In the 1930s, how would a middle-class Baltimore divorcee become romantically involved with the man who would be King of England? It always comes down to who you know. And Wallis Simpson knew how to climb the social ladder very effectively.
She started at a young age. While at school, she befriended a member of the Du Pont family. Her stepfather was the son of a prominent Democratic party boss. And during her first marriage to Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., an alcoholic Navy pilot of no distinction, she had affairs with both an Argentinian diplomat and Mussolini’s future son-in-law.
Wallis was in the middle of divorcing Spencer when she met Ernest Aldrich Simpson. Ernest was a big step up from her first husband, his father was a co-founder of a successful shipping business, and his brother-in-law had been an MP. While Ernest was born to an American mother and British father, after he graduated college he had renounced his American citizenship. When they met in 1927 Ernest was immediately taken with Wallis, and soon set about divorcing his first wife. The two married a year later and settled in an exclusive area of London.
Thanks to Ernest’s wealth and connections, the Simpsons traveled in well-heeled circles. Wallis soon became fast friends with Consuelo Thaw and through her met her sister Thelma, Lady Furness. Lady Furness had recently become the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales, and invited Mr. and Mrs. Simpson to serve as chaperones one weekend in 1931 when the Prince was coming to stay at her country estate, Burrough Court.
It was not love at first sight for either of them. Edward continued his affair with Lady Furness, although he and Wallis met at various house parties since they traveled in similar circles. It was when his mistress was out of the country in 1934, almost three years to the day after Edward and Wallis met, that they consummated their relationship. He was soon devoted to Wallis and on December 10, 1936, Edward abdicated the throne for her, even though she was still married to her second husband at the time.