Scandal-starved Brits greet royal revelations with glee

February 11, 2003|By Al Webb

LONDON - The future king of England was perhaps an understandably titillating diversion, but a car salesman? Wallis Warfield Simpson's seductive arts indeed transcended class barriers, if not particularly wisely for an American who dreamed of wearing a queen's crown.

What's happened here is a spanking new twist on an old royal scandal - plus the makings of a new folk hero - that the British have lapped up newspaper page by page, not to mention a titillating break from a lot of boring war stuff.

For those whose knowledge of royal history is limited to tales of Henry VIII having his wives' heads lopped off, the redoubtable Mrs. Simpson was the famous - or infamous, if that's your cup of royal tea - Baltimore socialite who cost King Edward VIII the British crown.

The Great Depression was still raging when the twice-divorced temptress hit town, took London society by storm and conquered the then-prince of Wales - then got up a lot of prim and proper British noses when Edward abdicated the throne in 1936 to marry her.

Seventeen years after Britain's monarchy reluctantly buried her as the duchess of Windsor in a royal cemetery, Wallis Simpson still climbs up British nasal passages, noble and common alike. Some dusty old police files have now been produced that, perhaps contrary to some royal hopes, will simply add to the lady's mystique.

It seems, according to previously secret documents the British government has handed over to the Public Records Office, that between sessions in the royal bed with the future King Edward VIII, Mrs. Simpson was dallying similarly with a car salesman and part-time auto mechanic named Guy Marcus Trundle.

Now while Wallis Simpson may have had, in some eyes, a face that wouldn't necessarily stop a clock, although it might cause it to pause a few seconds, word had reached government ministers that Edward was smitten with her. Her looks were of no consequence. That she was still married, to an English shipbroker named Ernest Simpson, was.

Scotland Yard detectives were sent out to bloodhound her every move. What they found was Guy Trundle, whom one document - stamped "SECRET" and sent to Police Commissioner Sir Philip Game -described as "a very charming adventurer, very good-looking, well-bred and an excellent dancer."

Mr. Trundle, the document said, was Mrs. Simpson's secret lover, even as she was bedding "POW" (the prince of Wales). The car salesman, it added, "receives money from Mrs. Simpson as well as expensive gifts." What's more, the coppers said, "he admitted this."

Guy Trundle was a vicar's handsome son who became a pilot during World War II. He had turned to automobile selling and not a little womanizing, according to Scotland Yard, by the time he ran into another social climber on the London scene in Wallis Simpson.

The police files on Wallis and Guy are extensive. Yet not everyone believes them.

Take former pilot Val Bailey, Mr. Trundle's best pal. He thinks Guy wouldn't have given Wallis Simpson a second glance. "She was absolutely the kind of woman he was not interested in," Mr. Bailey says. "He liked good looks and fun ... and Wallis Simpson didn't measure up in any of these things."

So why were police so interested? "I can't help feeling Guy may have been put up to it by the security people so they could test how vulnerable Wallis might be in this sort of thing as the king's wife. There can be no other logical explanation," Mr. Bailey says.

Royal watcher Andrew Roberts is also less than convinced. He says the three vital ingredients of royalty, sex and snobbery were a ready-made combination for scandal-seeking journalists, of which there are more than a few in Britain.

"It was just too good that a duchess' name - especially that duchess' - could be linked to a car salesman with a mildly silly surname," Mr. Roberts says. And he warns "we should be wary of believing uncorroborated police evidence in matters royal" and what is known in the trade as "red carpet fever."

To the average Brit, nothing beats a good scandal (except perhaps soccer and room-temperature beer), and the latest emergence of royal peccadilloes - even from a couple of generations' distance - filled a gap that has yawned since Princess Diana left the scene and the latest duchess of York was photographed having her toes sucked.

For the male of the species, and perhaps even a few females, Guy Marcus Trundle is becoming an admirable addition to a pantheon of folk heroes, even if he did dally a while with one of the most disliked anti-heroines of Britain's 20th century - and an American to boot. Not everyone has forgotten about that business back in '76, or even 1812.

Al Webb is a journalist and free-lance writer who lives in London.

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