On this day in 1947, author Willa Cather died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 73 in her home at 570 Park Avenue in Manhattan. Born Wilella Sibert Cather on 7 December 1873 on her maternal grandmother’s farm in the Back Creek Valley near Winchester, Virginia. Perhaps best known for her novels of frontier life on the Great Plains, in works such as O Pioneers!, My Ántonia, and The Song of the Lark. In 1923 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for One of Ours (1922), a novel set during World War I. Cather grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the University of Nebraska. She lived and worked in Pittsburgh for ten years. At the age of 33 she moved to New York, where she lived for the rest of her life. Cather never married. The Final Footprint – Cather was buried in the Old Burying Ground, behind the Jaffrey Center Meeting House in Jaffrey, New Hampshire. Her grave site, which she shares with her long-time friend Edith Wilson, is at the southwest corner of the graveyard. She had first visited Jaffrey in 1917 with Isabelle McClung, staying at the Shattuck Inn, where she came late in life for the seclusion necessary for her writing. The inscription on her tombstone reads:
December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947
THE TRUTH AND CHARITY OF HER GREAT
SPIRIT WILL LIVE ON IN THE WORK
WHICH IS HER ENDURING GIFT TO HER
COUNTRY AND ALL ITS PEOPLE.
“…that is happiness; to be dissolved
into something complete and great.”
From My Antonia
On this day in 1986, the woman who inspired a man to give up a kingdom, The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson died at her home in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris. Born Bessie Wallis Warfield on 19 June 1896 in Blue Ridge Summit, Pennsylvania. Wallis met Thelma, Lady Furness, the then-mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales, who would introduce her to the Prince on 10 January 1931. The Prince was the eldest son of King George V and Queen Mary, and heir apparent to the throne. Wallis allegedly became the Prince’s mistress in December 1933. By 1934, the Prince was clearly besotted with Wallis. There was just on small obstacle on their road to ever after; she was still married. To her second husband! Many people believed Wallis was politically, socially and morally unsuitable as a prospective consort and that she was a woman of limitless ambition who was pursuing Edward because of his wealth and position. On 20 January 1936, George V died and Edward ascended the throne as Edward VIII. The monarch of the United Kingdom is Supreme Governor of the Church of England. At the time of the proposed marriage, and until 2002, the Church of England did not permit the re-marriage of divorced people with living ex-spouses. Constitutionally, the King was required to be in communion with the Church of England. The King consulted with the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, on a way to marry Wallis and keep the throne, but it became apparent that Baldwin and the Prime Ministers of Australia and South Africa would not approve the marriage. To avoid a constitutional crisis, the King signed the Instrument of Abdication on 10 December 1936, in the presence of his three surviving brothers, the Duke of York (who would ascend the throne the following day as George VI), the Duke of Gloucester and the Duke of Kent. The next day Edward made an address to the people saying; “I have found it impossible to carry the heavy burden of responsibility, and to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” Wallis and Edward married one month later on 3 June 1937 at the Château de Candé, Monts, France. The date would have been King George V’s 72nd birthday. No member of the British Royal Family attended. The marriage produced no children. Her previous two husbands were, Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. (1916-1927 divorce) and Ernest Aldrich Simpson (1928-1937 divorce). I am not sure if there is any evidence to prove whether Wallis really loved Edward or whether she was after the throne. So, I suppose ther are two ways to look at Wallis and Edward. The cynical view being; she was an ambitious woman who got what she deserved, her prince but not her king. The romantic view of course is that there is a happy ever after. Who needs a throne when one has love? Perhaps a clue can be found in what Wallis reportedly said: “You have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance.” Is this a classic example of: Be careful what you wish for; you just might get it! The Final Footprint – Wallis is interred next to Edward in the Royal Burial Grounds at Frogmore in Windsor, England. Her grave is marked by a full ledger marble marker.
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