Sunday, November 25, 2012

"She's a Fascist!" "She sleeps with Nazis!" "My dear, she worked in a Chinese brothel and (whisper, whisper)"

"That Woman: the Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor" by Anne Sebba   St. Martin's Press   344 pages   $27.99

The Queen Mother is the one who never referred to her in any other way than "That Woman."  In return David and Wallis called her "Cooky" because she (to them) looked and acted like a cook. 

Yes, adoration on both sides.

This book finally discloses the real reason Simpson was so reviled in the British press when the affair was discovered.  It wasn't because this common, Yankee woman was determined to steal the heir to  the throne.   It wasn't because she was said to have led a very "interesting" life.  It was because she had not one, but TWO living ex-husbands! 

In the '30s, divorces in England were hard to get.  In fact, the pleader had to essentially go through divorce proceedings twice.  The first to establish adultery (the only grounds at that time) and wait for the judge to mull over the circumstances for a decree nisi and then go back for a second hearing to get the final, permanent divorce.  And there was no guarantee that the judge would grant it.  If he did not, hey, baby - that's it.  You're joined for life!

Moreover, the greater population of England - East Enders to the highest peerages and positions were (more or less) devout Christians and the King is the titular representative of the Church of England.  That was the source of the raging uproar of indignation. 

The King was stupidly stubborn, too.  He refused to marry her and then keep her hidden in the shadows of a morganic marriage.  He wanted her on his arm, afforded the exact same courtesies as were given to him.  For the rest of his life he fought to have her recognized as royal.  And Cooky turned up her nose and laughed.

I was always curous about Ernest Simpson.  Why did he knowingly allow her to cuckold him without making scenes about it?  Because she told him that David would soon lose interest in her and at the end of this affair, they would have improved what today we would call "name recognition."  But the King turned into The Joker and at the end, the joke was on her.  He flatly refused to give her up!  I'll abdicate!  I'll kill myself!

She was obsessed about money (never having had a lot of it) and during the abdication scenes urged him to make sure that he/they got a substantial allowance.  (Remittance money, actually.)  This despite being covered in glorious gems.  Apparently it never occurred to her that in case of desperate need, she could sell a piece or two.  But she never relinquished what she felt was hers and hers alone.

It's a sad cautionary tale about two very selfish and shallow people.

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