When you think of the heroes of World War II, you probably think of the political leaders (FDR, Churchill), the military leaders (de Gaulle, Eisenhower) or the humanitarians (Wallenberg, Chiune Sugihara). However, I would argue that the person who made the biggest positive contribution to the events of the war was a horrible person, a racist and a friend of Herr Hitler himself. I’m talking of course about Wallis Simpson, who on this day in 1936 filed from divorce from her second husband Ernest, setting in motion events that would force England’s King Edward VIII to abdicate the throne.
In 1931, the still married Wallis Simpson was introduced to Edward, at the time the Prince of Wales, by a mutual friend and the two quickly fell for each other. In January 1936, Edward’s father King George V died, making Edward the king. Simpson and Edward’s affair was an open secret by this point, and rumors began to spread that Simpson would soon seek a divorce so she could marry Edward and become queen.
This did not sit well with many Brits for several reasons: For one thing, at the time the Church of England (which the king serves as Supreme Governor of) did not permit the remarriage of divorced people whose former spouses were still alive. Second, many viewed Simpson as a power hungry American who was only interested in Edward for his power and wealth. The Prime Ministers of England, Australia, Canada and South Africa all voiced their opposition to a marriage. By voicing their dissent, they knew that if Edward went through with the marriage, they and their cabinets would have to resign, which would lead to a major constitutional crisis. English PM Stanley Baldwin presented Edward with three options: Give up the idea of marrying Simpson, go through with the marriage against his ministers wishes or step down from the throne. Alas, Edward would not give Simpson up, and so in December 1936 he stepped down from the throne, allowing his younger brother Prince Albert, Duke of York to become the king. The day after the abdication, Albert, now called King George VI, announced that he would give the former king the special title of “His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor.” Edward and Simpson would marry in 1937.
In the years before World War II, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were known to socialize with many prominent Nazis and fascists. In fact, in 1937 the Duke and Duchess even found the time to have tea with Adolph Hitler, who remarked that Simpson “would have made a good Queen.” During the early days of World War II, the Duke and Duchess bounced around Europe, usually staying in the homes of prominent fascists. The Nazis tried to persuade Edward to support their cause, but he refused to do so publicly, although there were reports that Edward had leaked British battle plans to the Axis. Eventually, Winston Churchill got so tired of the Duke and Duchess’ shenanigans that he made Edward the Governor of the Bahamas. Churchill claimed he was doing this so that the two of them would be safe during the war, but really he wanted the two idiots as far away from Europe as possible in order to keep them from causing any more trouble.
So, it’s a very good thing that Edward VIII was forced to abdicate so that he could marry Simpson, because had he not resigned England would have had a Nazi sympathizer on the throne in the lead up to World War II. Since the monarchy was actually relevant, Edward’s pro-appeasement feelings would have greatly hindered any British movement to stop the Nazis. Don’t believe me, why don’t you ask Hitler what he thought about Edward’s abdication: “I am certain through him permanent friendly relations could have been achieved. If he had stayed, everything would have been different. His abdication was a severe loss for us.”
So, today we celebrate the horrible horrible Wallis Simpson’s accidental positive contribution to world history with a Wallis Blue. Simpson was known for wearing a signature shade of dark blue, which came to be known as Wallis Blue, so you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that this is a blue cocktail. This mix of gin, blue curacao and lime juice isn’t the most exciting drink, but it is a solid little cocktail.
- 1 1/2 ounces Gin
- 1 ounce Blue Curacao
- 1 ounce lime juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass whose rim has been rubbed with lime pulp.
Tomorrow: The darkest day in American drinking history.