Tanya Gold: Why Wallis Simpson should get her blue plaque

People hated her because she refused to conform to our grotesque 1930s society

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For more than 70 years, Wallis Simpson has been bullied by the sneering British establishment – and they aren't finished yet. The story of this interesting, complex woman has been told by her enemies. She was the ambitious American bitch-slut who stole our King and made him shake hands with Hitler. Thank God for wonderful Queen Elizabeth, the sainted Queen Mother, who scrubbed the stain of Wallis from our throne!

English Heritage, giver of blue plaques to People Who Matter, is the latest to bitch-slap her corpse. Last week, it denied a request by a member of the public to stick a plaque outside Wallis's 1930s London home. But Wallis matters. She drew to the surface many of the foul bigotries of the age: xenophobia, ageism, rampant snobbery and a desire for women to be submissive, uneducated, unthreatening little dolls.

The slut came from a poor family in Baltimore and was married off at a very young age to an abusive alcoholic. The conventions of her day would have had her stay and rot. But Wallis was harder than that. She divorced him and married adoring Ernest Simpson, who took her to London and pushed her up the social ladder. And then one night in 1931, at the age of 36 (the corpse! the corpse!), she was introduced to Edward, Prince of Wales. He was the original playboy: easily bored, trivial and obsessed with his wardrobe.

Edward fell in love with her, and it is not hard to see why. She was witty: "I look 100 and weigh 110," she said. "You can never be too rich or too thin." She wasn't a passive English gel, who liked shooting birds and riding horses. She bossed him around and made him put on her shoes, but she never wanted him to give up the throne. She warned him: "You and I can only create disaster together".

When it became clear that Edward wanted to marry Wallis more than he wanted to be Emperor of India, the British elite drew horns on her head. The charge sheet was long. She was a whore. She was a Nazi. She was a spy. She was a hermaphrodite. She was a sadist. She enslaved the Prince by dark sexual arts, which she learned while traveling in the Orient (the Orient – of course). She was a gold-digger. She was – in the Mitford sisters' revolting phrase – Non-U (common). She was (gasp!) American. She was divorced and, in the near-theocracy of the Church of England then, this was blasphemy. She was the Jezebel of Bryanston Square.

Against this Wicked Witch of the West, the English establishment presented its own glorious Glinda – Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. She was everything Wallace was not: submissive to her dull husband, sexually unthreatening, with veins of purest toff blood. Elizabeth was far more of a bitch than Wallis. She was an unsympathetic, anti-Semitic snob who fought to ensure that Wallis was excluded from British public life for her transgressions, even though it was Wallis who made her queen.

Elizabeth succeeded. Edward and Wallis fled into exile, and she was only allowed back into British society when she was old and broken. When she died, she was buried next to Edward at Windsor; her corpse was welcome in the royal mausoleum.

The exile broke them both. Having given up the throne, Edward spent the rest of his life mourning for it. After his death, Wallis became a recluse and spent her last years paralysed and unable to speak. She wrote her own epitaph: "You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance."

So why today does English Heritage continue this old, old vendetta? Its official reason is an affair that she allegedly had with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador to Britain in the 1930s. However, there is no evidence that this actually happened. It is true – and unforgivable – that she visited Germany in 1937 and shook the Führer's hand. But she did not "make" her husband into the Nazi he became. It was his idea: he wanted to play the King and Nazi Germany was the only country that would have him. Wallis spent her life as a whipping girl for her husband's failures as king. Nobody could accept that Edward didn't want to rule us; it had to be witchcraft, didn't it?

After all this, hasn't she at least earned a blue plaque? Every second house in Hampstead has one, and so does the Tyburn Tree – the site of British hangings. Is Wallis less important than a tree? People hated Wallis because she refused to conform to the conventions of the grotesque society of 1930s Britain. Isn't it time – when our future King has married his own mistress, and had his own divorce – to stop tossing mud at the ghost of Mrs Simpson?


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