Wallis, Duchess of Windsor is a character on Netflix drama The Crown. She is played by Lia Williams. Born Bessie Wallis Warfield in a small town on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, she was known not only for being the woman for whom King Edward VIII abdicated, but also for her dress sense and her somewhat notorious past, having been twice married and divorced before marriage into the British royal family.
Walls's parents were the poor relations of a relatively wealthy Baltimore flour-merchant family. After her father died, she and her mother depended on the charity of a wealthy uncle, who paid for Wallis to be educated at one of the finest private girls' schools in Maryland. Her time at school allowed her to make friends among the heiresses attending the school. She was sent to school well dressed, and pushed herself to excel; it was her experience at school that formed her appetite for living among the monied elite of society, using her assets to her advantage.Wallis married three times, and as was often the case among ambitious women with little money of their own, she conducted a number of affairs with men who could advance her in society. Wallis's first husband was Earl Winfield "Win" Spencer, a naval aviator, whom she married in 1916. For a time, they were stationed at Coronado Naval Air Station in San Diego, California, also the home of the luxurious Hotel Del Coronado. Although legend has is that Wallis first met Prince Edward when he visited the hotel in 1920, it appears to be an urban myth. Win's naval duty, along with friendships with wealthy couples afforded Wallis he opportunity to travel extensively during her first marriage, and to engage in an affair with an Argentine diplomat, one of many throughout her life. However, Win was a heavy drinker, and his drinking coupled with long periods of separation lead to their divorce in 1927.
While in the process of divorcing Win, Wallis became involved with British shipping executive Ernest Aldrich Simpson, a former Coldstream Guard. Simpson was married himself, and the two divorced in order to marry in London in July 1928. It was a time of change for Wallis, who had begun living in Mayfair with her new husband. Her mother became ill, forcing Wallis to return to the U.S.; during that time, the Wall Street crash left Wallis with largely worthless investments. After her mother's death in 1929, Wallis returned to her life in London, and soon befriended Thelma, Lady Furness, the current lover of the Prince of Wales.
Meeting Edward, Prince of Wales
- Unlike her husband, Wallis, Duchess of Windsor was not entitled to be addressed as Her Royal Highness. She was not given royal standing, nor was considered a family member by much of the Royal Family. Moreover, she was not welcome at state occasions, such as King George VI's funeral, but had to remain at home, first in New York and later in France. When the Duke died, Wallis continued to be addressed as the Duchess of Windsor, but was entitled to none of the royal honors that were afforded her when he was alive.