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Stylish Saga of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Andrea Riseborough as Wallis Simpson and James D'Arcy as King Edward VIII

The last time we saw Wallis Simpson and Kind Edward VIII portrayed in a film was in the wonderful "The King's Speech" last year.  Despite the fact that they were a controversial couple, their romance has caught the popular imagination and many of us are in thrall to the story of King Edward abdicating the throne for the woman he loved. Theirs is one of the most famous love stories of the twentieth century.

"W.E." is the upcoming film directed by Madonna about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  I spotted these incredible photos by Tom Munro, via "Vanity Fair," which give us a sneak peak into what looks to be an exquisitely beautiful period film and costume drama filled with fashionable clothes, jewelry and gorgeous houses and settings.  No matter how people feel about her, Wallis Simpson has become a style icon in the fashion world.

"W.E." focuses on two love stories.  The first is that of Wallis Simpson  (played by Andrea Riseborough) and Britain's King Edward VIII (played by James D'Arcy), who gave up the throne to marry the twice-divorced American.  After Edward abdicated he and Wallis became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  However she was denied the title Her Royal Highness.  The second story is that of a contemporary New Yorker named Wally (Abbie Cornish) who falls for a security guard at Sotheby's and who identifies with that other, most sensational love affair of the 20th century.  For the fashions in the film, costume designer Arianne Phillips worked with such labels as Cartier, Dior, and Dunhill for the film's 60 or so wardrobe changes


Two new biographies on Wallis Simpson have recently been written.  The biographers are taking a new look at her and arguing against many of the popular assumptions about the "American Harlot," as she was known in England.  

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at Ednam Lodge, Sunnydale, in October 1946

Both these books reflect an historical reassessment of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII.  For example, historians are arguing that King Edward never wanted to be the king and asking the question what happens when you get a monarch who is constitutionally incapable of being one?  As I learned from a recent piece on NPR,

"Simpson's rehabilitation may take time.  As recently as 2008, the historical landmark organization English Heritage refused to put one of its famous blue plaques on the London building where she was courted by a king.  Simpson, it said, was unworthy of that kind of recognition."


Fort Belvedere

King Edward VIII was living at the country home Fort Belvedere when he abdicated the throne.  I was lucky enough to visit it last summer as part of the fabulous garden tour I went on in the English countryside.  The gardens at Fort Belvedere were breathtaking.  Though it was hard not to be overwhelmed by the history that took place here.  We saw the room where Kind Edward signed the document proclaiming that he had abdicated the throne.  (We were not allowed to take photos inside the house)  I had the chills.

Fort Belvedere is a country house on Shrubs Hill in Windsor Great Park, England.  It is a former royal residence -- from 1750 to 1976 -- and is most famous for being the home of King Edward VIII.  The property is currently occupied by private tenants, Canadian businessman Galen Weston and his wife Hilary Weston, the former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario.

The gardens at Fort Belvedere were lovely and that's what we were there to see, but I was fascinated by all the history that took place at this residence.

Our group was given a proper English tea on this lovely patio under the trees on the gorgeous grounds of Fort Belvedere.


Now that I know about the new books on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor,  I am looking forward to learning more about these two controversial figures, and perhaps seeing another side of the picture.  They had a huge impact on world history and are the subjects of one of the most famous romances of the twentieth century.  And in the fashion world, the Wallis Simpson buzz is building and it looks as if this will be the year, fashion-wise, of Wallis Simpson.

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