Bessie Wallis Warfield

Bessie Wallis Warfield (1896-1986), the Duchess of Windsor from 1936 to her death.

While he was still Prince of Wales, Edward begun a relationship with Bessie Warfield who was then Mrs. Simpson. When his father died, Edward ascended the throne of Great Britain as "Edward VII" in 1936. But later that same year, his resolve to marry Mrs Simpson, forced him to chose between her and the throne. So in 1936, Edward VII abdicated the throne.


Bessie Wallis Warfield (1896-1986), the Duchess of Windsor from 1936 to her death Find your family history in the World's Largest Newspaper Archive! Find News, Births and Deaths

This article should be cited as: "Bessie Wallis Warfield", by Will Johnson, professional genealogist, at, URL: copyright 2009, all rights reserved.  My original version of this article is on my website at, which goes into great detail about her ancestry as well.

This Knol is part of my series "Celebrity Family Trees"
This Knol has been cited at Wikitree, "Wallis Wallis Windsor"

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Bessie Wallis Warfield

Bessie Wallis Warfield was born on 19 June 1896 in Square Cottage, Monterey Inn, Blue Ridge Summit, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, as the daughter of Teackle Wallis Warfield and Alice M. Montague.  They were at that resort due to a futile attempt to cure Teackle's tuberculosis.  Teackle's health had been precarious for some time and he died that November, when Bessie was about five months old.  Teackle was not a great commercial success in his career and left Alice and Bessie with little to support them.

At first, Alice and Bessie moved in with Teackle's mother in Baltimore, Maryland but the two woman could not agree. Bessie in her autobiography says that it was either that Solomon Warfield, a bachelor uncle, also living there, fell in love with Alice in those close quarters, or that Alice's mother-in-law just didn't like Alice dating so soon after Teackle's death. The elder widowed Mrs Warfield still wore black more than a decade after her husband's death and evidently thought that was the proper course for Alice to follow.

So Alice and Bessie moved again, to a hotel for some months, but then again into the house of her aunt.  Alice however wanted a place of her own, and so they then took an apartment in a building with several other tenants.  The biography at states: "In the end the two women were supported by Teackle's wealthy brother Solomon Warfield."  This however is not exactly true.  Women of Alice's time and standing were very restricted in what sort of careers they could pursue.  Alice did some small at-home sewing and took a hand at cooking for some of the other tenants in the apartment building where she lived, but the money deposited by Solomon, monthly into her bank account at his bank, is what kept most of the bills paid.

Some biographers would have you believe that Alice "ran a boarding house".  Alice however did not own the building.  She merely found out that many tenants ate out, and offered to cook for them, in exchange for money.  She was a great cook, but not great at minding the bills, and ended up spending more than she was taking in.  So that ended her brief career as a cook.  She never "ran a boarding house".

As far as Wallis name, "she was christened Bessie but when she grew up, she dropped the Bessie and called herself Wallis" (''The Amiable Baltimorians'')  In doing this, she was following a family tradition, as her father did not like his name Teackle, and always went by T. Wallis.  Bessie Wallis was named Bessie for Alice's favorite older sister, and Wallis for her husband's middle name.  She states that her name was all run together, her grandmother calling her "Bessiewallis" as if it were one name.

The picture at left shows Bessie as a young lady.

Bessie's family was firmly upper class if perhaps "lower-upper" as they say. Although the Montague's were a family of some social pretension, they were not wealthy. The Warfields however were, holding positions and land holdings that were quite handsome for the time. In 1908, her mother Alice remarried to John Freeman Rasin, an insurance broker and "son of the Democratic boss of Baltimore", and the family lived in Baltimore, Maryland. More details on the Rasin family can be found in the book ''Baltimore : It's History and It's People''.  (In particular it shows how John Freeman Rasin descends, through the Wingfields, from Richard Cecil and also from Edward I, King of England.)

Bessie married a U.S. Navy airman named Earl Winfield Spencer Jr. on 8 Nov 1916 at Christ Protestant Episcopal Church, Baltimore, Maryland. He however was "...a violent alcoholic", and she left him in 1921, but did not divorce until 10 Dec 1927. Moving to London, she married secondly to banker Ernest Aldrich Simpson on 21 Jul 1928 in Chelsea Registrar's Office, Chelsea, London, England.

Wallis was divorced from her second husband on 27 Oct 1936 but not before she had begun a romantic relationship with Prince Edward who was at that time the heir to the English throne, being the eldest son of George V, King of England and his wife Mary von Teck.  His father George having died on 20 Jan 1936, Edward became King but his desire to marry Wallis was firmly resisted by the government and public.  His famous abdication speech on 11 Dec 1936 stated that, "The throne means nothing to me without Wallis beside me." (''The Royals'', page 15)  They were married on 3 Jun 1937 in Chateau de Cande, Maine-et-Loire, France, and lived thereafter in semi-exile from Britain, mostly in France, although with occasional trips to Great Britain and the United States.

After the abdication, Edward was made Duke of Windsor by his brother, the now-King, who took the name George VI. Wallis was styled Duchess of Windsor but by a new statute created just for her, she was not called "Her Royal Highness".  This is much discussed in Kitty Kelly's book ''The Royals'', where she states that George's wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon better known as the Queen Mother, was jealous of Bessie because Elizabeth had wanted to marry Edward herself.

Edward and Wallis were thought, during WWII to be sympathetic to the Nazis.

They adopted the jet-setting life-style of socialites until Edward died in 1972, after which Wallis was rarely seen in public.  A picture of Edward and Wallis in their later years appears in the 1985 edition of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica. A book on Wallis' last days was writen in which her lawyer and caretaker Susan Blum was villified.

Wallis died on 24 Apr 1986 in Bois de Boulogne, Paris, France. She was buried next to Edward, on 29 Apr 1986 at Frogmore House, Windsor, Berkshire, England.

Primary documents on subject

  • 1910 Census of Baltimore, Maryland showing : "J Freeman Rasin, 40, first marriage, 2 years ago, b MD/MD/MD, Insurance Broker; Alice M Rasin 40; Bessie W Warfield 13 stepdaughter b PA; Mary Louisa Shorter 27; Minnie Bacon 25; Willima E McDonnell 26; Henry Stitz"
  • ''Ironwood Daily Globe (Ironwood, Michigan)''], 15 Oct 1936 "Mrs Simpson Made Debut During Early Days of War" : "Most Talked of Woman in World Traces Lineage to Norman Knight" : "Mrs Ernest Simpson ..... her friendship with King Edward VIII has made her "The Most Talked-of Woman in the World." So Laura Lou Brookman, novelist and staff correspondent of NEA Service, went to Baltimore to find out who Mrs Simpson is, what her girlhood and background were like.  She tells the story of the debhood of "the Yankee at King Edward's Court" in this second of four articles."

Secondary sources for subject

Further reading

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