without Ernest, but their marriage was never the same. Ernest remained angry that she had chosen the Prince of Wales over his feelings.
Wallis and the Prince took the Simplon Express from Paris to Kitzbühel, arriving there on 5 February in the middle of a storm. Wallis had never even been on skis before and stayed on the easier slopes. The entire party stayed at the Grand Hotel. Wallis later wrote, “We stayed at the Grand Hotel, situated at the edge of the ancient town of Kitzbühel with an excellent view of the Kitzbüheler Horn and of the Grosse Aache Valley below. I must say, however, that in spite of the glowing descriptions the men brought back each afternoon of the glories and challenges of the upper slopes, I was never tempted to try them. It solely to avoid being put to shame by young Olive that Primrose and I ventured out upon the gentlest of the nursery slopes, and only then in the charge of a young but most experienced Skilehrer named Count Kari Lamberg, who pledged his honour that no harm would to us.”1
At the end of their stay in Kitzbühel, the Prince decided he wanted to visit Vienna – to Waltz. All had to be quickly arranged, and the party left on the midnight express on 16 February and took over an entire floor of the Bristol Hotel in Vienna. They danced, visited coffeehouses, shopped, and the Prince even visited housing projects. Before long, they were off to Budapest. Wallis wrote, “The fascinations of Budapest have been extolled in song and story. But nothing that I had ever heard or read had quite prepared me for the strange, almost hypnotic quality of the gipsy violins.”2
The trip to Austria had not only changed her marriage; it had also changed Wallis. She had always been careful to protect her marriage and had kept her emotional distance, but she had become fascinated by the Prince and the life he led. Slowly Ernest’s presence began to fade to the background, and the Prince showered her with gifts. Wallis later wrote, “Ernest had undergone a change; the shadow that had fallen across our parting had taken a substance; it was almost palpable. This time he was not at all curious, even indifferent, about the details of the trips; and, if anything, he was more uncommunicative about his sojourn in New York. There can be nothing more baffling in a human relationship than silence, the dark loom of doubts and questions unexpressed. This was the situation in which Ernest and I now found ourselves – a situation from which we were never to emerge as long as we were together.”3