Edward & Mrs. Simpson (1978) (mini)

 

 

 

Director:  Waris Hussein.

Starring:  Edward Fox (King Edward VIII), Cynthia Harris (Wallis Warfield Simpson), Peggy Ashcroft (Queen Mary), Maurice Denham (Archbishop of Canterbury), Marius Goring (King George V), Nigel Hawthorne (Walter Monkton), Cherie Lunghi (Lady Thelma Furness), Kika Markham (Freda Dudley Ward), Jessie Matthews (Aunt Bessie Merryman), Andrew Ray (Duke of York), John Shrapnel (Major Alexander Hardinge), David Waller (Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister).

King Edward VIII abdicates in favor of marrying the former Mrs. Simpson

 

Spoiler warning:  below is the summary of the entire movie.

 

Episode I.  The Little Prince.

The future King Edward VIII was the son of King George V and Queen Mary.  He was the Prince of Wales (first in the succession), while his brother Bertie was the Prince of York (second in succession).   (He was known by his family as David, but I'll just call him Edward for the sake of clarity.)

The Prince of Wales is a bit of a playboy, but with a penchant for married women.  He loves to head over to the Embassy Club for a bit of fun.  One of the current married women he takes a fancy to is the American Freda.  Since she can't go on safari with "the little prince," he invites Thelma, another married woman.  He has to return to England because his father, King George V, is very ill.

Thelma introduces Edward to the American Mrs. Wallis Simpson.  She does not make that much of an impression on him.  When Thelma has to be absent for awhile, she asks Wallis to look after Edward.  As Wallis carries out her assignment, she and Edward become closer and closer.  When Thelma returns she notices the close familiarity of the two and realizes that she has already lost out to Wallis for Edward's affection. 

Episode II. Venus at the Prow

Mrs. Wallace and Edward go off to Biarritz together on a holiday yacht cruise.  His parents do not approve of his interest in Wallis, who has been previously divorced.  Edward has so much fun that he cancels all his appointments for the next three weeks in order to be with Wallis.  (This is terribly irresponsible because a lot of people were expecting to see the Prince at various functions.  His father is especially angry with him.)    Later they go on another extended vacation.  It appears that Edward is a bit immature and irresponsible, neglecting his duties for his growing obsession with the American woman.  He tells Wallis that "I have an overwhelming need of you."  Meanwhile, the King is so disgusted with Edward that he thinks about the possibility of Bertie taking over for Edward and becoming king.  Shortly afterwards, King George V dies. 

Episode III.  The New King.

The Prince is now to become King Edward VIII.  It will be a while, however, before he is actually crowned.  He asks Wallis to marry him.  He is so obsessed with Wallis that he begins to neglect his Kingly duties.  When his personal secretary tries to bring him some important documents to look over, the new King childishly escapes out the window in order to avoid him. He also let Wallis easily talk him out of not doing his work to go have some fun.

Mrs. Simpson asks her husband for a divorce. She comments that "you have not been faithful to me."  Luckily for Wallis, her husband saw this coming and has already found someone else, one of her friends. 

The King is not very sophisticated politically.  He suggests that England secure the fascist Mussolini of Italy as a friend, for it's always good to have friends.  He also refers to Istanbul as Constantinople, the old name. 

Prime Minister Baldwin is becoming very worried about Wallis.  He is afraid that Edward will ask her to marry him, which is something that just would not be allowed by the government.  He asks Winston Churchill for advice and he says that they should make sure that Wallis remains safely married.  

Everyone seems to understand the perilous situation that awaits the King and Wallis, except the couple themselves.  They both seem to be oblivious of the risks involved.  They have no idea how nasty the situation will become if they actually choose to marry.  Luckily for the King, the politicians get the British press to hold off reporting on the affair (but the American press begins going wild with stories of the couple). 

Episode IV.  The Divorce. 

The lawyers decide to get the divorce for Wallis in Ipswich.  The news of the case spreads more serious worry among the politicians.  The Prime Minister is very reluctant to talk with the King, but over time the pressures increases on him to deal with the situation.  More and more people want to know if the King plans to marry Wallis and/or if Wallis plans to marry the King.  But the pair keep denying their true intentions.  The politicians beg the king to halt the divorce proceedings.  The King comments "I cannot live or work without her."

Wallis wins the court case and is granted a divorce. 

Episode V.  The Decision. 

Edward is crowned King.  Once he becomes king, he announces that " I mean to marry Wallis."  The Prime Minister tries to warn the King again and again, but he seems determined to go ahead with his plans.  This raises the threat that the government might resign and call for new elections.

And now begins what seems to be an interminable round of negotiations and renegotiations that will undoubtedly leave most movie viewers bored.  They should have deleted one whole episode's worth of the mini-series. 

For the first time, Edward mentions "I mean to abdicate."  He tells his mother, who expresses her extreme disappointment in him.  She scolds him for only thinking of himself and his royal privileges and never thinking about his royal duties and obligations.

Episode VI.  Proposals.

Most of this episode could have been deleted.  The scandal breaks in the British press and Wallis is very upset. She finally realizes what everyone else already knew  -- this is going to be a very nasty dispute with many savage accusations hurled at her and Edward.  Edward sends her to Cannes, France to be away from the scandal.  Edward tries to appeal to the public over the heads of the government, but the politicians let Edward know that this will not be allowed because it is not constitutional. 

Episode VII.  Abdication

More negotiations over the matter of the marriage take place.  The episode should have been shortened.  

Finally on December 10, 1936 Edward abdicates.  He is very disappointed that although he will be given the title of Duke of Windsor with the right to be called your royal highness, Wallis will only be the Dutchess of Windsor without the right to be called your royal highness.  Edward later goes on the radio telling the people of Great Britain why he has resigned. 

The couple are married in a small ceremony, without Edward's family present.  The couple leaves England, partly as royal pariahs.   

 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

1894  -- birth of the future King Edward VIII, son of King George V. 

1896  -- birth of Wallis Warfield (the future Wallis Simpson). She was raised in Baltimore, Maryland.

1910 (May 6)  --  King George V.  Rules until January 20, 1936. 

1911  --  Edward became a Midshipman in the Royal Navy.

1913  -- Edward promoted to Lieutenant.

1914-1918  --  World War I.  He served with the Grenadier Guards.  He was not allowed to serve at the front.

1916  -- Edward awarded the Military Cross for his many visits to the troops at the front. 

1916 (November 8)  --  Wallis Warfield married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a drunk and an abuser who served as a US Navy pilot. 

1922 (October 23) - 1923 (May 20)  --  Andrew Bonar Law, Prime Minister, Conservative Party. 

1923 (May 23) - 1924 (January 16)  --  first of three terms as conservative prime minister for Stanley Baldwin. 

1924 (January 22) - 1924 (November 4)  --  first of three terms for Ramsay McDonald, Labor Party, as prime minister.

1924 (November 4) - 1929 (June 5)  --  second of three terms as conservative prime minister for Stanley Baldwin.

1925  --  Wallis Spencer separated from her husband. 

1927  --  Wallis Spencer divorces her first husband. 

1928  --  Wallis Spencer marries Ernest Aldrich Simpson, half-American shipping executive and former captain in the Coldstream Guards. 

1928  --   King George V gave Edward Fort Belvedere, near Sunningdale in Berkshire, as a home. 

1929 (June 5)- 1931 (August 24)  --  second of three terms for Ramsay McDonald, Labor Party, as prime minister.

1929  --  during the Great Depression, Edward visited many deprived areas of the United Kingdom.  He was able to sign up 200,000 people to his back-to-work project.

1931 (August 24) - 1935 (June 7)  -- third of three terms for Ramsay McDonald, Labor Party, as prime minister.

1935 (June 7) 1937 (May 28)  --   third of three terms as conservative prime minister for Stanley Baldwin.

1936 (January 20)  --  death of King George V and coronation of King Edward VIII.   

1936 (October)  --  Wallis Simpson obtains her second divorce. 

1936 (December 11)  --  abdication of King Edward VIII.  Bertie becomes King George VI. 

In the Special Features section on the DVD, they have a biography of Wallis Simpson. Following their departure from England, the Duke of Windsor seemed "dangerously adrift."  They lived in France.  Perhaps as a way to get back at his royal relatives for their snubbing Wallis, Edward and his wife met with Hitler.  This act tarnished their image for quite a while.

1937 (May 28) - 1940 (May 10)  --  Neville Chamberlain, Conservative Party, Prime Minister.

1940 (May 10) - 1945 (July 27)  -- first of two of Winston Churchill's terms as Prime Minister, Conservative Party.

With the German invasion of France, the couple had to flee that country.  Edward was given the job of the Governorship of the Bahamas.  Wallis proved to be a good Governor's wife, but she loathed the Bahamas.  It was just not chic enough for her, and she and her husband would often fly to New York City.  The Americans liked her and her husband as she and he were both regarded as royalty.

1945 (July 27) -  1951 (October 26)  --  Clement Atlee, Labor Party, Prime Minister. 

Following the end of World War II, Edward was no longer the Governor of the Bahamas.  Edward visited England in an attempt to repair family relations, but it was of no use.  His relatives could not forgive Wallis. 

They settled in a villa outside Paris where Wallis created a little court for her husband.  They became virtual stars of international society.  The couple loved  to dance.  She was sassy, while he was completely dependent on her. 

1951 (October 26) - 1955 (April 7)  --  second of two terms for Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. 

1952  -- Bertie, King George V, dies.  His wife blamed Wallis and the strain of the scandal for killing her husband.  Edward traveled to England by himself to participate in the funeral.  Bertie's daughter Elizabeth becomes Queen Elizabeth II and the royal ostracism ends.  The exiled couple were finally welcomed back to England.  They were invited to the unveiling of a memorial plague to Edward's and Bertie's mother, Queen Mary. 

1972  --  Edward was weak from throat cancer.  Queen Elizabeth II came to visit him.  Soon after this, he died at the age of 77.  He and his wife had been married for 36 years. 

From then on Wallis was treated like royalty by the royals.  She finally got what she had wanted for so long, royal acceptance. 

As she aged, she retreated to the privacy of her Parisian villa. 

1986 (April 24) --  death of Wallis at 89 years of age.  (She survived her husband by 14 years.)

 

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