TIME People

The Not-So-Romantic Story of the First-Ever Woman of the Year

edward's abdication
From the Dec. 21, 1936, issue of TIME TIME

Dec. 11, 1936: King Edward VIII abdicates the throne to marry an American divorcee

The most famous love story ever to scandalize the British Monarchy was, in the end, perhaps not quite as romantic as it seemed. Still, no one could deny the sacrifice King Edward VIII made on this day, Dec. 11, in 1936, when he announced to England that he had abdicated the throne to follow his heart.

“You must believe me when I tell you that 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 told his subjects in a radio address the day he became the first monarch in British history to give up the crown voluntarily. (As head of the Church of England, he wouldn’t have been able to marry a woman who was, as TIME phrased it, “a lady with a past.”)

He was demoted to Duke of Windsor and fled Britain almost immediately to join the woman he loved — Wallis Simpson, or “that woman” to Royal Family relatives who scorned the twice-divorced American — in an unofficial exile in France.

But as a romantic gesture, abdication was a tough act to follow.

The shine may have worn off after the couple settled into a quiet daily life away from the pomp and responsibilities of nation-ruling. Or it may have worn off before that: Even while Britain was in uproar over the King’s choice of consort, Simpson told Edward she wanted out. He persuaded her to stay with him.

By some accounts, he did so by threatening to kill himself if she left — then shaming her into marriage by naming her as the reason for his abdication. In That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, Anne Sebba makes the case that Simpson was still in love with her second husband, whom she had never intended to leave for the King. And she was made miserable by the hostility of the British royal subjects, who wrote mounds of threatening letters and called her “a prostitute, a Yankee harlot, and worse,” according to Sebba.

It wasn’t all bad press, however. While TIME calls Simpson a “citrus-tongued siren” in her 1986 obituary, it also notes that she was “fawned over by fashion designers for her ‘perfect elegance.’ ” And TIME named her the “Woman of the Year” for 1936 based partly on her notoriety, making her the woman in the history of the magazine’s Man of the Year franchise. As the story explained:

In the single year 1936 she became the most-talked-about, written-about, headlined and interest-compelling person in the world. In these respects no woman in history has ever equaled Mrs. Simpson, for no press or radio existed to spread the world news they made.

One can only imagine how much more interest she would have compelled — or how many more sordid details of her messy royal affair would have emerged — in the digital age.

Read TIME’s original coverage of the abdication, here in the archives: Prince Edward

TIME

Helen Mirren’s Coming to Broadway as Queen Elizabeth II

Young People And The Performing Arts - reception
Queen Elizabeth II meets with Dame Helen Mirren (R) at a performing Arts reception at Buckingham Palace on May 9, 2011 in London, England. Dominic Lipinski — WPA Pool/Getty Images

Elizabeth II, Round III

Helen Mirren will grace Broadway with her third portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, after filling seats and bagging awards from her previous performances in the movie The Queen and the London play The Audience.

Her majesty’s traveling road show will come to New York on February 17 of next year, where Mirren will reprise her award-winning performance in the London production of the The Audience, the Wall Street Journal reports. The play re-imagines private meetings between the queen (the real one, not Mirren) and 12 prime ministers over the course of her 60-year reign.

Mirren won an Olivier Award for her sold out performances in London as well as an Oscar for her performance in The Queen.

[WSJ]

MONEY First-Time Dad

The One Thing Prince George Won’t Get for His Birthday

Britain's Prince George is seen ahead of his first birthday
At just 1 year old, Britain's Prince George is still too young to know just how different he is from other tykes. John Stillwell—Reuters

Despite limitless funds, castles, and loving parents, Prince George will never own this one thing.

Today Prince George, the first son of Prince William and Kate Middleton, turns 1 year old. By all accounts his first birthday party will be tasteful and reserved for a select group of friends and family. The pomp quotient will be at a minimum.

Of course, when your great grandmother is the Queen of England, your dad is a prince, and you are third in line to become the king, the term “friends and family” takes on new meaning. Likewise, a small get-together at the house is something else altogether when that house is a 20-room apartment.

My son, whom I write about in this space most Mondays, is not the third in line to become the King of England, and isn’t currently the prince of anything. (Don’t tell his mother.) While Luke is only narrowing in on the second half of his first year, it is difficult not to feel a touch of parental inadequacy when you compare yourself to royalty.

For instance, we don’t have $41 million to bestow upon Luke. Nor can the Family Tepper abscond from muggy New York City to New Zealand and Australia for a summer vacation—although we did trek down to St. Petersburg, Fla. Luke will never be named the “World’s Most Eligible Infant,” despite his killer combination of Byronic looks and joie de vivre (at least in this journalist’s unbiased opinion). And that’s because he’s the child of relatively ordinary parents.

Yes, there is a whole stratum of experiences forever beyond Luke’s grasp because he wasn’t born into higher stock.

At the same time, though, there is one thing that we can give Luke that no royals can give their offspring. He will, by and large, live a normal life. And Prince George will not. Which is unfortunate.

With the castles and private jets and rapacious attention of an unrelenting populace comes a responsibility to become a symbol of, well, something. (I’m American and don’t understand the particular psychology of fetishizing kings and queens and princes.) When every move is studied and photographed and judged and written about, I imagine it would be hard to have a childhood.

The other day Luke and I went to the park. We were surrounded by lots of other families, and we took our place in an open spot in the shade. Luke spent the half hour seated upright, pulling up blades of grass and then toppling over. Our dachshund sat nearby, so when Luke was done with the grass he pet our dog for the first time. I took a picture of the scene and sent it to my wife.

That is where the picture stayed (unless, of course, I chose to use it for this column). The only people who will care that Luke has taken his first steps are his family, not the entire English-speaking world.

While we will never be able to give Luke a palace, we can at least give him that.

Taylor Tepper is a reporter at Money. His column on being a new dad, a millennial, and (pretty) broke appears weekly.

More First-Time Dad:

TIME royals

Prince George Lands Vanity Fair Cover

Prince George on Vanity Fair
BY MARK STEWART/CAMERA PRESS/REDUX

Everything you need to know about the royal toddler's first year

At just shy of a year old, Prince George has snagged his very own Vanity Fair cover. The magazine’s August 2014 issue is filled with all the juicy details about the royal’s first year, including tidbits from “palace insiders” about George’s celebrity status, sleep schedule, “permanently hungry” beginnings, colic and more.

On July 22, it will have been a full year since the world spent an entire day constantly refreshing this page while waiting on Royal Baby updates. In that time, as Vanity Fair’s Katie Nicholl reports, much has happened to little George Alexander Louis. He has moved on to solid foods, received a new nanny and enjoyed endless attention from the public as he toured New Zealand and Australia with his famous parents.

TIME Royalty

Queen Elizabeth II Eyes Iron Throne on Game of Thrones Set

Britain's Queen Elizabeth looks at the Iron Throne as she meets members of the cast on the set of the television show Game of Thrones in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 24, 2014.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth looks at the Iron Throne as she meets members of the cast on the set of the television show Game of Thrones in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland, June 24, 2014. Phil Noble—Reuters

Though she prefers a corgi to a direwolf

There’s a lot of royalty in Game of Throne’s Seven Kingdoms, but a real life queen — with impressive longevity compared to the monarchs in George R.R. Martin’s books — visited the set of the HBO hit series Tuesday.

Queen Elizabeth II went to Ireland to see the Belfast set and meet with cast members and show creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

While the 88-year-old queen, who prefers corgis to direwolves, stopped to admire props, CBS reports that she politely declined to sit on the sword-covered Iron Throne. She’s got one of her own at home:

BRITAIN-ROYALS-POLITICS
Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (L) delivers the Queen’s Speech from the Throne in the House of Lords next to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (R) during the State Opening of Parliament CARL COURT—AFP/Getty Images

[CBS]

TIME royals

The Guy Who Married Kate Middleton Turns 32

Prince William may be second in line to the British throne, but he often takes a backseat to his better half. So in honor of his birthday, here's a look back at his life from his childhood with Princess Diana to his debut as a young dad

TIME Royalty

Finding Prince Charming: When Commoners Marry Royalty

After Felipe VI was enthroned on June 19, succeeding his father, media outlets began to frantically compare Kate Middleton, the next Queen of England, with Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, Spain’s next queen, in a bid to determine who is Europe’s most attractive royal. Their looks aside, what both women have in common is that they’re, well, common. Though their stories might seem unique, they’re not the first commoners to find Prince Charming. In this gallery we take a look at other, ordinary women who married into European royalty.

MONEY Saving

Cheapskate of the Downton Abbey Scene: British Baroness’s Frugal Living Guide

140613_EM_Baroness_1
Downtown Abbey ©Carnival Film and Television Limited —©Carnival Film and Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Yes, even wealthy aristocrats can be total cheapskates. And proud of it!

The July 2014 issue of the British society magazine Tatler has several interesting reads aimed at the upper crust. The articles carry such provocative titles as “Would You Take Your Son to a Prostitute? The Ins-and-Outs of Upper-Class Sex Education” and “How the Middle Classes Ruined Everything.”

Another story also seems to have the aristocratic set in mind, yet it’s getting quite a lot of attention from us schlubs who ruined everything. “How to Run a Stately Home on a Budget” is essentially a frugal living guide from Baroness Rawlings, the 75-year-old owner of a 13-bedroom, 38-acre country estate in Norfolk, currently on the market for around $10.5 million. The baroness’s money-saving tips, which include reusing everything from napkins to bread crust to newspaper and never throwing anything away, have been featured in a host of British publications, including The Telegraph, Express, and Daily Mail.

Lady Rawlings is a strong proponent of growing one’s own fruit, bargain hunting at auctions and on eBay, and leaving warm water in the tub after bathing (it will warm the room at no extra charge). She also takes issue with the common practice of throwing away “horrid little bars” of soap after they’ve been used by guests. “I give my guests a fresh bar,” she said. “But I reuse it afterwards. And it ends up in drawers and cupboards to keep moths away.”

While it may make news that someone so wealthy is simultaneously so frugal, Lady Rawlings is hardly the only person of means to be an unabashed tightwad. Fellow countrywoman the Queen Mother was supposedly too cheap to buy a TV for her Scottish castle, and she refused to replace raincoats that were nearly 30 years old. The frugal tendencies of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles have also occasionally been on display, especially during the tough recession years, when buffets replaced banquets (the horror!).

Some of America’s super rich are also renowned for their penny-pinching habits—most famously, Warren Buffett, who lives a unfancy life in Omaha, Neb., in the home he bought in 1958 for $31,500. This is the man who is CEO of the fourth-ranking company on the Fortune 500. Dick Yuengling, Jr., the owner of Yuengling, the oldest American-owned brewer, is another very wealthy character who refuses to give up his cheapskate ways; he’s been known to drive a 2002 Taurus (bought used) and reuse Styrofoam cups.

The author Thomas J. Stanley has long chronicled the habits of the wealthy, and while the huddled masses may assume rich folks live wildly extravagant, spend-spend-spend lives, the truth is often just the opposite. In one of his surveys from a few years ago, Stanley found out that 75% of millionaires pay less than $20 for a bottle of wine, and 4 in 10 prefer wine that’s $10 or under.

Other studies have found that affluent people tend to use coupons more than those in poverty, and that rich people don’t buy on impulse and prefer quality over prestige in products, among other somewhat surprising habits.

But should these frugal, value-oriented habits really come as a surprise? A prudent, disciplined, savvy approach likely helped these well-off individuals gain their wealth. And without a prudent, disciplined, savvy approach to spending, even the richest folks out there could cease being rich. At some point.

TIME Bizarre

Watch: Page Boy Faints During Queen of England’s Speech

It appears he didn't approve of Her Majesty's tone

A page boy for the Queen of England fainted during a speech Wednesday at the State Opening of Parliament in the Palace of Westminster in London.

In this video of the Queen’s 10-minute speech, a loud thud can be heard at approximately eight seconds in.

Yep, that’s the sound of the young attendant fainting and hitting the ground moments after the Queen told the audience the British government would work towards a “comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran.” Perhaps he found the government’s policy toward Iran so objectionable he lost consciousness?

The three page boys left standing assisted the Queen as she left the House of Lords after completing the speech, ITV reports.

[ITV News]

 

TIME Television

The True Story Behind Downton Abbey’s Scandalous Royal Love Letter

Edward VIII
King Edward VIII in March 1936, at the microphone as he makes his Accession broadcast to the Empire Popperfoto/Getty Images

Lady Mary is fictional, but the future King's missives to Freda Dudley Ward aren't

Warning: minor spoilers for the Season 4 finale of Downton Abbey

As Season 4 drew to a close, Downton Abbey continued its grand tradition of having its fictional characters run into real history. In this case, that history involved the very highest level of English society: the royal family.

(MORE: Catch up with TIME’s recap of the Downton Abbey season finale)

On the show, Lady Rose has the opportunity to rub elbows with the Prince of Wales — the future King Edward VIII, who eventually came to the throne in 1936 — and his lover, Mrs. Freda Dudley Ward. The story’s main arc is set into motion when a letter from the Prince to Freda is stolen by a no-good card sharp hanging around the Crawleys. If he leaks the letter to the international press, it could cause a scandal, which sends Rose and Robert into detective mode.

As it turns out, there was correspondence between the Prince and Freda — as described in the book Letters from a Prince: Edward, Prince of Wales, to Mrs. Freda Dudley Ward. The socialite daughter of a rich businessman, she was already married when she met the Prince, but her marriage wasn’t in good shape. In 1918, the Prince began to send her the first of what would be many letters.

Though their romance ended abruptly in 1934 when the Prince began his relationship with Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom he would eventually give up the throne, the Prince of Wales didn’t exactly hide his feelings. Take, for example, one missive from June of 1919: “Darling darling beloved little Fredie,” he begins, “This is only just a teeny weeny little scrawl to catch the last post sweetheart and to tell you how fearfully madly I’m loving you this afternoon angel and looking forward to 4:30 tomorrow. Although I only said all this about 12 hrs ago I can’t help saying it all again this afternoon only I mean it even more sweetheart!!”

His affections are certainly potent. The letters also make clear the weakness of his knowledge of comma-usage standards (and his occasional tendency to refer to himself in the third person, which, ick) — but that didn’t diminish their value. Far from it: in 2003, more than 300 of those letters were offered at auction with an estimated value of up to $150,000; another single letter, sold last November, fetched a value worth more than $8,000.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser