How the miserable wedding of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson on this day in 1937 (less than a month after Georg – Daily Mail

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On May 12, 1937 King George VI was crowned in a majestic and dignified coronation ceremony at Westminster Abbey attended by 8,000 guests.

The shy, stammering monarch had stepped up in place of his errant brother, the former King Edward VIII, who had shirked duty in favour of love. 

So when Edward, now the Duke of Windsor, tied the knot with American divorcee Wallis Simpson less than a month later – the contrast could not have been more stark.

The couple’s nuptials took place in the opulent Chateau de Cande in France on June 3.

With none of his family present, both Edward and Wallis did not look like a happy couple. 

Royal photographer Cecil Beaton, who took official pictures, said Edward had an ‘essentially sad’ look in his eyes.

Soon afterwards, Wallis would embark on her first post-marital affair and is said to have never loved her new husband. 

As for Reverend J.A. Jardine – the priest who officiated in defiance of Church of England rules surrounding divorcees with living former spouses – he was later defrocked and would go on to open the tacky ‘Windsor Cathedral’ in Hollywood. 

The ceremony came less than a month after what should have been his Coronation. Instead, his brother King George VI was crowned alongside Queen Elizabeth. Above: King George, Queen Elizabeth and princesses Elizabeth and Margaret on the Buckingham Palace balcony after the Coronation ceremony

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor gaze from a balcony at the Chateau de Cande, in Monts, on their wedding day

Among the guests at the Chateau de Cande at Monts were Edward’s best man, Major Edward ‘Fruity’ Metcalfe, along with his chauffeur and equerry, but none of his family were present.

Also there was businessman Hermann Rogers, whom Wallis fell in love with and had hoped to marry. 

In the weeks leading up to his wedding, the Duke had been left furious by King George’s refusal to grant Wallis the status of Her Royal Highness.

Edward bitterly joked that it was a ‘nice wedding present’.

When his mother, Queen Mary, did not send him an actual gift, he told her that he was ‘bitterly hurt and disappointed that you virtually ignored the most important event in my life.’

A Faberge box that was sent as a gift by his younger brother Prince George, the Duke of Kent, was rejected by Edward, on the basis that his sibling had not showed any desire to deviate from the family’s official stance towards him.

Edward and Wallis’s choice of wedding venue was owned by millionaire Charles Bedaux, who was later frowned upon by the British and French intelligence services.

The chateau boasted modern comforts that included a pipe organ costing $40,000 and a $15,000 telephone system.

On the day itself, Wallis wore a blue wedding gown which she twinned with silk gloves made from the same material and a straw hat.

At her throat she wore an impressive diamond and sapphire brooch and also showed off sapphire earrings and a glittering sapphire wristband.

Her second divorce – from shipbroker Ernest Aldrich Simpson – had only been finalised the month before.

The Duke had originally wanted a royal chaplain to officiate at his wedding, but this desire was rapidly torpedoed by his brother the King.

His second choice had been the Reverend Martin Andrews, who presided over a parish in the Duchy of Cornwall.

Reverend J.A. Jardine - a priest from Darlington - officiated at the Duke of Windsor's wedding

He went on to emigrate to the US, where he officiated at the 'Windsor Cathedral' chapel in Hollywood

Edward VIII giving his abdication broadcast to the nation and the Empire, December 11, 1936

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor pose for a portrait after their wedding at the Chateau de Cande, in Monts, France, on June 3, 1937

In the end he had little choice but to go with Reverend Jardine, who was described as ‘turbulent’ by Edward’s biographer Philip Ziegler and later stripped of his duties.

Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang – who had been instrumental in sealing Edward’s abdication – described Jardine as a ‘seeker of notoriety’.

He questioned how Edward – who had been King of England just months before – could have ‘lost his dignity’ to the extent that he asked ‘a man of this sort to celebrate his marriage’.

Jardine officiated in defiance of the Church of England, which ruled until 2002 that it would not perform weddings of rulers to divorcees who had living former spouses. 

Whilst Edward believed that in Jardine he had chosen well, this idea was somewhat punctured by the priest’s subsequent tour of the United States, where he revealed all about the ceremony.

The altar was what Ziegler described as a ‘bogus renaissance chest adorned with plum caryatids’.

Beaton took official photographs of the couple after they tied the knot.

In his diary he described Edward’s expression when his photo was taken as ‘essentially sad, tragic eyes belied by impertinent tilt of nose.’

He added that the former King had ‘common hands – like a mechanic – weather-beaten and rather scaly and one thumb-nail is disfigured.’

Beaton had talked to Wallis at length and decided that she was a ‘strong force’, and ‘intelligent within her vast limitations’.

‘She has obviously a tremendous admiration for the Duke and considers him one of the greatest brains… of our times.

‘She admires his character, his vitality and is determined to love him, though I feel she is not in love with him.’

As well as his best man, chauffeur and equerry, guests also included the Duke’s hairdresser Charles Topper and Mrs Buchanan Merryman, Wallis’s aunt.

The Duke and Duchess  are seen on their wedding day alongside Edward's best man, Edward 'Fruity' Metcalfe (right) and businessman Hermann Rogers, whom Wallis later had an affair with

Wallis Simpson and the Duke of Windsor pose in a window at the Chateau de Cande on their wedding day

The service itself was composed of a French civil ceremony and then an Anglican counterpart conducted by Reverend Jardine was carried out ten minutes later.

In both versions, Wallis promised to obey her husband.

Incredibly, the Duke failed to kiss his bride in either the civil or religious ceremony, although there were tears in his eyes when he put Wallis’s ring on her finger.

The couple then posed for the small number of photographers who were present before indulging in a wedding breakfast of lobster, cold meats, strawberries and champagne.

Their wedding cake, which the Duke and Duchess cut together, was made up of six tiers that rose three feet into the air.

But, despite the act of togetherness at the ceremony, Wallis’s biographer, Andrew Morton told how she ‘put on an act’ in their marriage, after realising that Edward ‘had given up the throne of the greatest empire in order to marry a twice-divorced American.

‘If she kicked him to the curb, she’d be the most reviled woman in British history,’ he said when his book, Wallis in Love: The Untold Life of the Duchess of Windsor, The Woman Who Changed the Monarchy, was published in 2018.

The Duke and Duchess received more than 3,000 telegrams and 30,000 letters of good wishes after their wedding.

In a statement, the Duke said: ‘The Duchess and I would like to thank all those who have so kindly sent us presents and good wishes on the occasion of our wedding.

‘We shall never forget their friendly messages, which mean so much to us on this day.’

The couple looked less than jolly in the official photos that were taken to mark their wedding

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor walk down steps at the Chateau de Cande on their wedding day

He added that they would look forward to a ‘happy’ private life and a ‘measure of peace’ that they hoped would be given to them.

However, historian Andrew Lownie revealed in his book Traitor King: The Scandalous Exile of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, that, beneath the surface, their life was far from happy.

He detailed how Wallis embarked on an affair with the US ambassador to France, William Bullitt, soon after their wedding.

Detailing the liaisons, Eleanor Tydings Ditzen, the daughter of close friends of the Windsors, claimed that British security services knew about them but did not tell Edward.

‘The Duke would escort his wife to one of the dress designers for fittings and return for her after an hour or two,’ she said.

‘Wallis would slip out the back door for a rendezvous with the ambassador.

‘As the British Secret Service was guarding both Windsors, this affair was reported to their government.

‘The British were afraid that the Prince [Duke of Windsor] might find out, and there would be a great scandal again.

The abdication notice signed by Edward VIII at his Fort Belvedere home. His brothers Albert, Henry and George also signed the document

Wallis Simpson is seen in 1936 posing with her Cartier emerald engagement ring and a diamond and sapphire bracelet that was a gift from Edward

‘So the Secret Service was protecting Wallis’s transgressions from the Duke!’

Mr Lownie said it it is ‘doubtful’ that Wallis ever loved Edward and had wanted to end her relationship with him when he became King.

‘But by then he was so obsessed with her that he threatened to kill himself if she left him,’ he said.

Wallis had listened to Edward’s abdication speech on the radio, before spending the following day in bed feeling depressed.

Her friend Constance Coolidge, who also listened to the broadcast, later said: ‘Can you imagine a more terrible fate than to have to live up publicly to the legend of a love you don’t feel? To have to face, morning, noon and night, a middle-aged boy with no other purpose in life than a possessive passion for you?’

In 1938, Wallis had another affair, this time with a used car salesman called Guy Trundle.

When they attended Hermann Rogers’ wedding in 1950, Wallis tellingly told his bride Lucy Wann: ‘I’ll hold you responsible if anything happens to Hermann. He’s the only man I’ve ever loved.’

It prompted the other woman to reply: ‘How nice for the Duke.’

The Daily Mail covered the marriage of the Duke of Windsor extensively

Wallis also had a long-running affair with the much younger Jimmy Donahue, the heir to the Woolworth fortune.

She was joined by the Duke on several occasions when she went clubbing with Donahue, before telling her husband to ‘buzz off’ at midnight.

Their affair came to an end in 1954, when the younger man had joined Wallis and the Duke on a yachting holiday.

After Donahue kicked the Duchess under the table over dinner, the Duke told him: ‘We’ve had enough of you, Jimmy. Get out!’

On the subject of Wallis’s feelings towards her husband, his confidant Kenneth de Courcy had a damning verdict.

‘Did she love the Duke of Windsor?’ he said.

‘I am afraid the sad answer is that she did not… I think he knew it and it was that which induced him to concede his very innermost person to her authority in the hope that love would come.’

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