Wallis Simpson's Divorce a 'Judicial Farce'

New details of her second divorce revealed in solicitor's notes
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 25, 2019 12:01 PM CST
Wallis Simpson's Divorce a 'Judicial Farce'
This is a May 7, 1937 file photo of Edward, The Duke of Windsor and Mrs. Wallis Simpson at the Chateau de Cande, near Touraine, France before they are married.   (AP Photo/Len Putnam, File)

Before King Edward VIII could marry his great love—in the process, becoming the first British monarch to abdicate the throne—US socialite Wallis Simpson needed to secure her second divorce. It was a "judicial farce" nearly upended by her husband's choice of hotel, according to solicitor's notes reviewed by the Guardian. Robert Egerton, working for the London law firm Simpson had hired, had been instructed to visit a hotel where Ernest Simpson had stayed with another woman. "Everybody had a lover in that world of high society" but "divorces were difficult and expensive," Andrew Morton, who penned a 2018 biography of Simpson, told the New York Post. Indeed, lawyers needed evidence, like names from a hotel register and statements from staff. But the hotel catered to high-society folk with a penchant for secrecy, Egerton wrote, and staff "refused all cooperation."

With the "beautifully stage-managed production" at risk, the law firm's managing clerk stepped in. Told the Hotel de Paris in Berkshire didn't have a register, in violation of the law, he threatened to inform newspapers and have staff arrested. The clerk "came away with statements from the hotel porter, a waiter, and the floor waiter who had served breakfast in bed to Mr Simpson and a woman who was not Mrs Simpson," Egerton wrote, though he added all three employees were then fired. A judge sided with Wallis Simpson in October 1936. But Egerton noted she "should have, in effect, denied that she had committed adultery with the King." The pair had actually carried on a not-so-secret affair for years, per the Post. But then, "we were well aware at the time of the humbug and sleaziness which inevitably result from divorce law," Egerton wrote. (Britain bugged Edward around this time.)

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