Tabulous Tastemaker: The Duchess Of Windsor

June 19, 2015

By Tab Byrum

She was never paid to decorate homes but lived in a  beautiful Villa in Paris, she was never commissioned to create clothing, but her wardrobe choices were praised around the world and her jewelry rivaled that of royalty, but the one thing today’s Tabulous Tastemaker is perhaps best known for is changing history when the King of England abdicated his throne to be with her, the woman he loved.


Wallis Simpson would become the Duchess of Windsor in 1937 after marrying the former King Edward VIII, before that she was Bessie Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson, a twice-divorced American, born on this day 119 years ago in Baltimore, Maryland.


A young Wallis Warfield. 

While her family was fairly well to do she and her mother fell on hard times after the untimely death of her father, but due to the generosity and kindness of family members they survived. Wallis eventually ended up in London with her second husband, Mr. Simpson, and the rest they say is history. For the complete story from the Duchess’ own point of view read her memoir, The Heart Has Its Reasons.


The titles Duke and Duchess were granted to them by the former King’s brother, the new King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth II). The couple was wed at a villa in France as they had been forced to flee England because of the all the attention from the media, from then on their lives were a flurry of trips throughout Europe and back and forth across the Atlantic to visit America, always returning to their Paris home, the Villa Windsor.


On the left are the Duke and Duchess on their wedding day in 1936, on the right is a color photo of the Mainbocher gown, hat and shoes worn by the Duchess to her wedding. 

The Windsors traveled in the circles of highest society so Wallis always had the best and most beautiful haute couture clothing, known for her trim figure she accentuated it with form-fitting suits, dresses and beautiful evening gowns.

Royalty - Duke and Duchess of Windsor - Southampton Dock

The Duke and Duchess onboard an ocean liner on one of their many trips back and forth across the Atlantic. 


The famous lobster gown designed by Else Schiaparelli, the lobster was painted by Salvador Dali. 




The Duke loved to shower his Duchess with jewelry, some say to make up for the treasure trove of English royal jewels she never wore, he purchased massive amounts of jewelry from great jewelry designers such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Harry Winston.


A Cartier bib necklace made for the Duchess set with diamonds, turquoise and amethyst in yellow gold. 



The Cartier diamond, sapphire and moonstone brooch and the diamond Prince of Wales plumes brooch the Duchess often wore. 

The Windsors lived their lives abroad, only returning to England occasionally for certain events and funerals of the Duke’s family members.


The Villa Windsor in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris


The dining room of the Villa Windsor.


A portrait of the Duchess by Gerald Brockhurst hangs over the library fireplace of the Villa Windsor. 


The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at home with their beloved pugs.


In May of 1972 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip paid a visit to the Duke and Duchess at their Paris home while on a state visit to France, the Duke would die 10 days later. 


The Duchess with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the Queen Mother following funeral services for the Duke of Windsor, June 1972. 

The Duke of Windsor died in May of 1972 at their Paris home, the Duchess lived another 14 years, dying in 1986. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor are buried in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore in England


New York, USA, 24th May, 1953, The Duke and Duchess of Windsor (previously King Edward VIII and Mrs, Wallis Simpson) pictured with their dog Trooper as they sail on the liner United States for France  (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)


A portrait of the Duchess by Cecil Beaton. 

Perhaps the greatest lasting legacy was the sale of the Duchess’ jewelry following her death, The Sotheby’s sale brought in over 33 million dollars, the bulk of which was donated to the Louis Pasteur Institute for AIDS research. 



Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, 1896-1986

The words are my own, all images are courtesy of Tumblr.

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