Tag Archives: the king’s speech

The Commoner Who Married a King

Once upon a time a king fell in love with a commoner. While this had undoubtedly happened before, what made this story different was that the king chose to give up his throne to be with the woman he loved.

The monarch in question was King Edward XIII of Great Britain, and the commoner was Mrs. Wallis Simpson, who he would marry in 1937, only months after abdicating his throne.

Edward, who was born in 1894 to the future King George V and Queen Mary, was a handsome man who was able to attract the attention of lots of woman. He, in turn, seemed to only fancy the married ones.

In 1931 the prince met Wallis Simpson at a party hosted by his mistress.

Simpson was an American socialite from Maryland who was two years younger than Edward. Prior to WWI, she had married a U.S. Navy pilot, but the stormy relationship ended in divorce in 1927. A few months later she married Ernest Simpson, a shipping executive, and the couple settled in London.

The affair between Simpson and the prince began in August 1934 on a cruise that her husband wasn’t able to attend.

All may have simply remained royal family rumor had Edward’s father, King George V, not died in January 1936, making Edward king.

Edward ruffled royal feathers from nearly the moment of his ascendancy to the throne. The new king, who detested the trappings of royalty, began changing age-honored traditions to function more as a modern-day monarch. His behavior was also becoming increasingly erratic, as he was failing to carry out the duties of statecraft.

The problem was his obsession with Wallis Simpson.

The issue came to a head when his government threatened to resign and give the press the green light to air the whole affair if Simpson wasn’t removed from his life.

Instead, Edward chose to marry Simpson, something British law wouldn’t allow, as she was a divorcee. This left him no choice but to abdicate.

On December 10, 1936, King Edward left the throne. Immediately, his oldest brother Albert (of The King’s Speech fame) became King George VI. Six months later Wallis Simpson became the Duchess of Windsor when she married the former king in a private ceremony.

After leaving the throne the new couple lived in exile for the rest of their lives. Edward was allowed to keep the title “his royal highness,” but this honor was withheld from Simpson and his heirs; a slight which was said to hurt the former king deeply.

Just who was Wallis Simpson?

Royal watchers have no nice words for the American commoner who married their king. Some of her kindest critics called her a gold digger, and a strumpet. Others accused her of having once had an affair with Mussolini and being a Nazi spy.

The abdication of King Edward had a major impact on world politics as he was a supporter of Hitler, actually proposing an alliance between Nazi Germany and Great Britain.

And had he not stepped aside, there would be no interest in the upcoming wedding later this month between Prince William and Catherine Middleton, as William would not have been in line for the throne.

After the former King Edward died in 1972, Simpson spent the rest of her life in seclusion. When she died on April 24, 1986 just shy of her 90th birthday, she left history’s stage as much an enigmatic figure as she had entered it.


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

In case you haven’t heard, the Academy Award nominations were announced this morning with The King’s Speech leading the nods with 12.

While looking over the nominees in the category of Best Actor, I noticed something interesting.

Should Jeff Bridges win for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit, a role that won the Oscar for John Wayne in 1969, it would be the first time in history the same role would produce two Best Actor winners. (The role of Vito Corleone did win Oscars for two men, Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro, but only Brando’s award was for Best Actor. De Niro’s came in the Best Supporting Actor category.)

Interestingly, two men were denied accomplishing this same feat by Wayne’s win in 1969. That year, Peter O’Toole was nominated for playing Arthur Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips, a role that won Robert Donat the Oscar in 1939. Richard Burton was nominated for his portrayal of Henry VIII that same year, which had previously won the statuette for Charles Laughton in 1933.

A win would also make Bridges only the third man (along with Spencer Tracy and Tom Hanks) to win the award in consecutive years, following his Oscar winning performance in Crazy Heart last year.

Of course, the other nominees this year – Javier Bardem, Jesse Eisenberg, Colin Firth, and James Franco – will be hoping to create some history of their own. None perhaps more than Firth, who was also nominated last year for A Single Man, but lost to Bridges.

The award in the category goes to the best screen actor of the year, not the best person of the year.

This proved lucky for Emil Jannings, the first man to win the award in 1928. The heavily-accented Jannings failed to make the transition to talkies and returned to his native Germany where he became a major supporter of Hitler and the Nazis. When the Allies entered Germany, Jannings reportedly carried his Oscar everywhere to curry favor with the invading troops.

Another interesting piece of Oscar trivia is that Robert Downey, Jr. is the only man to be nominated in the Best Actor category for playing a man who was once nominated for a Best Actor Oscar himself. This happened in 1992’s Chaplin, when Downey was honored for his portrayal of Charlie Chaplin, who was nominated for a Best Actor award in 1940 for The Great Dictator. (We will be showing Chaplin as the kick-off to ChaplinFest on Friday, February 4 in Newhall.)

Should Bridges win for True Grit, it may help to remove some of the stigma attached to John Wayne’s Oscar, which was thought by many  to have been awarded to honor Wayne’s entire body of work, rather than his actual performance in the film.