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Cultural depictions of Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson

Statue of Edward VIII as Prince of Wales in Old College, Aberystwyth, Wales

Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson have been depicted in culture, both biographical and fictional, following his abdication in 1936 and their marriage the following year.


  • Robertson Davies's The Deptford Trilogy has Edward's profound effect on his public as a key element. One of the characters, Boy Staunton, is a great admirer of Edward VIII, having met him in person once and styled himself after him. His discontent upon being appointed as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario mirrors Edward's decision to choose love over his title and position.
  • Guy Walters's The Leader – an alternate history of World War II wherein Edward VIII does not abdicate but reigns as king with Wallis Simpson as queen. They rule a fascist Britain after World War II and are allied with a victorious Adolf Hitler, but are opposed by the hero of the book, Captain James Armstrong.
  • Robert Harris's alternative history novel Fatherland depicts Edward VIII as the restored king of the United Kingdom alongside Wallis Simpson as part of a pro-Nazi puppet government in Britain. Like the rest of western Europe, Great Britain, although unoccupied, is forced to sign up to an E.U. (except Switzerland) which shows their loyalty to the Greater German Reich. However, the British Empire still controls its territories in Africa and Asia, Germany allows this to spread their influence around the world, whereas Canada, Australia and New Zealand are US allies which recognise his niece Elizabeth as the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms.
  • In the timeline of Robert A. Heinlein's first novel For Us, The Living: A Comedy of Customs (written 1938, published 2003) - then a future history which can now be considered as a retroactive alternative history - Edward returns to England at the outbreak of war and distinguishes himself in wartime service. After the war - which ends in 1944 due to Germany's economic collapse - a European Federation is formed and Edward is made into a Constitutional Emperor of Europe, a task which he fulfills with great success. However, he dies without issue in 1970 (two years earlier than in actual history) and in the aftermath Europe is torn up in forty years of highly destructive war and is largely depopulated.
  • In I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, written by Joanne Greenberg under the pseudonym Hannah Green, a mental patient believes that she is the secret first wife of Edward VIII.
  • Famous Last Words, a novel by Timothy Findley, is a fictional recreation of the relationship between the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. In it, the couple conspire with Joachim von Ribbentrop to overthrow Hitler, with the intention of assuming control of the Nazi Party and taking over Europe.[1]
  • Royce Ryton's play Crown Matrimonial, telling the abdication story from Queen Mary's viewpoint, opened at the Haymarket Theatre in 1972, with Peter Barkworth as Edward, and Wendy Hiller as Queen Mary. In a televised version in 1974, Barkworth reprised his role, but Queen Mary was played by Greer Garson.
  • Snoo Wilson's 1994 play HRH dealt with the Duke's life in Bahamas and examined his possible role in a suggested cover-up following the murder of multi-millionaire Harry Oakes in 1943. This subject also features prominently in William Boyd's novel Any Human Heart.
  • In the detective novel Thrones, Dominations, completed by Jill Paton Walsh from notes left by Dorothy L. Sayers, Lord Peter Wimsey is charged with recovering secret documents which King Edward treated carelessly. Wimsey has an outspokenly negative opinion on Edward, whom he considers an irresponsible person unfit to be a King. Moreover, Wimsey discovers evidence of King Edward meeting secretly in France with high-level Nazi emissaries. Wimsey's report of this to the Foreign Office cannot be published, but it increases the pressure on the King to abdicate.
  • In the alternate history novel The Two Georges by Harry Turtledove and Richard Dreyfuss, Edward VIII remained on the throne until his death in 1972. He was succeeded by Edward IX and later Charles III, who was the reigning monarch in 1995.
  • In the alternate history novel Back in the USSA by Eugene Byrne and Kim Newman in which the United States of America became a communist state in 1917, Edward VIII almost lost his throne over his relationship with Wallis Simpson in 1936. However, the abdication was averted and he and Mrs Simpson eventually married. He remained King until his death in 1972, though with Wallis as Princess Consort rather than Queen. His near abdication was later the subject of a novel by Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the aunt of Tsar Nicholas III, which was adapted for television as a miniseries. Shortly before he died, his great-nephew and heir presumptive Charles, Duke of Cornwall was to marry Nicholas III's eldest daughter Grand Duchess Ekaterina. While in Moscow, however, the Duke met and fell in love with the television make-up artist Cinzia Davidovna Bronstein, the granddaughter of the silent film comedian Lev Bronstein.
  • In the Doctor Who Virgin New Adventures novel Timewyrm: Exodus, the Seventh Doctor and Ace visited an alternate timeline in which the Nazis won World War II. In 1940, Edward VIII was restored to the throne with Wallis Simpson as his Queen and signed a treaty which established Great Britain as a protectorate of the Greater German Reich.
  • In the Doctor Who Past Doctor Adventures novel Players, the Sixth Doctor and Peri Brown visit England in 1936 to investigate the interference of the Doctor's time-manipulating enemies, the Players. During their time in the present, they discover that the Players have been manipulating various Nazi sympathisers in Britain to push Edward into deciding to dismiss the government and establish a new one sympathetic to Hitler's policies out of respect for his 'friendship' with Hitler, in response to the government's refusal to allow him to marry Wallis Simpson; but the Doctor and Peri - aided by Winston Churchill and his various contacts - instead have his government dismissal recorded as evidence and blackmail him into abdicating or be charged with high treason while the Nazi sympathisers are kept under observation.
  • In the Southern Victory alternate history series of novels by Harry Turtledove, Edward VIII remained on the throne until at least 1944.
  • In the alternate history novel The Man Who Prevented WW2 by Roy Carter, Edward VIII was assassinated by Jerome Bannigan on 18 July 1936. It was suspected that the Prime Minister Sir Oswald Mosley, who came to power when the British Union of Fascists won a landslide victory in the 1935 election, was responsible for his murder. After his death, the BUF government abolished the monarchy and placed the Royal Family under house arrest in Balmoral Castle until they were expatriated to Switzerland in September 1939. His younger brother and heir presumptive Albert, Duke of York (who would have become George VI if the monarchy had not been abolished) was given the deed to the Royal Hotel in Geneva. His mother Queen Mary was disturbed that he had become an innkeeper and even more disturbed that she was an innkeeper's mother. However, the Duke later established a successful hotel chain.
  • In the alternate history short story "First to the Moon!" by Stephen Baxter and Simon Bradshaw, Edward VIII remained king.

Film and televisionEdit

The abdication of Edward VIII was featured in the multi-award winning historical drama film The King’s Speech, in which his decision to stand down was depicted solely upon his desire to marry Wallis Simpson.[2]

The abdication is mentioned frequently in the 1st season of Netflix television series The Crown, in which the former King, now titled the Duke of Windsor, returns to London for the funeral of King George VI and accession of Elizabeth II. Queen Mary is depicted as continuing her condemnation of his marriage to Mrs Simpson and his decision to abdicate,[3] and faces animosity towards his attendance of Elizabeth's coronation, subsequently declining his invite.[4] His abdication is also cited as a factor in the opposition to the marriage of Princess Margaret and Group Captain Peter Townsend.[5]

The 6th episode of the 2nd season features the Duke returning to London in a bid to ask Queen Elizabeth II for forgiveness of his abdication and to allow him to work for the monarchy. However, following her informing of The Marburg Files, detailing facts of the Duke's relationship with Nazi Germany and further damning information from former private secretary Tommy Lascelles, and continuing animosity from the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Prince Philip, she admonishes him and asks him only to return to London at the request of the monarch.[6]

In films and on television, Edward has been portrayed by:

Mrs Simpson has been portrayed by:


  • The calypso song "Edward VIII", by the Trinidadian calypsonian Lord Caresser, told the story of Edward's abdication and was the most popular record of its kind in 1937.[8] The song included the chorus:
It's love, love alone,
that caused King Edward to leave the throne[9]
  • The last verse of the Status Quo song "Blessed Are The Meek", from their album Under The Influence, refers to the abdication of Edvard VIII
  • The Japanese all-female theatre troupe Takarazuka Revue adapted the story of Edward VIII's abdication into a romantic musical in 2012, with heavy focus on the courtship of the King and Mrs Simpson.[10]
  • The Rolling Stones song "Blinded by Love" (from the 1989 album Steel Wheels) mentions, among other historical relationships, Edward and Wallis in the verse, "The poor Prince of Wales, He gave up his crown, All for the trivial pursuit of A parvenu second-hand lady."
  • The real time historical simulation game Hearts of Iron 4 gives the player an option to explore an alternate historical path in which Edward VIII restored royal authority to a greater degree, and even allows the player to conquer the United States and impose Wallis Simpson as Queen Wallis I, leader of the newly reconstituted United States.


  1. ^ Findley, Timothy (1981). Famous Last Words. New York: Delacorte Press/Seymour Laurence.
  2. ^ "The Kings Speech Review". Empire. November 29, 2010.
  3. ^ "The Crown Recap: The Duke of Windsor". Vulture. November 4, 2016.
  4. ^ "'The Crown': A Look Back at Season 1 and the History Behind It". NYtimes. December 6, 2017.
  5. ^ "The true story of Princess Margaret's 'forbidden love' for Peter Townsend". RadioTimes. May 24, 2017.
  6. ^ "The Crown Recap: Elizabeth Learns A Lesson About The Nazis". Vulture. December 9, 2017.
  7. ^ "Wallis & Edward". BBC America. Archived from the original on 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2007-04-30.
  8. ^ "Calypso World". Retrieved 2007-02-26.
  9. ^ Folkways Records, The Real Calypso, 1927-1946, RBF 13, including notes and lyrics by Samuel Charters (1966).
  10. ^ "エドワード8世". Retrieved 2013-02-26.

External linksEdit