June 3, 1937
Château de Candé, France
Do we all know this story? I feel like we all know this story. The surface of it, at least. When they met, she - Mrs. Simpson - was a Baltimore-born socialite who was living in Britain with her second husband; he - the Prince of Wales - was an heir with a penchant for romancing married women. They met courtesy of one of Mrs. Simpson's friends, who also happened to be one of the Prince's mistresses, and despite all raised eyebrows, a romance ensued.
Video: The couple talks about when they metIf anyone thought that he'd come to his senses following his accession as King Edward VIII after the January 1936 death of his father, George V, and do what he was "supposed" to do, well, they were quite wrong. Points against Wallis as Queen piled up left and right: she was American, she was already divorced once and would have to be again (and he was head of the Church of England, which didn't allow divorced people to remarry), she held a noticeable control over the monarch (who already had a history of overstepping his political boundaries), and so on and so on. But the King was more determined than ever that he would marry her, even indicating that he would "go" if needed. When no satisfactory solution was found following her divorce, he did indeed go: in December 1936, he abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis, and his younger brother became King George VI.
Video: The famous abdication speech of Edward VIIIThey married in France the following June, with no members of the royal family present. The ex-king had been titled as His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor; Wallis (who by this time had reverted to her maiden name, Warfield) was denied an HRH styling on marriage. Her distance from the royal family was emphasized by her clothes and jewels, which were purposefully the antithesis of the frilly concoctions and traditional styles worn by the new Queen Elizabeth. The wedding ensemble is a prime example: it is perfectly appropriate for a third wedding, but perfectly not what other royal wedding gowns of the time were.
|The dress, as worn and in its current faded color|
|The two bracelets worn on the wedding day|
But back to the sartorial point...
Is this wedding dress an all-time classic?
Photos: Hulton/Cecil Beaton/Metropolitan Museum of Art/Van Cleef & Arpels/Sotheby's