If you would like to discuss That Woman at your Reading Group here are some suggested areas for discussion. Twenty-five years after her death, Wallis Simpson exerts a more powerful fascination than ever. She became one of the most glamorous and vilified woman of the last century yet who was the real person behind the iconic image? Born in in Baltimore, Bessiewallis Warfield endured an impoverished and comparatively obscure childhood which inflamed a burning desire to rise above her circumstances. Neither beautiful nor brilliant and over 40 when she married the former King, she became one of the most talked about woman of her generation for inspiring such deep love and slavish adoration in Edward V that even renouncing a throne and an Empire for her was not enough to prove his total devotion. Wallis lived by her wit and her wits, while both her apparent and alleged moral transgressions added to her aura and dazzle.

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At this advanced date, could there possibly be anything new to add to the mountain of autobiographies, biographies, memoirs, novels and films that have accreted on this subject? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. On Dec. The object of his ardor was herself married at the time, to her second husband, Ernest Simpson.

But across the Atlantic, American newspapers covered the courtship zestfully, portraying Wallis Simpson as a shrewd adventuress. Did she love the king as much as he loved her? Had she really wanted to divorce Ernest Simpson? Or really wanted to marry the king? At first, Wallis relished the cachet of the dalliance, and her husband turned a blind eye since both were eager to profit from the social boost it gave them.

Neither had expected the affair to take a serious turn, Sebba writes, but they were powerless to resist once the king made up his mind. No such luck. Here she retains the epithets customarily attached to her — temptress, social climber, tactless boor, gold digger. But she is granted another that, in light of this substantial new evidence, seems to make her a little more palatable: helpless pawn.

Sebba, a British journalist and biographer of Jennie Churchill, Mother Teresa and Laura Ashley, among others , believes that Wallis did not want to marry her royal lover, but that she was very likely used as a scapegoat by schemers in the British government who regarded Edward VIII as unstable, irresponsible and dangerously well disposed to Nazi Germany.

But it worked. Obviously, Wallis, unlike Edward, was unpopular with the British public. Was this fair? Sebba tacitly asks. Born in to a consumptive father, who died soon after her birth, and a romantic, well-connected mother whose marriage had alienated her family and wrecked her fortunes, Bessiewallis Warfield grew up aspiring to the status her mother had lost. Attending the Maryland finishing school Oldfields where her tuition was subsidized by a fond uncle , she grew up to be fiery and flirtatious, readily attracting male attention.

When her uncle refused to pay for a coming-out ball, Wallis went off to stay with another relative in Florida. They married when she was 20 and stayed married, despite discord, for a decade. In , following her divorce, she wedded Ernest Simpson, a British-American businessman, whose sister had married a British M.

Their married life rolls on haltingly for decades, traveling on fumes. They went from country to country, never again welcome in England. Book Review Marrying Up. Home Page World U.


That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by Anne Sebba

Should Wallis Simpson be awarded a posthumous George Cross? He and Wallis were feted by Mussolini in Venice, stayed at the Ritz in Madrid when Spain was run by Franco and visited Hitler in Berchtesgaden, where they were photographed among the swastikas. The remainder of their lives was to be spent in an aimless, boring round of luncheons with dressmakers and dinners with jewellers. This was spiteful. While we can all agree that the ex-King was a petulant pipsqueak, who would have made a disastrous monarch, it does seem that everyone took it out on Wallis. Hollywood sex lives revealed. Wallis Simpson: fashion icon.


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Anne Sebba is an award-winning British biographer , writer, lecturer and journalist. She is the author of nine non-fiction books for adults, two biographies for children and several introductions to reprinted classics. She wrote her first book while living in New York City and now lives in London. The letters have led to a reappraisal of the abdication crisis. It was the story of the pianist Harriet Cohen , who inspired the composer Arnold Bax when she wore a dress adorned with a single daffodil and became his mistress for the next 40 years. In September , Sebba joined the management committee of the Society of Authors.

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