LONDON — British special police spied on King Edward VIII before he took the throne and discovered that his American lover and future wife, Wallis Simpson, was two-timing him, documents released today show.
"The identity of Mrs. Simpson's secret love has been definitely ascertained," the superintendent of Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police wrote to the head of Scotland Yard in July 1935. "He is Guy Marcus Trundle, a very charming adventurer, very good looking, well bred and an excellent dancer.... Secret meetings are made by appointment when intimate relations take place. Trundle receives money from Mrs. Simpson as well as expensive presents. He has admitted this."
Simpson, who was married at the time, was more discreet, the officer wrote. "She is very careful for the double purpose of keeping both [Edward] and her husband in ignorance of her surreptitious love affairs."
Simpson soon obtained a divorce and Edward abdicated in December 1936 -- after less than a year on the throne -- to marry her. Their tale would go on to become one of the most enduring love stories of the 20th century, but many details remained secret because in 1967 the government ordered the abdication files sealed for 100 years.
They are being released early under 1999 guidelines requiring the Public Records Office to open most files that do not contain security secrets.
There are no shocking revelations in the thousands of pages -- nothing, for example, to support claims that Edward and Simpson were Nazi spies -- but lots of material that may shed new light on one of the most wrenching and fascinating moments in modern British history.
What emerges most strongly in the papers is a fuller portrait of Simpson. She was widely seen as a ruthless, crude gold digger who set out, perhaps in collusion with her husband, to bag Edward -- a "woman of low American origin, bearing the worst of immoral reputations," as the Special Branch superintendent put it in one report.
But the papers also include interviews with servants and others with firsthand knowledge of her behavior, and these people often paint a picture of a spontaneous, eager person who got trapped in circumstances beyond her control.
"She comes across as someone whom the servants and employees like -- sympathetic, independent, wisecracking, funny and informal," said Susan Williams, historical advisor to the Public Records Office.
"You get a better idea of what the prince found so attractive about her -- with her informality she was probably unlike anyone he'd ever met. And you can see how she got caught up in a world she really didn't understand."