People

The Truth About Their Love

Their ‘romance of the century’ cost him the British throne—but her heart belonged to another man
Unhappy Together Any love Wallis (left, with the duke in a 1938 portrait by Cecil Beaton) felt was “tainted by the abdication,” says Morton. “Their lives were one long disappointment.”

Long before Prince Harry fell for American actress Meghan Markle, another Yank famously captured the heart of a British royal. Wallis Simpson was a spirited but plain-looking Baltimore girl of modest means; Edward, Prince of Wales, was the heir to the throne who couldn’t resist her. Refusing to give up their “romance of the century,” as it was called, the prince, who became King Edward VIII in 1936, abdicated just 10 months later so he could marry his twice-divorced beloved. Though there were rumors that both were gay and that Wallis was a hermaphrodite and a German spy, their story lives on as one of history’s grand passions. Now, in Wallis in Love (excerpted here), author Andrew Morton sheds new light. Drawing on lost interviews and letters, he paints Wallis, who died at 89 in 1986, as a social climber who wanted only to be Queen and “barely tolerated” the childish and needy Duke of Windsor (his title after abdication), who died at 77 in 1972. The book’s biggest surprise: Wallis’s true love was another man. “The great romance of the century,” Morton tells People’s Sandra Sobieraj Westfall, “was a love triangle—and a love tragedy.”

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