is buried on the grounds of Windsor Castle in England, next to
the king who abdicated the throne to be with her.
But their seemingly towering romance—he threw it all away for her!—crumbles in the hands of biographer
“She lies next to a man she came to despise,” he writes, “buried in a land owned by a family she hated and in a country she loathed.”
Mr. Morton’s book out on Tuesday, “Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, the Woman Who Changed the Monarchy,” upends accepted wisdom about this couple, describing a relationship based on mutual exploitation. Mrs. Simpson pursues Edward in hopes of becoming queen, not realizing the havoc her two divorces will wreak on her quest. Edward dreads becoming king and finds a solution in his adoration of this American woman, whose past disqualifies him from the royal job.
Two days before their wedding in 1937, Mr. Morton writes, Mrs. Simpson met with the man she really loved,
Herman Livingston Rogers.
Mr. Morton describes her seemingly offer to have Rogers’s baby and pass it off as Edward’s. His evidence for this claim is based on brief notes about the matter by Mrs. Simpson’s onetime ghostwriter,
“It was a story of bitterness, disappointment and ultimately failure,” Mr. Morton said during an interview from Pasadena, Calif., where he lives when he isn’t in London.
Mr. Morton argues that the king’s 1936 abdication was, in the end, a one-sided decision. Edward’s marriage to Mrs. Simpson was forbidden due to her two divorces and living ex-husbands, but his abandonment of the throne to be with her was far from a given.
“The man who ostensibly loved her was making decisions about her future without any kind of sensible conversation,” Mr. Morton said in the interview. Not long after the abdication, Edward is described singing in a bathtub. Mrs. Simpson, however, is portrayed getting snubbed by British and American elites and exiled to a semi-royal life.
As a married couple, they became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, though Mrs. Simpson was never granted permission to be addressed as “Her Royal Highness.”
Mr. Morton, 64 years old, whose books include the 1992 royal tell-all “Diana: Her True Story,” spent two years researching Mrs. Simpson, scouring diaries, unpublished notes from interviews and other materials from her friends and associates. He plans to release a book on
The Nazi sympathies of Edward and Mrs. Simpson—made vivid in the
series “The Crown”—are sprinkled in the book. At one point,
plays matchmaker for the single Edward, dispatching an envoy to find him a German princess, Mr. Morton writes.
Later, Edward and Mrs. Simpson share tea with the dictator. “I have never thought Hitler was such a bad chap,” the duke says, according to Mr. Morton, who quotes Mrs. Simpson calling Hitler’s eyes “unblinking, magnetic, burning with a peculiar fire.”
TV producers have approached Mr. Morton about screen adaptations of “Wallis in Love” and his 2015 book “17 Carnations: The Royals, the Nazis, and the Biggest Cover-Up in History.” (The title is based on gossip that Hitler’s diplomatic envoy,
Joachim von Ribbentrop,
had an affair with Mrs. Simpson while she was with Edward.)
Mrs. Simpson emerges in the book as a domineering woman focused on breaking into the aristocracy when she meets Edward in 1931. She could be fun, with a sly sense of humor, Mr. Morton writes, and Edward seemed to like being bossed around by her. The author sees symbolism in a late-night scene when Mrs. Simpson spins Edward around the royal grounds in a baby carriage.
Edward moons over Mrs. Simpson, calling four or five times a day to profess his love in an era when insistent suitors couldn’t be sent to voice mail. While on a boat tour, he writes her a bagpipe song. Edward was just as ardent with previous girlfriends, Mr. Morton writes. Mrs. Simpson’s replies, however, were singular: In one note, she rebukes him for not serving more green vegetables to guests.
Mr. Morton’s work has long been controversial, and his biographies of
and other celebrities have been challenged over their accuracy. Yet in “Wallis in Love,” he quashes some of the more salacious rumors about the duchess, including speculation that Edward was hooked by his future wife’s seductive powers.
He found no evidence that Mrs. Simpson was trained in Hong Kong’s brothels, a popular Simpson myth. In the book, she tells a friend that she never slept with either of her previous husbands.
Edward and Mrs. Simpson remained together until Edward’s death in 1972. Edward took his last breath in the arms of his nurse, Mr. Morton writes. Mrs. Simpson, he adds, was asleep in another room.
Write to Ellen Gamerman at firstname.lastname@example.org