Wallis Simpson’s Jewish secret
The woman King Edward VIII gave up the throne for was married to a Jew
IF THERE is one event in the history of the 1930s that everyone knows, it is the crackly broadcast from Windsor castle of King Edward VIII giving up the British throne because he could not continue “without the help and support of the woman I love”. But if that woman, Wallis Simpson, had been Wallis Solomon, as well she mighthavebeen,wouldtherehavebeen an abdication crisis? Would a Mrs Solomon ever have been granted the kind of access to royal circles that would allow a relationship with the then Prince of Wales to begin in the first place?
In 2007 I started researching my biography of Wallis Simpson, a woman dubbedaNazispy,golddigger,andprostitute who learned her skills in Chinese brothels. But who was the real Wallis?
I decided to start with a key protagonist in the drama — Ernest Simpson, the husband she left for Edward, Ernest who is always portrayed as the traditional cuckolded husband about whom everyone has a good laugh behind his back. So I googled him. And there, at the end of the article, was a reference to a son born in 1939, christened in the Guards ChapelasHenryChildSimpsonbutwho, since 1958, went by the name of Aharon Solomons, having added an “s” to the family name. This man was a free-diving instructor — teaching breath-held underwaterdiving—whohadtrainedin Eilat but now lived in Mexico.
I called a number on the free-divers’ website and, an hour later, got through to a friendly, upper-class English voice with Israeli inflections. The man was shocked at being tracked down. No one had ever interviewed him about Ernest and Wallis before. But we chatted and he told me that, although normally busy running his diving camp, he was about to have a foot operation and would be recuperating for two weeks. If I could come immediately, he would see me.
Looking back now I am shocked at myself for agreeing so readily to stay in the flat of a strange man. I had made cursory checks with a friend who had been at Harrow School at the same time as young Henry. Yes, he remembered the boy, he told me. But that memory was of little help, I reflected, as we set off one breathlessly hot afternoon from his flat to see his desert camp, travelling in an old pick-up truck with a machete (to kill snakes, he insisted), enough water for four days and not a human being in sight. The trip was necessary, he persuaded me, if I was to understand how stultifying was the lifestyle in England he had rebelled against. And s o , d u r i n g the course of the next few days, as we cooked on an open fire and slept on a makeshift table ( h i g h e n o u g h
The Duke and Duchess of June 1937. Later that year,