She was born Bessie Wallis Warfield on June 19, 1896 and grew up to be the Duchess of Windsor, wife of Prince Edward, the former King Edward VIII of England. Her father died shortly after her birth leaving her mother penniless and dependent on relatives for a home and support. Despite poor beginnings, Wallis was educated in private schools and became adapted to having only the finest. In 1916 she met and married her first husband Early Winfield Spencer, a US Navy pilot. For the next 8 years they separated and re-united several times and it was rumored that Wallis was having an affair with an Argentine diplomat. In 1927 they divorced.
Prince Edward ascended the throne as King Edward VIII on January 20, 1936. Sadly marriage with Wallis was not to be as she was not received, being still married to her second husband and divorced from her first. It was deemed morally unacceptable to the British subjects and was opposed by the Church of England. Wallis would not be tolerated as the Queen. King Edward made the decision to abdicate the throne in favor of the woman he loved. 365 days into his rein, on Dec. 11, 1936 he made a broadcast to the British Empire “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge my duties as king as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.” On December 12 he became the Duke of Windsor. On June 3, 1937 they were married in France. Even the Church of England refused to sanction the union. No members of the Royal Family were allowed to attend. He gave up the throne of England for the woman he loved.
Living in France in the pre-war years there were rumors that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were Nazi sympathizers. The FBI compiled files in the 1930's suggesting she was a German agent. Together the Duke and Duchess did make a social visit to Germany and met Adolf Hitler who reportedly said ‘she would have made a good Queen”. During WWII the Duke was given a military post in France and the Duchess entertained friends associated with the fascist movement. Finally the British Government moved the pair to Bahamas where, in the view of Winston Churchill, they could do the least damage to the British war effort.
While not the most favored couple of the time, they probably were close to the best dressed. Wallis spent a large fortune on her clothing and jewelry. She was not a beautiful woman but gifted with grace and charm, coupled with designer clothes you really wouldn’t have noticed. Edward was a womanizer before meeting Wallis and there’s no evidence that he continued after their marriage. Rumors of affairs followed her the rest of her life, if they are true or not no one will ever know.
This famous dress was designed for Wallis by Elsa Schiaparelli and the fabric was designed by Salvador Dali. Many of Wallis' fashions were designed by Schiaparelli
After the War they spent the remainder of their years in France being among the elite, hosting parties, looking their best. On May 28, 1972 the Duke died at his home in Paris. The Duchess retreated from public life and died on April 24, 1986. They were buried side by side in the Royal Burial Ground.
Below are some of our fashions we think the Duchess of Windsor might have worn.
Vintage 40s 50s Designer Youthcraft Navy Blue Wool Garbardine Hourglass Peplum Jacket and Skirt with Silver Mink Trim
Vintage 1950s Black Taffeta Full Circle Shirtwaist Style Cocktail Party Dress