Island resident Roy Surtees delighted members of North Bute Literary Society this week with his continuation of the story of Edward and Mrs Simpson from the time of the abdication until their deaths.
Roy’s very relaxed story telling style belies the depth of his knowledge and his talk was presented without reference to any notes. The story has been well documented – Edward VIII abdicated after less than eleven months as king in order to marry twice divorced Wallis Simpson – but Roy entertained his audience with colourful details of the background.
Until her divorce became absolute, Wallis and Edward had to stay apart, she in France and he in Austria. Edward was a guest in a Rothschild owned castle and spent many, many hours every day on the telephone to Wallis. Wealthy as they were, the Rothschilds could not sustain the colossal expense, and Edward and his entourage had to move to a hotel where he was horrified at having to pay for everything himself.
The couple were married n France on June 3, 1937 - against the wishes of the Church of England, by an English minister from Durham who was later sacked. They settled in Paris until the outbreak of war.
Roy explained how the Second World War was particularly difficult for Edward and the British Government, given that Edward and Wallis were openly supporters of Hitler and Nazism.
At first Edward was created a major general and given a ‘non job’ with the British Military Mission in France. When France fell the couple fled to Portugal, but Churchill remained concerned about Edward’s fascist views and Wallis was suspected of acts of treason in requesting help from Germany to protect their house in Paris.
A solution was found by ‘exiling’ them to the Governorship of the Bahamas. In spite of local mafia difficulties, Edward was a good Governor, and they returned to France in March 1945, where they lived out their days.
In May 1972, shortly before he died, Edward was visited in Paris by his niece, Queen Elizabeth. The ex-king was buried at Frogmore, and Wallis was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace. She even met the Queen Mother, who always referred to her as “that woman”. Wallis lived out her remaining 14 years as a recluse in Paris.
Roy brought the story to an end saying: “They chased the sun, or a harsh artificial light with no warmth - the relationship was a tragedy.”
At the penultimate meeting of the Lit on Tuesday, March 4, Dr Fred Freeman will talk on Robert Tannahill, Paisley weaver, poet and songwriter.