Friday, May 24, 2013


Most of us are very familiar with the story of Edward VIII and Mrs. Simpson - his abdication because as he put it he was not able to carry on without the woman he loved by his side.  Actually, we are just now learning what has been hidden from the public for decades  - Edward had loved several women but none as audacious, clever or glamorous as Marguerite Alibert, often dubbed the highest ranking courtesan in Paris.

As a young man Edward is described as “physically and emotionally a late developer” with “comparatively weak social skills.”  He was small in stature; today he might be described as a nerd.  Evidently, for a few years Edward “remained a he-virgin with no obvious interest in female company.”  That is until he met Marguerite.  Edward was totally smitten and no match for the conniving Marguerite who was more accustomed to accommodating royalty and pashas than an awkward young man.  Abandoned by her parents Marguerite’s early childhood was spent in  state institutions.  Next she was placed in the home of a wealthy Parisian lawyer where she was quick to learn the mode and manners of the well-to-do.  She became pregnant at the age of 16.  It wasn’t long after that she became a prostitute in a fashionable Paris district where she learned much - she polished her manners, her elocution, her dress.  She became the kept mistress for several wealthy benefactors including the Duke of Westminister who introduced her to Edward in 1917.

It  was wartime and while Edward spent much of his time behind the lines in comfortable chateaus, he was now eager to have a French mistress.  Marguerite was a dominatrix, which much suited Edward’s temperament and he wrote her long letters, which in addition to swearing his devotion to her included details about the conduct of the war.  The letters would later haunt him as Marguerite had blackmail in mind but was willing to wait.  When their affair ended Edward thought he would not hear from or about Marguerite again - how wrong he was.

When staying at London’s Savoy Hotel with her Egyptian husband she shot him in the back of the head and claimed self-defense.  She said he attacked her - how one manages to shoot an assailant in the back of the head would be quite a trick, wouldn’t it?

Nonetheless, the royal family worried that should she go to trial Edward risked having their affair and his actions during the war revealed - a disaster!  Marguerite had the damning letters.  To what lengths would the Royal Household go to safekeep the reputation of the Prince of Wales?

Andrew Rose, a historian and barrister in London for twenty years, has done a yeoman’s task in bringing the true story of this royal affair to light.  After so many years The Woman Before Wallis outdoes contemporary scandals.  Needless to say it’s also can’t-put-down reading.

- Gail Cooke

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