Wallis Simpson (1896–1986) was an American socialite for whom King Edward VIII famously gave up his throne. On their marriage she became Duchess of Windsor but without the style ‘Her Royal Highness’.
In the mid-1930s, during her second marriage, she became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales. After Edward’s accession as King, Wallis divorced her second husband and Edward proposed to her. The King’s desire to marry a woman with two living ex-husbands caused a constitutional crisis which ultimately led to the King’s abdication in December 1936 to marry ‘the woman I love’. After the abdication, the former king was created Duke of Windsor by his brother George VI. Edward married Wallis six months later, after which she was formally known as the Duchess of Windsor.
In 1937, they made a high profile visit to Germany and met Nazi leader Adolf Hitler which fueled suspicions that they were Nazi sympathisers – suspicions which, of course, became a more serious matter after the start of the War. In the 1950s and 1960s, the couple shuttled between Europe and the United States, living a life of leisure as society celebrities. After the Duke’s death in 1972, the Duchess lived in seclusion and was rarely seen in public.
Her private life, particularly during her time in China in the 1920s, has been a source of much speculation, and she remains a controversial figure in British history.