The Year is…1896
An English Dutchess Born at Blue Ridge Summit
by James Rada, Jr.
When Alice Montague and Teakle Wallis Warfield were married in 1895, Alice was already pregnant, and Teakle was dying. He had tuberculosis, which is probably why they traveled to Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania, in the summer of 1896. Besides being a popular summer resort, it was also believed the fresh air was good for a person’s health.
The Warfields stayed in Square Cottage at the Monterey Inn in Blue Ridge Summit. It was the town’s largest hotel at the time, and featured not only a central building but also wooden cottages.
While staying there, Alice went into labor, and Bessie Wallis Warfield was born on June 19, 1896, seven months after her parents had been married in Baltimore.
Wallis would never remember her father, though. He died on November 15 of that year, before she was even five months old.
Wallis and her mother were taken in by Wallis’ uncle, Solomon Davies Warfield. He was the postmaster of Baltimore and a wealthy bachelor. They lived in a four-story row home on Preston Street.
Alice Warfield married John Freeman Rasin in 1908. Wallis was confirmed in 1910 at the Christ Episcopal Church.
Between 1912 and 1914, Wallis attended the most-expensive school in Maryland: Oldfields School. According to Charles Higham in his book, Mrs. Simpson, this is where she became friends with Renée du Pont, a member of the DuPont Family, and Mary Kirk, whose family founded Kirk Silverware.
Wallis married Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., a Navy aviator, in 1916. The marriage was marked by long periods apart, as Spencer was stationed at different postings. She began traveling in Europe and China during the 1920s. She also began a number of affairs with men she met during her travels.
Higham wrote that an Italian diplomat said of Wallis, “Her conversation was brilliant, and she had the habit of bringing up the right subject of conversation with anyone she came in contact with and entertaining them on that subject.”
Not surprisingly, Wallis and Spencer divorced at the end of 1927. She was already having an affair with a shipping executive named Ernest Aldrich Simpson. He divorced his wife, Dorothea, to marry Wallis on July 21, 1928. They lived in England, which is where Wallis came to meet Edward, Prince of Wales, at different house parties hosted by members of the upper class.
It is believed that Wallis and Prince Edward began an affair in 1934, while his current mistress was traveling abroad. By the end of the year, he was deeply in love with Wallis, and she with him.
However, his family was against the pairing, primarily because of Wallis’ marital history. Things became even more complicated when George V died on January 20, 1936. Edward became Edward VIII, the king of England. He watched the proclamation of his accession with Wallis from a window in St. James’s Palace, which was a break from royal protocol.
Heavier attention now fell on his relationship with Wallis. Most of British royalty seemed against the relationship.
When it became apparent that Edward wanted to marry Wallis, it became a legal issue because the Church of England, which the British monarch headed, did not permit the remarriage of divorced people with living spouses.
To make matters worse, Wallis would be a two-time divorcee, since she had filed for divorce from her second husband on October 27, 1936.
As the English public became more aware of the affair, it became a scandal. Under pressure from the British government, Wallis announced that she was willing to give up her newest love, but Edward was not ready.
He abdicated the throne on December 10, 1936, and his brother, the Duke of York, became King George VI the next day.
Edward addressed his country via radio and said, “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.”
He and Wallis stayed apart until her divorce was finalized in May 1937. She took on her maiden name and the couple reunited. They married on June 3, 1937, and the child born at Blue Ridge Summit became the Dutchess of Windsor.