Wallis SimpsonEpisode Guide »
Branded a frivolous socialite, a gold digger and even a Nazi-sympathiser, Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American, became embroiled in a deep constitutional crisis when she embarked upon one of the most talked-about marriages of the 20th century. To the horror of the British government and the Royal Family, on 10th December, 1936, King Edward VIII gave up the British throne to marry her. As a young lady, Wallis was a die-hard socialite - and lived for the parties, the champagne, the dances, and the men. But she made bad choices. Her first husband, Win Spencer, was a dashing American pilot, whose drunken rages left her beaten and abused. Her second husband, Ernest Simpson, took her to London where she felt bored and isolated - that is, until she broke into the aristocratic social scene. Wallis Simpson soon caught the roving eye of the charismatic playboy and the future King of England, Prince Edward. With Edward's accession to the throne, the British government and the Church of England were adamant the King could not marry a divorcee. And so, in a move that shocked the nation, Edward VIII abdicated - to marry the woman he loved. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, as they were then titled, were forced to live in exile and endure relentless snubs from the Royal Family for the rest of their lives. But, they made the best of it. It was not the life they wanted but hey had each other. Throughout the Second World War they worked tirelessly for the war effort; they established charitable institutions during their posting to the Bahamas; they created a happy, social life for themselves in Paris in the years that followed, and Wallis became known as one of the world's best dressed women. But, for all that, Wallis Simpson's reputation remained forever tainted - she was the woman who caused a much-loved King to abdicate.