Sunday, April 5, 2015

Queen Esther of Persia....Beautiful & Brave, Believing



In about the year 477 B.C......a beautiful, young girl was living with her Uncle Mordecai. He had taken her as his very own daughter when her mother and father had died. The household was not wealthy. They lived as their neighbors did...working, cooking and taking care of their daily rituals. In the land of Persia---Esther, whose name means "Star" and her uncle---- were not Persian. They were Jewish, as were many others. What they did not know was that a battle was beginning to brew in the exquisite Palace of King Ahasuerus who ruled the land.

The King planned a great feast to be given in his court. Most of it would take place in the gardens of the Kings Palace. Preparations were made among the court. The couches were made of gold and silver. There were curtains in the rooms---blue and white---made of the finest linens which hung on silver rods. The floors were made of a mixture or mosaic of white and black marble, turquoise and alabaster. Imagine that floor. Many would be invited, some say thousands, from many provinces. Kingdom officials were invited, and others---from great to small.

The King was exceedingly rich. Let's just take the cups that the guests would drink out of....they were all made of gold. And not only that...each one was a different shape! I don't know of any Kingdom court today to display such opulence.  Queen Elizabeth of England invites many to her magnificent dinners and they are brilliant, but I daresay they cannot compare to this feast. There was wine offered, as much as a person wanted, but the King did not demand anyone to drink it. Surely there were tables upon tables laden with meats, fruits and pastries of the finest kind. This feast went on for some time. The cooks were very busy.

The King's Queen---Vashti---was holding her own feast at the same time. It appears to have been very enjoyable. On the 7th day of the feast, the King asked his eunuchs---they were men who had their manhood removed and served him ---to summon his beautiful Queen to come to him. He wanted her beauty to be seen by all, as he was very proud of her.

Yet Vashti did not appear. Why? I really don't know. It might have been that the men were a bit too merry after drinking their wine. Maybe she didn't want to be paraded around hundreds or even thousands of people---to be gawked at---in her opinion. Or rather, perhaps she was content staying in her own chambers enjoying her own feast. Maybe she felt she was too important to simply be commanded.

When the King was told that she refused his command to come to him, he was FURIOUS. It is said that his anger burned within him. He summoned his wise men to come to him. These would have been some of the Princes of Persia and other important men of his Kingdom. They discussed the wrong that the Queen had committed and how this should be handled. The men said, "For the Queen's behavior will become known to all women, so that they will despise their husbands in their eyes, when they report, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she did not come.'

In those days, the husband was the master. In the quiet of each home, did each wife obey every command of her husband? ...Maybe so, maybe not.  But still, eventually, word of Queens Vashti's disobedience would be known to all. It might take weeks or months, but everyone would hear about it. She had defied her King and her husband and this could not stand. This could not be tolerated. They said that the noble ladies would hear of her behavior and there would be excessive contempt and wrath.

As I write this, I really feel for the King and his embarrassment. I'm sure he was greatly hurt by the woman he had made his Queen. Also, I feel a bit sad for Vashti, for she did not know what lay ahead as she enjoyed her feast. Basically, as they say today, she was clueless.

It was finally decided that a decree be written by the King, that the Queen would no longer come to him, saying that Vashti's royal position be given to another who was better than she. And they felt that once the decree was pronounced throughout the Kingdom (a great empire) that wives would  honor their husbands, both great and small. This pleased the King and the Princes and letters were sent to every province, each in its own script and language, so that each man would be master in his own home. 

We can only imagine what Vashti felt when she received this news. She must have left in disgrace, shocked. Do I feel sorry for her? Not really. Do you?

After a time, the Kings wrath subsided and he remembered what his Queen  had done and what he had decreed against her.  Even though his wrath had subsided, things must have seemed amiss. He had lost his wife, he had suffered an injustice. I'm sure as a man he mourned for what he thought should have been. It's a painful thing to live through. But, good news came that cheered the King. His attendants said, "Let beautiful, young virgins be sought for the King."

What was suggested was this.... that the King appoint officers in all the provinces of his Kingdom, that they may gather all the beautiful young virgins....they would be brought to "Shushan the Citadel" (my emphasis) ---the women's quarters. A man named Hegai, the Kings eunuch, would be custodian of the women there and the beauty preparations would begin there.

"Let the young woman who pleases the King be Queen instead of Vashti." And this pleased the King. And he allowed it. I tend to think it made him happy---to know that eventually he would be able to choose a new Queen.

Mordecai, Esther's uncle happened to be at Shushan the Citadel and knew what was happening. It's only natural that he thought of his niece, who in his opinion was lovely and beautiful and a virgin. He made it his mission to get Esther into this exclusive "program". We don't know what Esther herself really thought about it, but she obeyed her uncle. It must have felt strange as she traveled there and wondered what was ahead of her. Would they even allow her to enter?

Why did her uncle feel this need, this calling, to get her there?

Many beautiful women were already at Shushan, being taken care of by Hegai. When Hegai saw Esther, she obtained his favor and he was eager to give her beauty preparations, well beyond what the other women were getting. And not only that, Hegai chose seven maidservants just for her. And not only that, Hegai moved her to one of the best places where they women stayed. 


Why did Hegai show her this kind of favor?  She was not the only beautiful and lovely women there. It may have been her sweet countenance, it may have been a feeling he had about her. Esther must have been overwhelmed. She had never resided in such a splendid place. She wasn't used to it. She had never seen beauty preparations, yet she had more than the other women. She had worked at home---cooking, baking, cleaning, sewing----but here she was attended by not one, but seven maidservants. It must have been overwhelming in a great way, but also a bit scary. What was she in for? How many months or years would she have to prepare for the day where she would get a chance to meet the King? And, what if the King did not choose her? What would life be like again....to go back, after living in a place such as this?

And, if chosen, Esther must have wondered if she would be up to the task of being Queen...and personally, did she want to be chosen?

She was living in Persia, but she was not Persian, she was Jewish. But her uncle had told her to keep silent about that. And so, she did. She would not break her promise. 

Esther began her beautification process. There would be six months using oil of myrrh---(very expensive, a restorative oil, regarded as good as gold)---and then six months with other perfumes and other beautifying preparations.

Her devoted uncle paced each day, in the court outside of the building where his niece stayed, wondering about her welfare, eager to hear of news of how and what she was doing. Could Esther see him out there, pacing? Did she know how cherished she was? I'm sure she did. She must have spent time in prayer, contemplating her purpose and her future. She must have missed him greatly. 


When each woman had finished her 12 months of preparations, arrangements were made to be received and presented to the King. The women were allowed to bring anything with them when they met the King. In the evening they would meet him and then in the morning return to a second house. She would stay there unless the King delighted in her and specifically called for her by name. I don't know how many women went in before Esther. It may have been twenty women, perhaps over one hundred.

Finally, it was her turn. She asked to bring nothing with her, except what Hegai recommended. Esther was taken to the Kings Palace. As she walked the lengths of the halls, was she fearful? Did she feel beautiful? How many exquisite beauties had he seen already? Surely, there were many more beautiful than she.....But this was it, her one and only chance. Esther could only be herself. She entered the Palace in the 7th year of his reign.





No one knows what happened between them during this meeting, what their conversations were or exactly what she wore. But we do know one thing. The King picked up the royal crown at some point during their hours together and placed it on the top of her head. She would be his Queen. She had attained grace and favor in his sight and it is said he loved her more than all the other women. He said he loved her. This is quite amazing! What did he see in her? Was it just her incredible beauty, or did he also feel peaceful in her presence?  Wouldn't it have been safer or better to see her several times over a period of days? Perhaps send her to the second house, and then call her by name, and receive her for another visit, and another visit, and then, give her the crown when he was very certain? After what happened with Queen Vashti, he had to be careful. Yet, evidently, he loved her immediately and knew he must have her. He was certain.

He would have her. Esther was to become a Queen.

But this is far from the end of the story. Yes, she was beautiful, but that's not what made her great, and it's not why she is remembered. I hope you'll enjoy the next part of her story, to be posted soon. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Queen

I originally wrote this back in 2007. But I cannot get into my original Blog, Writer of Queens.  So I began a new one---The Writer of Queens.  Of course you can go back to the old link....

 http://www.writerofqueens.blogspot.com/

..... The new blog is still a work in progress, I have much to do. I started the new one back in about 2006.  But its okay, there's some reason I am supposed to begin a new blog....a new season...for us all. 

It will take some time to recapture all the lovely pictures of the royals, princesses and their homes and palaces.... but, that's ok... I have some new surprises in mind for my readers. I just have to figure out the best way to promote the new blog. I never promoted the old one, it just took off.

So I hope you enjoy this, composed 9 years ago...

A Day in the Life...




Have you ever wondered what it would be like to spend a day in the life of a Queen? Or a princess? I have. I'm sure you're not surprised at that! But...let's sort of follow her around for a day...and kind of hang out. Of course, the kind of day she'd have would vary from country to country and from decade to decade. And then again, there are Queens in their own right, and Queen Consorts, which are Queens that are married to a reigning King. A Queen in her own right might be Maria Theresa of Austria--the mother of Marie Antoinette. She reigned and worked. A consort would be a Queen such as Queen Charlotte, who married the reigning monarch Mad King George.
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The Queen might be awakened by a maid or lady in waiting, and served a tray of tea or coffee, perhaps with fruit, and she might sit up and read the papers. The drapes would be opened, and after a time, her clothes for the day would be brought in (or a selection of clothes). If she was staying in the palace for the day, and no visitors were coming, she might slip into a pretty dress, but nothing too formal. She would be assisted in her dressing by a maid. The Queen would also sit down at her dressing table and would begin her toilette, which we would call 'putting on our face.' The Queen would be assisted with any makeup she might wear and her hair would be done for her. Hair ornaments would also be added, and a few jewels...perhaps a necklace and earrings.
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After that, she would be accompanied by a lady in waiting to the dining room for breakfast. Oh, did you think the coffee and fruit was breakfast? Oh, no. The King might accompany her as well. A footman would open the dining room door for her, and another uniformed footman would pull out her chair. If she had children and they were old enough they might join their parents for breakfast, and sometimes a senior lady in waiting would be invited to stay to dine. If there was a private secretary and a royal doctor, they also might be invited. It varied day to day.
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After a leisurely breakfast, the Queen would return back to her sitting room or office and begin her work. If she was a reigning Queen, she would be assisted by her personal secretary and usually her senior lady in waiting...
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As far as ladies are concerned, all ladies that assisted the queen were called "Ladies in Waiting" although there was a hierarchy of ladies. The senior one might be called "A Mistress of the Robes" and the next senior might be "Lady of the Bedchamber." Then there were assistant ladies of the bedchamber, maids of honor, etc. The senior lady in waiting would see that the Queens wishes were taken care of. If the Queen needed to appoint a lady in waiting, the Mistress of the Robes would send the letter to the lady in question. She would handle the matter and let the Queen know the details. The Mistress of the Robes acted as sort of a secretary. If the Queen wanted to see someone in the palace, a senior lady would tell a lesser ranking lady, and the person would be fetched. Also, ladies worked for a month or two at a time, and then returned to their families. At any given time there was usually between 4 to 8 ladies at court. Some kept the Queen company, and might read with her, and often the ladies chosen were noble ladies, such as Duchesses or Countesses...or women who were used to court life. It was also a plus is they could paint or draw, ride, sing, play an instrument or speak a second language.
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During her morning she would sign official documents, read important news and letters, dictate or write responses, and sometimes receive visitors. Her private secretary would give her the work in order of it's importance and usually had comments of his own to clarify the situation for her. Sometimes he might make suggestions.
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After a long morning of work, it would be time for luncheon. Again, she would be accompanied to the dining room, or if it was nice weather lunch might be laid out on a private terrace. One or two of the Queens ladies would eat with her--after all--they were there to keep her company. Luncheon wasn't usually too heavy. In the royal household, though, every meal was served on fine plates and the food arranged beautifully.
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After eating, the Queen might be ready for a break. She might wish to take the air. (That's what they called sitting outside or taking a carriage ride throughout the grounds). Fresh air and light exercise were always recommended. If the weather wasn't fair, she would retire again to her sitting room area, and perhaps read her personal correspondence...the royals were very fond of letter writing. They couldn't be too familiar with many and so it meant a lot to them to commit their feelings to paper and send them off by a special courier to their relatives. Some couriers regularly went to other countries and some delivered the royal letters to recipients inside the country. She might do some needlepoint, drawing or read by the fireplace. Sometimes in the afternoon they were visited informally, or they received visitors formally. There might be a meeting arranged, or even an afternoon drawing room. Lucky for today, the Queen has none of those!
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Before dinner, there would always be some time to rest. The Queen might be visited by some of her children or her husband...or sometimes lie down on her chaise. A lady in waiting might read to her, or the Queen might want quiet time. While she enjoyed some quiet time, the servants were busy getting things ready for...dinner.
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Her evening dresses would be brought into her dressing area for her to look at. At the appropriate time, she would go to her dressing table and begin her toilette again. Her toilette would be different for dinner. Her hair might be piled high on her head, letting tendrils fall, and jewels might be added to her hair, and for larger dinners with many guests a tiara would be chosen. (And tiara's do hurt, ladies!) The Queen might do some adjusting here and there...but her lady would do her hair and jewels. Then she would be helped into the dress most appropriate, which was usually a formal one with much lace, ruffles or beading, made of the finest fabric. (All her clothes were made just for her, and hand stitched.)r
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For all intents and purposes, we'll say that tonight will be a small dinner...just family and a few quests. The more senior servants would join them, and so their party might consist of 10 or 12 people. The King and Queen...or the Queen and her consort would assemble outside the dining room, and the family, guests and servants would line up according to precedence. Once assembled, the door would be opened and they would take their appropriate places, according to rank and precedence. If it was a larger dinner, some guests might already be seated.
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Courses were many. Candelabras were lit, and fine china was laid out. Tables were adorned with flowers and sometimes menu's. It would be appropriate to talk to the guest on your left and your right, giving equal time to each. Dinners were formal, and etiquette was stiff. Footman usually watched the Monarch, and once he or she was done with a course, they would begin taking away the dishes...to the dismay of some. If the Monarch was a fast eater--and some were--you were out of luck, and so you learned to eat fast!
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After dinner amusements were just as stiff as dinner. Guests would retire to the drawing room for cards, games and conversation. The Queen would mingle throughout the room, making sure she spoke to each person for a short bit...and she would speak to them first. Talk about the weather or riding or a person's general health were proper topics. A guest would never say, "I heard you had terrible stomach pains the other day. How do you feel?" That would be quite improper. They might say something like this: "I had heard Your Majesty was feeling indisposed earlier this week. I do hope you are recovered." And even that would be a bit too familiar! Only those close to her would say something like that. So, conversation was generic and polite.
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Sometimes there might be a band and dancing at the palace, depending on the amount of visitors that evening. On other nights, there might be a performance by a singer, or a concert or play given. They also attended the opera on some nights. They did have balls and grand balls, too...but for tonight we'll keep them close to 'home'.
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If the Queen was having a wonderful, gay time, she might be inclined to stay up later than usual. No matter how tired the guests were--and the Ladies in Waiting--they would not retire until she did. Once the Queen (and her husband) left, often there would be sighs of relief, and guests would plop down on a couch or chair, tired, with painful feet! Being invited to dine with the Crown was an honor indeed...however, because there were such firm rules of etiquette, it could be quite grating on the nerves! Guests were known sometimes to slip away into another room to sit down for a bit! Remember if the Queen stood, so did everyone else. If the Queen was sitting, the others could too. Some courts were stiff and boring and long...others were more relaxed and gay.
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Back in her bedchamber, she would be assisted with undressing and her dresser would take care of putting her precious jewels back in their safe place. Her hair might be brushed, too. If she was keyed up and not tired, she might want to read for awhile or ask a lady to read to her. Sometimes the Queen might pen a letter or write in her journal, or dictate a letter to her lady. A fire would be lit, too, to keep the Queen warm during the night.

Alone in her bed (with fluffy pillows and thick quilts) the Queen would blow out her candle at the bedside and lay down. Invariably, she would think about the day past, and more importantly, the day ahead. Nothing was left to chance. Each day and week and month were planned in advance and rarely was there anything spontaneous on the menu. The Queen might be excited about the next day...perhaps they would be traveling to a favorite vacation home. Or maybe it was something more tedious....like a levee or drawing room or even a ball! Some of these things could be trying. The Queen would have to stand on her feet for a long period of time, or, shake a thousand hands easily. But, everyday was something different.
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Hopefully, the Queen would have sweet dreams and be looking forward to something the next day! She is Queen after all, and so she shall make sure it is so! She will decree it! Her eyes would get heavy and she would relax. Sleep would come soon.

And YOU! You're only a visitor who's been graciously allowed a peek into her day! So, I think it's time to leave the Queen's bedchamber now!........Quietly, please......


All she wanted was to be a mother



Imagine being engaged, promised or betrothed to be married at 10 years old? And then being married at 14 years old, to another teenager, who happened to be the heir to the French Throne. That's what happened to Anne of Austria.
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On November 25, 1615, the teenagers, both royals, married. Anne was then the wife of Louis XIII. They say that the couple consummated the marriage quickly. But, for a variety of reasons it appears there was long stretches of time that the royal couple were not intimate. Could it be that Louis was unkind to Anne? Perhaps Anne missed her homeland and her family.
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During the 1620's, there were rumours of pregnancies. A pregnancy was a must for the Bourbon Line. The couple must have a male child. It's recorded that Louis himself told an ambassador that his Queen had four miscarriages. In thinking about this young girl, fair, with a sweet smile.. about 20 years old, I feel for her. Not being able to get pregnant is enough to throw the strongest of women into a depression. If you add in the possibility of more than one miscarriage, how tragic for this Spanish Princess. What pain she endured. She must have wondered why she couldn't conceive or carry a child. At times she must have feared being sent back to her homeland. If Louis had wanted to...well, he could have acted to have the marriage annulled.
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Louis's younger brother wasn't loosing sleep over Queen Anne's infertility. If she didn't produce an heir, he was next in line to inherit the French crown. The Queen's marriage wasn't hostile, but it definitely wasn't pleasant. That we know. Anne traveled to the different royal residences, prayed, enjoyed the theater very much---she prayed more---and she enjoyed eating. And she loved sweets. Sounds like us, don't you think?
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She wasn't the most popular Queen and she knew it. She continued to pray about her infertility. and it wasn't only Anne that prayed. Many of the religious of her day prayed for her. While the faithful prayed, there was scandal, gossip and Anne was even suspected of conspiracies against her husband. None of this could have been easy for her. To make things worse, she had been married now 20 years---yes, 20 years--and still there was no child. You have to imagine that in her heart of hearts, Anne was near to giving up. She was in her thirties. It would be rare to become pregnant at that age. In the 1600's, she was considered old. Her marital relationship wasn't the best as we know and obviously that brings its own problems. And even somehow, if there was some miracle...would she have a boy? And if she did have a boy, would he even live? Child mortality rates were very low.
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November and December of 1637 were interesting for several reasons. In December, we know that the royal couple spent at least one night together under the same roof due to an unexpected storm. (Surely there were more as well.) And in November, a monk in Paris claims to have had a vision. He claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to him, telling him that the Queen would indeed become pregnant and that he should inform her of this. The monk sent word to the couple.
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When Brother Fiacre, the monk, finally met personally with the King and Queen several months later, Anne was ecstatic. She was pregnant! Her doctor had confirmed it weeks before. It was a miracle, a miracle! It appears that the Queen felt it was so. Whether it was a miracle or not...I certainly do not know...what a wonderful story! I can almost imagine her joy and happiness. At age thirty six, she was carrying a baby, finally. She must have been on cloud nine, or whatever they called it in the 1600's. It was generally thought by all that this baby would be a lucky child, protected by God.
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The baby that was born on the 5th of September 1638, was the famous Louis XIV. He was certainly a lucky King, a great King. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. At that point, on that warm September day in a room that overlooked the river Seine, there was a healthy Dauphin born. The birth was witnessed by many of the Court. To say there was rejoicing would be an understatement. As the afternoon wore on and the witnesses left, Anne rested. It would not be stretching the truth to say that the fragrance of flowers flowed through the open windows of Anne's room as she laid in bed that day, looking at her robust son. No doubt she feel asleep exhausted, but with a smile on her face.
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Anne adored her son. She spent much time with him, although it was not the court etiquette of the day. None of that mattered to her. She played with him and took him outside. Her baby was considered very beautiful and she enjoyed fussing over him and combing his hair. He inherited her soft, warm brown curls. Her joy was compounded when she gave birth to another boy named Phillipe two years later. She waited half her life for these miracles that had eluded her for so long...so she didn't waste a moment.
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She adored being a mother and the children came to her often. Little Louis loved Anne and formed a very close attachment to her, as most boys do. And it did not fade. This attachment remained with Louis. Although Anne loved both sons, she clearly adored her eldest. Did Anne show him this preference to prepare him for his future role? We can only guess. But whether the three of them shared a bath, played, shared dinner....or prayed together... the time they spent together was special, sweet and lasting. Anne gave them a real childhood and a feeling of safety. She was their constant. They didn't see their father nearly as much as their mother. And the brothers played as brothers do...laughing sometimes and fighting at other times. It was evident to all at court that these boys were the joy of her life.
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And they said she couldn't do it.
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Well done, Anne!

 

 

The Abdication



 














The Abdication...have you heard of it?
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In 1936, King Edward gave up his throne for the woman he loved. If she couldn’t be crowned with him, at his coronation, then he would not be crowned either.
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And that was that. And there would be no arguments about it.
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He was determined to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson and have her by his side. He couldn’t live without her--he really couldn’t. She was as necessary to his existence in 1936 as was food to living. And he said he would not be crowned with a lie on his lips.
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As you may know, there has been endless speculation, and there still is...what was it about her that captured the Kings heart? But I wonder...did she want to be Queen? Or be kept as the Kings favourite? Yes, I think so—to both questions—at least for a time.
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As events heated up in their relationship, the Prince’s brother Bertie, who was next in line, was in shock. His wife Elizabeth was not only in shock, she was angry. Her husband had never been reared to be King. He had not been trained for it. His personality wasn’t suited for it and he relished their private life together, and his time with their young daughters. This couldn’t be happening. WHO was this American, divorced woman? Well, The Duchess of York hadn’t cared for Wallis for quite some time! One reason for that was... one afternoon as she was leaving a room, Elizabeth suddenly turned back to look, and found Wallis making fun of her while there were others in the room. It hurt Elizabeth deeply. There was no love lost between she and Wallis. But she cared for David. Why would he throw it all away? No one in the family could believe that he would dare do it. It was just desperation speaking. Queen Mary, the King's mother, paced back and forth at Marlborough House. To even hear the word 'abdicate' mentioned...or to think of it, however fleetingly, was more than the Queen could bear.
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As you can see, she wasn't a raving beauty, but she did have fashion sense and dressed rather smartly. And because she was southern and born in America, she had grown up with a sort of southern charm in her genes and she had the ability to make guests feel very comfortable and relaxed, when she felt like it.
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She really didn’t like England. At least when she first moved there, she didn’t. Oh, the dirt that came through the flat windows…especially when there was fog. Everything would have to be cleaned, even the drapes. And it rained. And she missed her Aunt and mother.
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So...let's continue with the Abdication story---so I dont confuse you. We'll start at what happened before the crisis. I'm doing this from memory because I really don't feel like reading at the moment. Maybe later I'll get their love letters and add in a little of them.
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Wallis, a young American woman, was divorced after a turbulent marriage with Win Spencer. He was quite abusive. Not many women left their husbands in the 1920's and 1930's –so it shows what kind of a woman she was. She wanted to live. She wanted to enjoy her life. But...she also worried often about stability and money. There never seemed to be enough, and she had anxieties about it…quite a bit of anxiety.
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After her separation and divorce, she enjoyed herself and spent many evenings with the young political people of the day near Washington DC, and the up and coming in society that associated with them. She attended parties, dinners and was always in demand. For quite awhile it amused her. But eventually she got tired of it all. Time was passing by. She was young now, but what would she do later on? How would she support herself? She needed to protect herself. So, when she met Mr. Ernest Simpson at a party and he took a liking to her, she was sort of thrilled...in a quiet sort of way. He was a businessman, and his prospects looked good. Most of all, he was kind and polite and the two of them got along well. He looked after her welfare.
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Well, she did it. She married him and settled herself in a London flat. Ernest worked for the family business and he worked very hard. Wallis stayed home and took care of the house, except in those days...couples who made "enough" money hired a cook and housekeeper. So Wallis did that, and kept herself busy with letter writing, shopping, consulting with the cook and watching to make sure there were no dust bunnies under the couch. And I mean it. She would not tolerate that. She worked fastidiously to decorate the flat. Everything had to be just so. Everything was placed in the rooms to look its best. She wasn't rich, but her flat was comfortable and rather pretty. She had good taste. She arranged flowers very beautifully, and often there was a bouquet on the piano. Her favorite bric-a-brac was stragetically placed on tables in her drawing room. Not only was she good at decorating, she enjoyed it.
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She was bored though. One of her friends in England---Consuelo Thaw---was the eldest sister of Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt and her twin sister Thelma Furness. Consuelo's husband was a diplomat that Wallis had known in the States. So there were luncheons and introductions to new friends in Consuelo’s circle….and there was always a friend or two passing through England to keep Wallis busy. And Consuelo's sisters were famous---Gloria was famous, obviously, because she married a Vanderbilt, and Thelma...well, she was the Mistress of the Prince of Wales.
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Wallis kept busy interviewing cooks and housekeepers because they seemed to come and go quite often. It was hard to get good help. As her circle of friends grew, she found that she enjoyed going out for evenings at the theater. Just as importantly, she was becoming a good hostess as well. Her dinner parties were fabulous, the food delicious, the conversation exciting. Wallis had a knack for that. She'd give a lot of thought to her parties...who to invite...who should sit where...what couples would mix well… what would be appropriate to eat and what was in season...nothing was left to chance and and best of all, she loved surprising her British friends and Ernest's business associates with southern dishes that they'd never had...such as crispy fried chicken or ribs. Her party invitations began to be coveted.
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As her friendship grew with Thelma little by little, she implemented something else...the cocktail hour! For an hour or two her door would be open, and everyone was welcome to drop by for a cocktail and some chit-chat. This was something done in America, but not in England. Society was curious. And Wallis enjoyed the fact that she was climbing up the ladder. Ernest was happy to see her happy. Wallis continued to write home to her mother and her (rich) Aunt Bessie about these events in her life. Often Wallis mixed the cocktails herself in shakers. She'd also serve hot and cold canapes--grapes stuffed with cottage cheese and biscuits with meat. What she served was different...unusual. And she didn't mind spending time in the kitchen making sure things were being done properly. The well to do English housewives of the day would never consider doing such a thing. But Wallis knew what she wanted and eagerly watched over the preparatons by the cook. Her guests noticed that.
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And then IT happened. Wallis and Ernest were invited to spend the weekend with the Prince of Wales and his other guests, at Fort Belvedere, which was the Prince's favorite residence. It was usual for him to have weekend get-togethers with select friends and couples . Depending on the time of year there would be gardening (his favourite!) , swimming, hikes, card games, bag-pipe playing by the Prince and delicious, hearty meals in the evening, sometimes followed by bridge or dancing. (He also loved needlepoint--Queen Mary had taught him that. Many a guest walked in and their jaw dropped.) The Prince wasn't a big lunch person--dinner was the big deal. It just so happened that a couple needed to drop out at the very last minute on that particular weekend, and so the invitation (or summons) was extended to Wallis and Ernest. They were thrilled, to say the least.
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Over time...the visits became more frequent. It took some time for that to evolve. It evolved naturally and slowly over a period of time...well over a year's time. The King liked Wallis and Ernest, and even came to their flat for dinner. And more time passed...while Wallis just soaked in the excitement of it all, sharing her news home in letters. She was becoming closer friends with Thelma Furness, who was the Prince's girlfriend. She hob-knobbed with aristocracy and some of society's best. She shopped for the best deals on clothes and food.
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You have to realize that the Prince of Wales, in 1934 to 1936 was a handsome man, with boyish good looks, and golden hair. Women loved him from afar. He had traveled the world. There was a charisma about him—an excitement. He was dashing—and a daredevil. His parents were never too happy with him. King George and Queen Mary wished he would settle down and stop his night life...and they didn't approve of some of his "fast" friends, which were called the "Prince's set". He was known as David in the family, and David knew that his parents disapproved of much of his lifestyle. The King said privately, “That boy will ruin himself within a year once I am gone.” However, the Prince was extremely popular with his subjects.
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One day as Thelma and Wallis were having lunch, Thelma asked Wallis to do her a favor. Since Thelma was taking a steamship to the states soon, to be with her sister Gloria, she asked Wallis if she would "take care of the little man," and "make sure he doesn't get into any mischief." Wallis said yes.
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I can't tell you if it was her "southern hospitality" or openness---or if she had something else in mind---but within days of Thelma's departure, the Prince was a fixture at the Simpson's Bryanston Court flat. Wallis and the cook were pulling their hair out. It was costly to have him there. Everything needed to be perfect and clean—and add in flowers, good food, new dresses---and cook always had to prepare something extra. Wallis never knew if His Royal Highness would be stopping by just for a cocktail, or if he would agree to take pot luck supper with them. Often HRH jumped at the chance to share their "pot luck" dinners. (Obviously Wallis told the prince they were 'pot luck" but in reality Wallis knew exactly what was being served and there was plenty made!) Ernest was often tired when going to work the next day, due to many of the late hours they were suddenly keeping. Wallis's nerves were on edge--this pace was maddening. She had to oversee each and every detail, and take care of her appearance.
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It was obvious that the Prince enjoyed Wallis's company. She talked to him---actually conversed with him and gave him her opinions. Usually, he got responses from most people such as "How wonderful for you, sir " or "Very nice, sir." But Wallis was different. She'd ask him about his day. She listened to him and would ask him questions. She could see he was attentive to her and instinctively she knew he needed attention. Was it her that he wanted, or what she gave him...which seemed to be genuine understanding? On occasions, she spoke her mind, too, if she thought he was wrong. He enjoyed it. He wasn't used to being told he might be wrong. This was new and stimulating. And this was new to her too and very thrilling. Who wouldn’t be thrilled by such attention?
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While Thelma was gone, Wallis became his unofficial hostess, and she and Ernest accompanied him to nightclubs or the theatre in London. Sometimes Wallis went by herself due to Ernest's schedule. After awhile, it become customary that when the Prince was at the flat, at a certain time, Ernest would excuse himself and say that he had work to attend to, or he needed to go to bed because of an early day ahead. What was Ernest thinking as he left them alone? As a subject, we know that he was devoted to his future King. As a husband, I fear he was uneasy.
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There was also an uneasiness in society. As they got to know Wallis better—or rather, as Wallis was thrust in their face—they found her voice and laugh irritating and grating, and they felt she was brash and genuinely unsuitable to have such access to the future King. "Typically American," they whispered. What could His Royal Highness see in such a person? At this point the whispers were just among the well to do.
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And Thelma...well, she did come home. There was a suitor, the Aly Khan, who had been attentive to her while she was away, and the Prince had heard about it. You have to wonder...did he really care? Clearly, he was besotted with Wallis, laughing at her jokes, watching her closely, loving her American ways and enjoying being near her. When Thelma returned to England, and she saw the Prince again at The Fort, she reported that he was rather aloof. He wasn't rude to her...he just wasn't the same. Her instinct told her something was not right. Later that evening during dinner she watched a scene which must have made her heart fall to her stomach. Wallis was leaning in to the Prince and laughing, and when the Prince picked up a piece of lettuce with his fingers, she playfully smacked his hand. In shock, Thelma saw this and knew that you did not take those sort of liberties with royalty. And then Thelma says Wallis looked in her direction, and looked at her intently and Thelma has said in her memoirs that it was then that she "knew Wallis had taken very good care of the little man."
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Wallis always maintained that was simply untrue. Wallis claimed that she never did anything but try to be kind and friendly during a time when the Prince was lonely. But by now, even Wallis knew there was more to "David's" feelings than just being a little lonely...she knew he was attached to her...even needed her.
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Her Aunt warned her in her letters to be careful, saying that nothing good could come of this. Aunt Bessie warned her that someone would be very hurt. Wallis dismissed it. Ernest Simpson called the whole thing "Wallis in Wonderland." Up until now, Ernest was usually by her side in public, but how long would he be able to do it? How long would this go on? People were talking. And what would happen to Wallis once she was discarded? She would be discarded, wouldn't she? After all, she was a married woman. Ernest worried about Wallis’s state of mind and what would happen to her once the “fairytale” ended. He didn’t want her to be hurt, yet he didn’t want to stop her from enjoying this once in a lifetime thrill.
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Wallis was excited, yet nervous and loosing weight and having stomach problems. The Prince called everyday, and he was demanding her attention. He wanted her at the Fort and at Ascot. He wanted her opinion on his households and her help. But she was married, and couldn’t just give the Prince all her time. She was married, after all. She could tell Ernest was edgy. Was he upset with her? She vowed to herself that somehow…somehow…she would try to give each man the attention they craved. Sooner or later, the Prince would tire of her. Shouldn't she try to enjoy it while she had the chance?
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And then…
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This writer of queens got tired, and so I will finish the story another day…


The Abdication, Part II


The Abdication, Part II


 Everyone loves this story----Part I is below...


So here’s Part II….

Wallis is in Wonderland---or so her husband Ernest says. Wallis has the security of her marriage, but also the security of knowing the Prince of Wales can arrange things just so...and much of their relationship can be kept under wraps. The British well-to-do are aware of the affair...their friendship, but the royal subjects have no idea. And anyway, the Prince will soon tire of her...won't he?

Wallis found herself overwhelmed by the Prince's attention. He began calling the flat, demanding her help at the Fort and at his residence in London. He wanted her and Ernest for weekends, and he wanted her to be a guest at Ascot. He loved her meals and the way she planned them and he thought she was a wonderful decorator. He couldn’t get enough of her.

The Prince gave orders to Osborne---the head man at the Fort---that he should take orders directly from Mrs. Simpson. Well, that was never done. It just wasn't. Mrs. Simpson flew into Osborne’s life and turned it upside down. His job was to draw up the menus but suddenly she did them personally. And she was rearranging furniture, taking down curtains, deciding what should stay and what should go into storage. To Osborne's horror, not only did he have to watch this American woman change life at the Fort, she decided that he should personally take over the daily flower arranging that was done by the maid. Osborne was horrified. Even more terrifying, she entered the sanctuary of his pantry and decided a card table should be set up. Osborne hated the no-good stupid, flimsy thing, but…it’s what the Prince wanted...

Wallis relished all these new projects and enjoyed seeing the Prince's enthusiasm at her results.

And then there was Mr. Finch at York House in London. He had been with the Prince of Wales since the Prince was a boy. Naturally, Mr. Fitch knew how the royal households should be run, and was treated with the utmost respect. Athough Mr Fitch never stepped over the line, if he felt the Prince had gone too far, he did not hesitate to tell him so. And not only that, he oversaw everything at the London residence. Well, at least he thought he did until Mrs. Simpson arrived. She began making purchases for York house and demanded Mr. Fitch be the one to serve and mix the cocktails when there were guests. Fitch thought the woman was ghastly! He did at times mix the drinks...and this silly routine had started when Thelma Furness was around. But now Wallis felt that in his own home, the Prince should never mix drinks for his guests and it was beneath him, thus giving the duty to Fitch. He did do his best to mix and serve, but then Wallis told him that ice must be served in the cocktails. The British never used ice in their cocktails. Just wasn't done. In Fitch's mind, she had gone too far. Ice? Was she mad? He refused to do it. There would be no ice. And soon thereafter he was pensioned off.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Most of the servants remained quiet and did what they were told. Wallis took over the kitchens, told the cooks and the maids how she wanted things to be done. The servants were shocked and upset when Wallis and HRH would arrive back at 2 or 3am, interrupting their sleep and demanding something to eat. Again, that just wasn’t done to the servants. Meals came at scheduled times. Even their Majesties ate at scheduled times and would never think of rousing them from their sleep, lest there was some kind of royal emergency.

The Princes "set" or friends were equally horrified. Wallis was so common and so typically American. Her voice was brash, and they found her quite pushy. Certainly, she didn’t know her place. They were horrified at how she took charge of things, and ordered the Prince around. She'd say whatever she felt like—ordered him back and forth and to make matters worse—he seemed to actually enjoy it! It was a spectacle, to be sure. No one had ever seen anything like it. Wallis was far, far too familiar with him. It was simply—well—scandalous!

The well to do and the aristocrats whispered under their breaths. Was the Prince crazy? Had he lost his mind? He would be King one day! How could he allow this to go on? Did he have no dignity? They found Wallis to be crude and abrasive. They were forced to be polite to her face, for His Royal Highness’s sake…but the whole thing was rubbish.

Wallis may seem like a monster. She did come in like firestorm, to be sure. But you have to remember that she was doing this because it was what the Prince asked of her. He wanted someone to take charge and make decisions. Everything she did was unusual, different, stimulating, at least from his point of view. The Prince felt free. In his life---made up of rigid royal rules---there was not much freedom to be found. But Wallis, to him, was a breath of fresh air. He hung on her words. He enjoyed seeing her ways to prepare food, to entertain. She was lively and innovative. And she did much good. She got him to eat better, drink less and keep to his timetable and be prompt. For all the negatives, there were positives. And perhaps he enjoyed the shock on people’s faces. And also, let’s face it, she took care of him. In her own Wallis sort of way, she watched out for him…at least he felt like she did.


Wallis's mother had passed away after her marriage to Ernest Simpson, and her Aunt Bessie became her most trusted confidante. Here is a sample of one of her letters to her Aunt during this time:

"I haven’t had a party here for well over a month. Have a lousy temporary cook and still the curtains are away. Can't get PW (Prince of Wales) to ask the Grants--not his type. Still eating but can't gain too much----worry combined with excitement and never a chance to relax. It all takes a certain amount of tact handling another swan song before 40. Let me know when to expect you. I would like one or two country dresses, 1 linen, 1 wool--and Mary will have two pairs of shoes for you. Both dresses blue I think on printed linen for that one or white trimmed blue. If asked to Ascot I haven’t an idea what I could wear there and then there is the rest of the time I have the pale blue and brown from last year for one day and I suppose a print for the other. He demands one look chic. I know you’ll be tired of hearing all this but it is rather thrilling for me."

Shortly thereafter, she wrote this to Aunt Bessie: "After writing to you from the Fort, I have had an invitation to the Prince’s Ascot house party which starts on the 19th and ends on the 25th. He is giving me the ticket and the party doesn’t go until after lunch and you only go the 2 big days so my best number from last year and the other thing will do. I can’t resist going so it would be better (for you) to come before Ascot, or after as I wouldn’t want to rush off just as you arrived unless you wouldn’t mind being here those days without me. Ernest can’t go---(1) the ticket (2) the time from the city (3) clothes. Trying to get this on the boat tonight. All love"

As you can sense, Wallis was busy, excited and had a lot on her mind. There was much she did not tell Aunt Bessie...but Bessie wrote her very sternly soon after that. And Wallis replied, "Darling,---You did gave me a lecture and I quite agree with all you say regarding HRH and if Ernest raises any objections to the situation I shall give up the Prince at once. So far things are going along beautifully and the 3 of us are always together in the little spare time PW has this time of year. Don’t pay attention to the gossip"… and also…“Mentally I'm quite sane about it all but I am not given much time to do things. Also, I am going over some of his 2 houses for him which fills up my days so much. Hurry over to see me and then you'll realize that everything is OK."

You have to wonder...what she was thinking?

Aunt Bessie did arrive in England, and that summer, the Prince decided that he'd plan a summer holiday. He rented a villa near Biarritz. Conveniently, Ernest had to work, but Aunt Bessie would accompany Wallis as a chaperone. No one was fooled however. Five other people accompanied the Prince, Wallis and Aunt Bessie---mostly his aides and one of the aide's wives.

The newspapers in England kept this hush-hush, but the other papers around the world did not. One afternoon as Wallis and the prince enjoyed a drink at the ocean; there was a commotion---a drowning boy. The Prince dove into the waters, rescued the boy and as a result of that, news spread like rapid fire that the Prince was there. And then...it happened. Pictures were taken of the Prince, with this woman. The story, with pictures, appeared throughout the world the next day. The pair stayed in seclusion for the next week. Soon after, they departed by boat to Cannes, and other visitors joined them. They encountered some storms, rough seas and enjoyed some stops during this long, summer journey. At one point, they blatantly stayed in the Hotel Miramar together. During that stay, he secretly bought jewelry for Wallis, and once safely back on the boat, surprised her with a gift.

In September, the boat docked in Genoa and Nice and Wallis and the Prince spent some quiet time together, boating, on the clear blue waters. They motored to different places with their group, but also managed to go off together, alone. It was at about this time that photographs were taken of the Prince, with just his shorts on. Never before had the Prince of Wales been photographed so...well, relaxed.

One has to wonder what Aunt Bessie thought of all this, and what their friends thought as well--and also, what they saw. It certainly wasn’t all as innocent as it appeared. I often wonder what Aunt Bessie really said to Wallis. Bessie was not shy in her letters.

In her Memoirs, called the Heart Has Its Reasons, Wallis says of this trip, "Searching my mind, I could find no good reason why this most glamorous of men should be seriously attracted to me. I certainly was no beauty, and he had the pick of the beautiful women of the world. In fact, in my own county, I would have been considered securely on the shelf. The only reason I could ascribe his interest in me, such as it was, was perhaps my American independent of spirit, my directness, what I would like to think is a sense of humour and of fun, and, well, my breezy curiosity about him and everything concerning him...Then, too, he was lonely and perhaps I had been one of the first persons to penetrate his inner loneliness."

Obviously by now it was crystal clear to everyone on the trip-- including Aunt Bessie --that the man was attracted to her. Still, she was a married woman.

Back in London, the summer turned into a crisp fall. Aunt Bessie went home to the U.S. by steamship and by now the Prince was giving her money…for clothes at least. Wallis was beginning to have some power, and her company was coveted. Her phone was ringing. She was also arranging for her friends to stay at the Fort. The papers in the US were filled with stories about her. Wallis had read some and seemed rather proud of herself. In her letters to Aunt Bessie, she actually explained that things were just fine between her and Ernest and told her Aunt to ignore the gossip—there would be no divorce. She and Ernest had had a long talk, she explained, and things would just go on as usual…the three of them being the best of friends.

The best of friends? Wallis had to be lying to herself. Its doubtful Ernest really believed that. Certainly, Aunt Bessie had seen enough to know that things would not be able to go on as usual …at least for long.

By the end of the year, Wallis was enjoying a wonderful respite from the Prince and happily told Aunt Bessie that he was at Sandringham for Christmas. She rested, after buying 250 gifts for the Prince’s servants. She positively glowed remembering her introduction to the King and Queen, at the Prince’s brothers wedding the month prior, and made note of the jealous eyes of the Brits, as she and Ernest were introduced to their Majesties. The Prince had arranged it. (And a little secret for you---Their Majesties were not happy about it.)

The Prince gave Wallis a Cairn puppy that holiday whom they named Mr. Loo. And then it was 1935. In hindsight, we know that 1935 was the most turbulent year of her life, but also the most thrilling. But Wallis had no idea of what was to come.

Winston Churchill said, that the Prince, “Delighted in her company and found in her qualities that were as necessary to his happiness as the air he breathed. Those who knew him well and watched him closely noticed that many little tricks and fidgeting of nervousness fell away from him.” His closest aide in the year to come, Walter Monckton said, “No one will really understand the story of the Kings life…who does not appreciate…the intensity and depth of his devotion to Mrs. Simpson. To him she was the perfect woman. She insisted that he be at his best and do his best at all times, and he regarded her as his inspiration. It is a great mistake to assume that he was merely in love with her in the ordinary physical sense of the term. There was an intellectual companionship, and there is no doubt that his lonely nature found in her a spiritual comradeship. …He felt that he and Mrs. Simpson were made for each other and there was no other honest way of meeting the situation than marrying her.”

Marrying her? Impossible. She was divorced, and he would be the Head of the Church of England. The church didn’t believe in divorce. He could not marry a divorced woman—especially an American one at that. And anyway—even if somehow he was free to marry her—she was already married. Still though, the Prince was thinking…planning…dreaming…

In January, Wallis noticed that Ernest wasn’t as interested in hearing the latest news of the Prince, and at times did not make it home for dinner. If the Prince made a suggestion to visit—say the Dorchester, for a little fun---Ernest would plead an early morning and decline. And when Wallis excitedly told him they were invited skiing with the Prince, he told her he had no interest in going. Wallis did mention though, that Ernest thought she might accompany him on a trip to New York instead. Was Ernest trying in his own way to win his wife back? In her memoirs Wallis was clear that her heart was set on going skiing in Austria. She noted that shortly after she told Ernest she wouldn’t dream of missing the skiing trip, she heard the door to his room slam.

And she went skiing. And she knew she was wrong.

Things got progressively worse. Although Wallis did not admit this to her Aunt, the Prince was really upsetting the apple cart. By now, he tended to overstay his visits and keep Wallis occupied far, far too much. Wallis would make a promise to Ernest that she would be home on a certain day at a certain time, and something that the Prince wanted to do would take precedence over Wallis’s need to get home. I have a book by Michael Bloch, of their intimate correspondence. In one of their first letters to each other that has survived, she lashed out at him:

“David Dear—
I was and still am most terribly upset. You see dear one can’t go through life stepping on other people. I know that you aren’t really selfish or thoughtless of heart but your life has been such that you have been the one considered so that quite naturally you only think of what you want and take it too without the slightest thought of others. One can arrive at the same result in a kinder way. I had a long quiet talk with E. last night and I felt very eanum (their made up for very much or very emotional) at the end. Everything he said was so true. The evening was difficult as you did stay much too late. Doesn’t your love for me reach to the heights of wanting to make things a little easier for me. The lovely things you say to me aren’t of much value unless they are backed up by equal actions…”

By this time, Wallis was struggling to keep control of her life, as it began to unravel. “David” clearly wanted her by now, and knew that Ernest was getting upset. They had invented their own private language and even Wallis admitted that he was saying lovely things. The Prince was used to getting what he wanted. But then again, he had never met the likes of anyone like Wallis…had he?

I think this may run into a three parter.




Pictures of Long Ago.......





















Lovely, huh?? Can you imagine yourself there, living in that time??