On 3 June 1937, the former King Edward VIII finally reached the altar with the woman he had given up his throne for.
They had been reunited in France just one month prior. Just a few days after being reunited, the coronation of Edward’s brother took place, on the same date that had been planned for his own coronation. They listened to the ceremony on the radio. Wallis later wrote, “When we were briefly alone afterwards, he remarked in substance only this: ‘You must have no regrets – I have none. This much I know: what I know of happiness is for ever associated with you.’ In these first days together at Candé, we began to plan for the future.”1 That future included a “nice wedding present” from King George VI – who explicitly forbade Wallis from becoming a Royal Highness.
The wedding party included plenty of friends but, as expected, no member of the British Royal family attended. A telegram did come from King George VI and his wife, which said, “We are thinking of you with great affection on this your wedding day and send you every wish for future happiness much love.”2
In the morning, Wallis’s aunt Bessie helped her dress in a blue silk crepe outfit of a long skirt and a matching long-sleeved fitted jacket. She also wore wrist-length blue-crepe gloves and wore shoes in a matching blue shade. She chose to wear a small hat instead of a veil. Her something old was some antique lace stitched into her lingerie. Her something new was a gold coin minted for her husband’s coronation, which she wore in the heel of her shoe. The something borrowed came from aunt Bessie, and it was a lace handkerchief. The something blue was, of course, the outfit itself.
At half-past eleven, her friend Herman Rogers escorted Wallis down the staircase into the salon where the civil ceremony was to take place. The Duke was already waiting for her, wearing a suit of striped trousers, a grey waistcoat and a black cutaway. The ceremony was in French and had been rehearsed several times. Wallis answered “Oui” around 11.47 A.M., thus becoming the Duchess of Windsor. Around noon, the party moved to the music room where the religious ceremony took place. They entered separately, and Wallis walked down the aisle escorted by Herman Rogers to the sound of Handel’s wedding march. The ceremony was performed by Reverend Jardine.
One of the wedding guests later wrote, “It could be nothing but pitiable & tragic to see a King of England of only 6 months ago, an idolized King, married under those circumstances, & yet pathetic as it was, his manner was so simple and dignified & he was so sure of himself in his happiness that it gave something to the sad little service which it is hard to describe. He had tears running down his face. She also could not have done it better.3
A wedding luncheon was served in the dining room, and the meal consisted of lobster, salad, chicken à la King, and strawberries and cream. The wedding cake had six tiers and stood at three feet tall. After the cake had been cut by Wallis herself, she and Walter Monckton, the Duke’s adviser, went for a walk. He told her how much he sympathised with her position and that many people believed that she was responsible for the abdication. She replied, “Walter, don’t you think I have thought of all that? I think I can make him happy.”4
Another wedding guest recalled, “That marriage aged the Duchess overnight. People always thought she struck the best bargain, but she had to take the place of the Duke’s family, his country and his job. What a terrible, terrible responsibility. It was a sacred duty, but she was determined to treat him as he was, a former King of England.”5
That afternoon, the newlyweds travelled to Laroche-Migennes, where they boarded a private carriage that had been attached to the Simplon-Orient Express and headed towards Vienna on their honeymoon.
Wallis later wrote in her memoirs, “Here I shall say only that it was a supremely happy moment. All I had been through, the hurts I had suffered, were forgotten; by evening David and I were on our way to Austria.”6
Wallis donated her wedding dress to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1950 but the blue colour has faded since then. It is not currently on display.