by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
March 27, 2007
THE SAGA OF EDWARD AND WALLIS
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- It was certainly one noble gesture. The King of England could not in conscience marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman with two living ex-husbands. But he could give up being King and Emperor. Hey now, that's a thought! Did she discourage him. Did she say Edward, darling, aren't you being a bit rash?
Through the years I've always felt that his refusing to go on without the woman he loved at his side put her between the proverbial rock and a hard place: She lusted for all the trappings he wanted to give up.
She wanted to be Queen and Empress. She was already firmly
ensconced in the Royal Palace as the Royal Mistress and therefore "at
his side," but being so close to the King without an honorable position
- like "wife," didn't suit her.
If I sound derisive, well, I come by it naturally. Although I was very young, I heard the King abdicate and the speech describes the time better than I can, although the morning is clear in my mind.
Much of what I write I bore witness to but was just too young to understand. Now I do. Today, through the double-sided mirror of my mind, I see reflections of events, yet now with understanding of the scene and the players.
For instance, one morning five days after my birthday, I see myself sitting on the floor in my usual corner of the kitchen playing with my dolls, and, on this cold December day, having a tea party. The small plates were made out of tin with a pressed-in design around the rim. The cups without handles were the bottom half of a tin can, label removed, sharp rim folded and pressed down to assure a safe edge. One such can was left tall with an edge that was finger-pinched to form a spout.
My guests at the tea party were a few dolls propped up around me ready for the delicious fare. Of course, I was serving just water and a piece of bread cut into four pieces. One doll was of yarn, fashioned much like the Gingerbread Man we've grown to know. Another was a sock puppet Mama made from a sock she knitted herself. And I did have a much-loved Teddy Bear I called Brownie. He was special because he was once store-bought. He sat at the head of the "table."
Suddenly, Mama stopped in the middle of washing breakfast dishes, dried her hands on her apron, held her hand up toward me in that time-honored gesture for silence as she listened raptly to something on the radio.
It was a man's voice, and I can almost hear him now in that high-pitched British accent abdicating his position as King and Emperor, to be succeeded by his brother, George, the Duke of York, father of the present Queen of England, HRH Elizabeth II. As a Canadian, therefore a British subject, this news was important and probably astonishing to my mother, just as similar news that a President resigned his position for "the woman I love" would be to we Americans.
He was introduced to the radio audience and began:
At long last I am able to say a few words of my own. I have never wanted to withhold anything, but until now it has not been constitutionally possible for me to speak. A few hours ago I discharged my last duty as King and Emperor, and now that I have been succeeded by my brother, the Duke of York, my first words must be to declare my allegiance to him. This I do with all my heart. You all know the reasons which have impelled me to renounce the throne. But I want you to understand that in making up my mind I did not forget the country or the empire, which, as Prince of Wales and lately as King, I have for twenty-five years tried to serve.
Mama was quiet all that morning and braided my hair with many more brush strokes through each strand.
"Tell me a story, Mama," I asked.
"Not today, Pet, Mama's thinking."
"What are you thinking about, Mama?"
"I'm thinking about a king who was in love with a lady who was not a princess - just an ordinary lady - but still he loved her very much."
"What did the King do?"
"He said he didn't want to be King anymore because he wanted to marry the lady he loved."
"Can a King do that?" I asked wide-eyed.
"Well, first he had to crown his brother the King and could no longer be the ruler of the land."
"Now, I'm sure he will marry the lady and they will live happily ever after." Mama mused.
I thought for a little while, pondering this true story before saying "Then, Mama, why are you so unhappy?"
"Well, little one, it's not the usual fairy tale, now is it?"
"No, Mama. I like the stories when a King wants a bride and finds a Princess and they love each other and get married and she becomes his Queen and they live happily ever after." I warmed to the image I created out of stories Mama told me on other mornings.
Mama was blue all day, and in the days that followed there was an edge to her voice when anyone spoke of Wallis Warfield Simpson, the twice divorced woman who captured the heart of a king. They became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and if anyone spoke of the Duchess of Windsor, Mama would say "Duchess? My eye."
It was as if Wallis Simpson was never forgiven, at least not by Mama. She was pictured on all the society pages and quoted in every photo caption as having said, "You can never be too thin or too rich."
"Such a common thing to say," suggested Mama. "But what do you expect of a commoner?" she would say condescendingly - just as if we were all Ladies in waiting to the Queen, rather than a large family down on its luck during the Depression.