Below is an excerpt from “The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor” by Victoria Martínez. The title of each of the eight chapters is part of a quote that not only nicely sums up the subject of the chapter, but also casts light on the way The Duke and Duchess have been perceived throughout history. The following is the first part of the chapter entitled Frequent Kicks and Blows, which is from a quote from “The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson” by Greg King, who wrote the foreword to “The Royal W.E.”
I may not be a fan, but I will readily concede that Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s lot is not an easy one. Like most partners of royalty, everyone who has an opinion considers her fair game, and she has been constantly placed under the microscope by the media machine and public opinion. But, unlike most partners of royalty who frequently have the advantage of entering the relationship with a clean slate, the nature of Camilla’s long relationship with Charles and her role as the third person in the “love triangle” that was the Wales’ marriage have made her the object of scorn and dislike almost since the moment she publicly entered the picture. To add insult to injury, she’s never been the most aesthetically pleasing person, especially in a direct comparison to Diana, who (as we all undoubtedly remember) called her nemesis “the Rottweiler.”
In short, as a controversial public figure, Camilla not only has little chance of ever being judged by the standards of a private figure, but will probably never find that anything said about her is taken with a grain of salt. Every tidbit of information – whether founded in fact or fiction – will be considered, evaluated, perpetuated… all to the point of creating a figure that is a caricature of the actual person. Her simple virtues extolled, her shortcomings exaggerated. The testimonials of her dearest friends snickered at, the rantings of her personal enemies rapaciously consumed. Not a fate most of us would choose for ourselves.
But if Camilla requires any comfort, she need only look to the Duchess of Windsor. At first glance, it’s quite easy to draw superficial or critical parallels between the two women. Superficially, both women were at one time mistresses of a Prince of Wales, divorced women perceived as home wreckers, and widely viewed as unattractive. More critically, both women exceeded the limits of a “socially acceptable” mistress and provoked fear that “such a woman” could be so dangerously close to the Crown or, for that matter, possibly even covet the position of queen consort for herself. Fortunately for Camilla, most views of her rarely stray from these relatively mild accusations.
The Duchess of Windsor was not so lucky. In a time when the propriety of a woman could be put into question simply by an unchaperoned encounter with a man who was not her husband or immediate male relative, Wallis Simpson was seen as the worst of all kind of women, an “adventuress.” Not only that, she was a divorced American adventuress who had designs on the popular and charming Prince of Wales. Naturally, it was Wallis, not Edward VIII, who took the fall when he abdicated in 1936. And things only got worse for her after that.
What surprises me is that, despite all the information we now have access to, the Duchess of Windsor is still vilified as the ugly American divorcée whose designs to be queen consort led to the downfall of a once-promising British prince. As if that weren’t enough, she’s accused of having been a dominatrix, a hermaphrodite and a Nazi sympathizer. Did I mention that Camilla has it easy? And while Camilla has had the benefit of excellent spin-doctors and a camp of loyal supporters, Wallis had little support in her corner of the ring. In fact, she had quite the opposite, as everyone needed a scapegoat for the abdication and no one wanted that scapegoat to be a member of the Royal Family.
To be sure, plenty of mud has been slung over the years regarding the Duke of Windsor, although, amazingly, it has done little to reverse the negative perception of the Duchess. Almost everything that was said of her beginning in 1936 still comprises the bulk of general knowledge about her. Except among a small group of her supporters, she is still the unworthy woman who seduced King Edward VIII away from his duty, while he is the man who gave it all up for love. An anonymous letter sent to a friend of Wallis in 1937 very effectively sums it up: “Edward VIII is regarded as the victim of a bold, domineering adventuress, a woman without heart, scruples or principles, whose scandalous efforts to gain the title of ‘Queen of England’ jeopardised the very existence of the British monarchy.” Personally, it has always been my belief that this type of theory is too simple and one-sided to believe and, accordingly, the subject has always been one of my favorites where royalty is concerned.
To read the rest of Frequent Kicks and Blows, download a copy of “The Royal W.E. Unique Glimpses of The Duke and Duchess of Windsor” by Victoria Martínez, available for Kindle, Nook and other eReaders, as well as in PDF form, at the following links (you don’t even need an eReader since Kindle and Nook can be downloaded on most devices for free).