From their first meeting on 10 January 1931, Wallis Simpson slowly rose to become the Prince of Wales’ favourite.
In early 1932, Wallis and Ernest entertained the Prince in their flat at Bryanston Court for the first time. He stayed until 4 a.m. and even asked for one of her recipes. At the end of January, they were also invited to spend the weekend with him at Fort Belvedere. Wallis was surprised to find him doing needlepoint. He told her, “This is my secret vice, the only one, in any case, I am at any pains to conceal.”1 Wallis also received a private tour of the grounds from the Prince. Over the coming year, they received regular invitations to the Fort, partly because Thelma was afraid of losing the Prince and she wanted to surround him was amusing guests.
In January 1933, Wallis found herself on ice skates alongside Thelma and the Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth). She also became acquainted with Prince George, later the Duke of Kent. She began the year 1934 celebrating with the Prince until 5 a.m, followed by dinner later that day, also with the Prince. Then came the trip that changed everything – Thelma was leaving for a trip to the United States, and according to Wallis, she asked, “I’m afraid the Prince is going to be lonely. Wallis, won’t you look after him?”2 According to Thelma’s memoirs, it was Wallis who initiated the topic with the words, “Oh, Thelma, the little man is going to be so lonely.” To which Thelma replied, “Well, dear, you look after him for me while I’m away.”3 Thelma sailed on 25 January 1934 – paving the way for Wallis to rise from friend to favourite.
The Prince began visiting her home several times a week, and Ernest was surprisingly tolerant of the entire situation. He found ways to excuse himself as Wallis and the Prince talked until the small hours. On 12 February, Wallis wrote to her aunt, “I am sure the gossip will now be that I am the latest.” However, she was already a bit exasperated and ended the letter with, “Forgive me for not writing, but this man is exhausting.|4 On the 18th, she wrote, “It’s all gossip about the Prince. I am not in the habit of taking my girlfriends’ beaux.”5
The following Easter weekend was spent at the Fort with Thelma and the Simpsons. Thelma wrote, “At dinner, however, I noticed that the Prince and Wallis seemed to have little private jokes. Once he picked up a piece of salad with his fingers, Wallis playfully slapped his hand… Wallis looked straight at me. And then and there, I knew the ‘reason’ was Wallis… I knew then that she had looked after him exceedingly well. That one cold, defiant glance had told me the entire story.”6
Wallis was now firmly in place as the new favourite and this was confirmed when Wallis and Ernest were invited to the wedding of Prince George to Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark in November 1934. Prince George lived at Fort Belvedere as he prepared for his wedding, and so Wallis saw quite a lot of him during this time and even went to the theatre with him. Wallis sarcastically wrote to her aunt, “I do well with the Windsor lads.”7
Two days before the wedding, a reception took place at Buckingham Palace, to which Wallis and Ernest were also invited. King George and Queen Mary were by now well aware of their son’s interest in Wallis, and it was reportedly on this occasion that they ordered her name to be crossed off the guest list. The Prince of Wales reportedly told his parents that “if he were not allowed to invite these friends of his, he would not go to the ball. He pointed out that the Simpsons were remarkably nice Americans, that it was important England and America be on cordial terms, and that he himself had been most kindly entertained in the States. His parents gave way, and the Simpsons duly came to the ball.”8
For the ball, Ernest wore black knee-breeches, and Wallis wore a violet lamé dress with a green sash and also borrowed a tiara from Cartier for the occasion. Wallis wrote, “We took our places in the line of guests that by custom forms on either side of the reception rooms on the approach of the Sovereign and his Consort. As they proceeded with great dignity down the room, members of the Royal party followed in their wake, stopping now and then to speak with friends. The Prince of Wales brought Prince Paul, Regent of Yugoslavia and also brother-in-law of the bride, over to talk with us. ‘Mrs Simpson,’ said Prince Paul, ‘there is no question about it – you are wearing the most striking gown in the room.’ [..] The reception was rendered truly memorable for me the reason that it was the only time I ever met David’s father and mother.9 After Prince Paul had left us, David led me over to where they were standing and introduced me. It was the briefest of encounters – a few words of perfunctory greeting, an exchange of meaningless pleasantries, and we moved away. But I was impressed by Their Majesties great gift for making everyone they met, however casually, feel at ease in their presence.”10
Two days later, the royal wedding took place at Westminster Abbey, and Wallis thought the ceremony had been very solemn and moving. They had been seated on a side aisle from which they had a clear view of the altar. Wallis later wrote, “It seemed unbelievable that I, Wallis Warfield of Baltimore, Maryland, could be part of this enchanted world. It seemed so incredible that it produced in me a dreamy state of happy and unheeding acceptance.”11
- The heart has its reasons by The Duchess of Windsor p.192
- Anne Sebba – That Woman p. 96
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.103
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.106-108
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.109
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.111
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.123
- The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.115
- She was also presented to them in 1931
- Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.124
- The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.115