Edward and Mrs Simpson

1978 | United Kingdom

Edward VIII was King of England, not yet crowned, and Wallis Warfield Simpson was a twice divorced American whom he fell in love with. Although he was told he could never have both his Crown and the woman he loved, he believed that his enormous popularity with the people would allow him to do it. 

This seven part, £1 million drama series from Thames Television faithfully reconstructed the events of the affair between Edward and Mrs Simpson that, in 1936, caused a constitutional crisis and Edward VIII's eventual abdication. The series covered the period of 1928 (two years before the couple met) and the King's emotional farewell broadcast to the nation in December 1936. Edward and Mrs Simpson, filmed on location in Britain, Kenya and France, depicted a Britain torn apart by class distinction where the poor were subjected to Means Testing and the rich lived a life of luxury. Edward portrayed a public image of deep concern for the poverty stricken and often undertook visits to distressed areas of the country. However, when in 1936 he visited South Wales and said passionately: "Something must be done" - he was just three weeks away from abdication. 

Edward Fox in Edward and Mrs Simpson

Edward's reign as King lasted just 325 days, after which he left Portsmouth on a Naval destroyer bound for France. There, some six months later he married Mrs Simpson, and although they were recognised as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, royal status was denied Wallis Simpson, who died in 1986, fourteen years after her husband. Scripted by Simon Raven and based very much on Frances Donaldson's account of what actually happened, Wallis Simpson was portrayed as a scheming glory seeker, a depiction that distressed the real Duchess of Windsor so much that she succeeded in getting the drama banned in her country of residence, France. 

Edward and Mrs Simpson

The drama was also notable for stirring and accurate performances from both Edward Fox and Cynthia Harris, both of whom won critical acclaim. Producer Andrew Brown described the series as a 'political thriller' and said, "...by the end you will be able to decide whether you should admire the man for giving up everything for the woman he loved, or whether what he did was an abject dereliction of duty."

Edward and Mrs Simpson TV Times cover
TV Times dedicated its cover to Edward and Mrs Simpson in 1978

Published on December 10th, 2018. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.