By Benjamin Sacks
Ph. D. Stanford University and Professor Emeritus of both the
University of New Mexico and Arizona State University
In Part I of this article (Fall 1987) the author provided the circumstances surrounding the Prince of Wales’ visit to San Diego in April of 1920. The known and presumed history of Wallis Warfield Spencer and her husband Lieutenant Commander Earl W. Spencer, Jr., who were stationed at North Island at the time of the Prince’s visit, was also discussed. In this portion the author separates legend from reality.
HOW the legend of Wallis Spencer’s presumed meeting with the Prince of Wales in Coronado in 1920 evolved and took root is the subject of this sub-section. The seeds may be said to have been planted in the fall of 1936. By that time the seriousness of the romance between the now ascendant King Edward VIII and the now Mrs. Ernest Simpson (her second marriage) had been established in the uninhibited media of the United States. The details of their courtship had become public property — the Mediterranean cruise in August, the Balmoral visit in September, her suit for divorce in October — and had set agog American society. The media had ransacked the past for stories and the focus turned upon her years in Coronado as Mrs. Spencer. The possibility was broached that Wallis had first met King Edward VIII in April 1920. The literature credited Commander Spencer (promoted to the rank in 1930) with a statement affirming such an occurrence.
In the issue of November 12, 1936 (front page) the Sun asked him during an interview if Wallis had met the Prince of Wales in April 1920 on his visit to San Diego. The reporter filed this response by Commander Spencer.
“Practically all navy officers stationed here were present with their wives. We all went down the receiving line. My former wife [they divorced in December 1927] was with me most of the evening. Of course, I’m not quite sure but what she may have been introduced to him. As I recall she slipped away for a few minutes and may have been received by the Prince. . . .”
The legend was quickly accepted as a fact and two examples are cited. The San Francisco Examiner (December 5, 1936, 8:2-3) carried a biographical sketch of Mrs. Simpson dashed off by Cholly Knickerbocker (Maury Paul, New York City society scribe). He had done it at the request of newsman William Randolph Hearst to run as a serial in his several newspapers. Cholly Knickerbocker had Spencer speak thus: “Wallis and I attended the affair but I’m quite sure neither one of us was swept off our feet by the event; certainly Wallis never spoke of the Prince after that, except to remark casually about discussions of his visit in the newspapers.” Even more liberty was taken by the Tribune (June 3, 1937, p.14) on the day of the royal couple’s wedding: “[At] an American naval ball [correctly, sponsored by the mayor to honor the prince] at Coronado, California, on San Diego Bay one night seventeen years ago, the black-haired popular wife of an American naval officer saw the twenty-five-year-old smiling prince charming of the British Empire and the prince saw her. The prince may not have remembered the Coronado ball and his meeting with Mrs. Earl W. Spencer. . . .
The legend continued to make the rounds, nourishing a romantic link dating back to April 1920. In the Sunday issue of the Union (August 4, 1946, D-10), Eileen Jackson reviewed the status of the evolving belief.
“The old files of the San Diego Union prove that the man who was once His Majesty, Edward VIII of England, met Wallis Warfield Simpson for the first time at a ball in Hotel del Coronado, April 7, 1920, although that meeting is not well-known. Wallis, who arrived on the arm of her first husband, Cmdr. Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., U.S.N., . . . was as far as the Duke of Windsor. . . was concerned, just among those present. . . .
She went down the receiving line with the rest of the guests. . . to meet the future King of England. If she made any impression on the distinguished honor guest, the Union social scribe did not record it. We note in Union files that Lt. Cmdr. and Mrs. Spencer were present and that was all. If the Prince of Wales didn’t dance with her that night, and as far as any Coronadans remember he didn’t, he missed fox-trotting or two-stepping with one of the best ballroom dancers in the room. . . .
The present Duchess of Windsor managed to get an invitation to the ball because her husband, Cmdr. Spencer was in charge of the navy’s first torpedo plane squadron at North Island. . . .”
By the late 1950s the seeds of a treasured heritage had taken firm root. On occasions when Commander Spencer or the Duchess of Windsor made the news in the local press, the legend was always dwelt upon as an identifying label justifying their newsworthiness. That embellishments, were in process, however, may be deduced in the response of Eileen Jackson to a letter from a San Diegan now living in Baltimore. The correspondent had enclosed a clipping from a July 1953 issue of the Baltimore News-Post which had prompted an inquiry. The contents asserted that not only did the initial contact between the Windsors transpire in the hotel ballroom back in April 1920 but that “Mrs. Spencer was wearing a red evening gown that night and stood out so much from the rest of the women that the prince asked to be presented to her.” The answer of Eileen Jackson is contained in the Union issue of August 2, 1953 (D-9,11) and merits verbatim treatment.
“We, in fact, did write at the time England’s king first became infatuated with Wallis Simpson, formerly Mrs. Spencer of Coronado, that it was ‘possible’ they could have met for the first time on the evening of April 7, 1920 when social San Diego was host to the king, then the Prince of Wales, at a ball at Hotel del Coronado. The Spencers were living in Coronado at the time and were in the habit of attending such functions. . . .
The list of guests. . . printed in the Union included a ‘Lt. Cmdr. and Mrs. Spencer but the initials were not E.W.’. We assume this was a typographical error [to repeat, ‘Mrs. Wallace Spencer was more than a typographical error]. We scanned the local papers April 1920 in vain to find more definite confirmation of the meeting. There is no printed record to our knowledge that Wallis wore a red dress that night or that the Prince of Wales asked to meet her although the Spencers’ Coronado friends are ‘sure’ the Spencers were at the ball. . . .
It is a matter of record that Mrs. E. Clarence Moore of Coronado, formerly Mrs. Claus Spreckels, sat at the right of the Prince of Wales at the dinner party preceding the ball (she had been his hostess in her home the same day). Mrs. Moore is a friend of the Duchess of Windsor, having known her since her Coronado days. She also is ‘sure’ the famous couple met for the first time that April night but she doesn’t remember the ‘red dress’; and seriously doubts the prince asked to meet that night the woman for whom later he gave up the crown of England.”
It is time to check in with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor as to their views on the legend. After all, who might better know than the two principals on the stage. That the Duke of Windsor should ignore the subject entirely in A King’s Story (1951, pp.254-255) is not surprising. For one preoccupied in greeting over a thousand people during the reception held in his honor at the seashore resort, it would be expecting too much of him to have recalled Wallis or any other non-celebrity in the hurried presentation of an endless line. What is surprising is he did not mention San Diego at all in his memoirs while recalling the journey across the Pacific. Thus he writes (p.152): “In March 1920 the Renown left Portsmouth southwestwards via the Panama Canal and headed for New Zealand and Australia.” It is possible that this omission had been a joint decision, the legend apparently a source of irritation to both of them. How else can one explain the space devoted to his side trip in 1919 to the eastern seaboard while on his visit to Canada. He had always wanted to see America, so he tells us, and it was only belatedly that King George V had granted his son’s wish. He had called on the stricken President Woodrow Wilson at the White House for a few minutes. He had toured the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. He had been feted in New York City with the traditional “ticker tape” welcome. Surely, the festivities at San Diego should have merited a similar detailed account.
The Duchess of Windsor in her memoirs, The Heart Has Its Reasons (1956, p.73) denies any encounter with the prince in April 1920, acknowledging only that Hotel del Coronado was truly a favorite gathering place for celebrities. More specifically, she would say that “it was there, for example, that I met John Barrymore and Charlie Chaplin, but not as one popular story has it, the Prince of Wales when he called in at San Diego aboard the Renown in April 1920 on his trip to the Antipodes.” That she did meet Charlie Chaplin is attested to by a photo in the Los Angeles Examiner (December 7, 1936, part l,p.4) taken during her Coronado years. The four personages in the snapshot (some names misspelled) are Wallis, Charlie Chaplin and the two daughters of Rear Admiral William Pullman, to wit, Mrs. Austin Ledyard Sands and divorced (later changed her name to Mrs. Emory Sands; her first name was Marianna) and Miss Rhoda Fullam (later Mrs. Raymond Welch). Wallis is the second from the left and next to Charlie Chaplin, her arm intertwined with his and all four smiling gaily. But so far as the Prince of Wales was concerned, she stood steadfast by her statement she had never met him in San Diego.
How widespread the legend had become entrenched in America is reflected in references to it in biographies dealing w ith the royal couple. The embellishments were worse, defying the imagination. Let us turn to lies Brody, Gone With the Windsors (1953,pp.97-98,102).
“The mayor of San Diego, Louis J. Wilde, gave a brilliant party in the Prince’s honor at the Hotel del Coronado. . . . After the dinner the Prince held court. Two thousand guests [correctly, 1,000] passed before him, the women executing curtsies (never mentioned in the local press); among them the wife of a Naval lieutenant, Mrs. Earl Winfield Spencer. If she was there (as some of her biographers assert) she must have looked long at the blonde, frail Prince Charming. And he must have looked at her with no premonition. True, it was a balmy evening at Coronado Beach. An enchanting evening, fit setting for one of those moments of tenderness. But there were so many ladies present. . . . Such real beauties. . . .
There are many versions as to when and under what circumstances the Duke of Windsor met the duchess. His Royal Highness might [have been] expected to give the world first-hand information on this matter [in his 1951 memoirs] but for the unfortunate fact that he does not wish to remember certain tremendous trifles precisely. It will therefore be necessary to report what some others say concerning their memorable first meeting.
As has already been mentioned, Mrs. Spencer probably paid her homage to the Prince of Wales at Coronado Beach when he visited the United States in 1920. This brief encounter may be crossed off — hundreds of other ladies curtsied to the Prince of Wales that evening.”
No less self-assuring was Geoffrey Bocca, The Woman Who Would Be Queen (1954, pp.42-43), as to what might have occurred in April 1920.
“Wallis and Spencer were still there in 1920 and at a ball at Coronado Wallis saw him for the first time. It was not in any way dramatic and even longstanding friends have seldom heard the Windsors mention it, but the fact of its happening at all gives enough sense of fate and predestination to delight the storytellers.
Reports of the little incident vary, but it may have happened more or less like this. . . . The Prince of Wales was just beginning his fabulous decade of travel, romance, and popularity, and as usual as soon as the local authority heard he was in town he was immediately hauled ashore for some impromptu feting.
It was quite suddenly and unannounced [!]. Wallis and her husband driving in evening dress down Ocean Boulevard to Coronado had no idea that any distinguished guest was to be present and did not much care. When they arrived at the dance, the news was passed on to them by a friend, The Princsof Wales is here.’ Wallis and Spencer murmured, ‘Really,’ and absorbed in domestic troubles, thought little more about it. There was no earthquake, no flash of lightning, no chill down the spine, no meeting of souls. . . .”
To comment briefly, the literature tells us that Wallis was an avid reader of newspapers all her life and the Coronado days were no exception. It seems incredible then to believe they could have been totally unaware of the news items about the prospective visit of the Prince of Wales. I find the quote a figment of the author’s imagination and devoid of the use of available sources.
A most bizarre anecdote confronts one in The Windsor Story (1979, pp.80-81), co-authored by Joseph Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy. In their bibliography they list Eileen Jackson’s article in the Union (August 4, 1946) but assuredly they did not draw the following from her findings. If at all, it would seem to be based upon an interview or via correspondence with Earl Mountbatten of Burma (cousin Dickie to the Prince of Wales and his companion during the 1920 tour.) Certainly, either Earl Mountbatten granted the interview with tongue-in-cheek or had forgotten what did transpire.
Despite the wealth of detail in the account of the Duchess’ ‘first meeting’ [debatable as to 1930 or 1931], she was not telling the truth. Punctured vanity long refused to let her admit that the actual first meeting had taken place ten years earlier during Prince Edward’s New Zealand-Australia tour with Dickie Mountbatten. On April 7, 1920, HMS Renown put in at San Diego; and that afternoon the acting commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific fleet, Vice-Admiral Clarence Williams, U.S.N., gave a reception (correctly, luncheon) on his flagship USS New Mexico in the Prince’s honor. Among the guests were Lt. [Cmdr.] Winfield Spencer, U.S.N., and his wife Wallis. They were presented to the Prince of Wales and Mountbatten, and shook hands and the line moved on. Naturally, the American woman remembered; understandably the Englishman forgot!. . . . Wallis chided Mountbatten about the incident. He said, ‘she never got over our not noticing her.’ She told me she was dressed to kill. . . . She couldn’t seem to accept our not being able to remember her but it is quite true. She had something not immediately visible perhaps, but it was there, and we missed it.
To interject, if the co-authors drew upon any information from Eileen Jackson, it would be the continuing paragraph herein submitted. It should be added, in all honesty, that the Union’s society editor by the seventies was much more cautious in lending credence to the legend.
“There was a ball for the Prince that evening at the nearby Hotel del Coronado and although the Spencers did not attend, legend insists that this was really the scene of the most momentous meeting. The hotel encourages the legend, with a ‘Prince of Wales Grille/ featuring a portrait of the Duke and Duchess [their wedding picture] and [off the main dining room in the Grille there is a small alcove for parties cased by a cage-like partition and identified by a plaque as The Duchess’ Private Dining Room].”
That the visit of the Prince of Wales in April 1920 would find a place in my research on the history of the caravansary I never doubted. I had accepted the legend in a casual way although some of the descriptions appeared far-fetched. After all, the Spencers’ names as invitees to the reception and ball were in the local press for all eyes to see. Certainly, there seemed no reason for the Spencers not to attend the social affairs. The prominent role played by Mrs. Claus Spreckels in all facets of the princely welcome was in favor of the Spencers. She had repeatedly proclaimed herself as a close friend of Wallis. The opportunity was present to be singled out for a more personal introduction to the honored guest. A supplementary factor favorable to a happy share in the festivities was the presence of Captain J.H. Tomb on the general committee arranging the program to welcome the Prince of Wales. He had succeeded Spencer as the commandant of the Naval Air Station and represented a plus in peerage respect.
At any rate, I proceeded in my way methodically to leaf through the microfilm file of the Union preoccupied with annotating news items anent the hostelry across the bay. Then, one day, as I was scanning the society pages, my attention was drawn to a small news item. To cite chapter and verse, in the issue of Wednesday, March 31, 1920 (8:4), betwixt Coronado goings and comings, there was a tiding intended for the eyes of local society.
“Mrs. Winfield Spencer, wife of Lieutenant Commander, U.S.N., is planning to leave this afternoon for Los Angeles taking the Lark tonight for Monterey [all-pullman Southern Pacific train] where she will be the house guest for the weekend at the Del Monte [Lodge] of Mrs. Jane Selby Hayne of San Francisco. Mrs. Spencer goes north to attend the polo games.”
The thought flashed across my mind whether Wallis had got back in time for the visit of the Prince of Wales to San Diego. The answer soon came in a subsequent issue of the Union. To cite chapter and verse, in the issue of Sunday, April 18, 1920 (6:3), the secret was pried open. Betwixt Coronado goings and comings there was a tiding again for the eyes of local society.
Mrs. E. Winfield Spencer returned to Hotel del Coronado Tuesday evening [April 13, 1920] after several weeks’ visit [actually two weeks] with Mrs. Jane Selby Hayne at Del Monte.”
Had Wallis really been out of town during the presence of the Prince of Wales in San Diego? Further evidence that this was so may be found in the society columns up north. The San Francisco Chronicle provided two news items to confirm her absence from San Diego. To begin with, the reader should be aware that the initials of her married name were listed as S.W. instead of E.W. and the error will be carried as printed in the above newspaper. In the issue of Friday, April 9, 1920 (11:2), there is the following society note: “Mrs. S.W. Spencer who is at Del Monte from Coronado, and Mrs. Jane Selby Hayne spend a great deal of time on the Del Monte polo fields practicing with ball and mallet.” In the issue of Wednesday, April 14, 1920 (9:2), there is the following society note: “Mr. and Mrs. Samuel F.B. Morse entertained at dinner last Sunday evening [April 11, 1920] at Pebble Beach [near Del Monte Lodge]; the table was decorated with polo favors as the affair was given as a fitting conclusion of the polo season.” And as was the quaint custom of the society editor, those present were listed by marriage status:
Messrs, and Mesdames
Jane Selby Hayne
S .W. Spencer
Arthur Hill Vincent
The San Francisco Call-Post (April 13,1920, 20:3-4) carried an account of the dinner affair at Pebble Beach hosted by the Morses.
“As a fitting conclusion to the polo season in California, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel F.B. Morse. . . entertained at a dinner Sunday evening at Pebble Beach. Special decorations and polo favors made the tables attractive and the affair was concluded with an informal dance.
Some of those present were the Heckschers, Major and Mrs. Miller Mundy, Mr. and Mrs. Francis McComas, Mr. and Mrs. Alvah Kaime, Mr. and Mrs. Felton Elkins, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Drury, Mrs. Luther Kennett, Mrs. S.W. Spencer, Miss Louise Burke, Mrs. Selby Hayne, Mrs. Arthur Hill Vincent, Miss Mildred Landreth, Frank Carolan, Major Leonard Tate, Major Philip Magor, Byington Ford, Carleton Burke.”
Before dwelling upon this startling turn of events for that treasured heritage in the southwesternmost corner of the United States, some identifications of the elite company in which Wallis traveled are in order. Mrs. Jane Selby Hayne had been previously Mrs. Robin Y. Hayne of San Francisco and along with her husband whom she had recently divorced were ardent polo participants. The Haynes had attended the polo matches in Coronado during the winter seasons back in 1913 and 1914. He played on the San Mateo team. She was a skilled horsewoman who had been a member of a women’s polo team formed by the famed woman athlete Miss Eleonora Sears at a Del Monte polo tournament. During the 1913 season the Union (March 16) recorded that Mrs. Hayne won the women’s Challenge Cup, “a beautiful [pony] race in jockey form [that is, astride the horse].” Apparently, though divorced, she took in the Coronado polo season in March 1920 and perhaps Wallis met her then. That Mrs. Hayne was a prominent socialite in San Francisco circles was evident in a photo in the Sunday edition of the Society and Club Section of the San Francisco Chronicle (April 4, 1920). It showed her along the sidelines watching a polo match at Del Monte.
The Pebble Beach dinner-dance party had its cultural element as well as giving due recognition to the elite sport of polo. The host himself, Samuel Finley Brown Morse, represented a page out of the Renaissance tradition. He was a grandnephew of the inventor of electric telegraphy and almost his namesake. A Yale graduate and a star college football player, he had gone west to seek his fortune. He became associated with the enterprises of Charles Crocker, one of the Big Four railroad contractors. He achieved success, reflected in his acquisition of the Del Monte Properties and construction of the famous 17-mile toll road stretching through the Carmel Valley. He was known as a conservationist in the development of his vast acreage and quite an artist with brush and easel just as was his great-uncle. The presence of Francis McComas was a reflection of Morse’s interest in painting. McComas was an artist of repute in depicting the gnarled beauty of cypress trees. His water colors had won many awards and Morse had him do a mural for Del Monte Lodge. Mrs. Arthur Hill Vincent [and her husband who did not attend] were wealthy world travelers and spent time frequently among the European set.
Nor were those keenly caught up in the polo season any less notable. George Maurice Heckscher, son of August Heckscher, multi-millionaire mining magnate and New York philanthropist, came west annually to play in the winter California polo tournaments including Coronado. This time he brought with him two British army officers and excellent poloists by name Majors Tate and Magor. The three together formed the nucleus of an Eastern British polo team. Major and Mrs. Miller Mundy were an English couple, he a six-goal poloist. Francis Carolan was a San Francisco businessman who had been wed to Harriett Pullman, daughter of the late sleeping car entrepreneur. Despite their separation, he continued playing polo and recently was on the Burlingame Club team. Hugh Drury served as captain of the Del Monte Club team, had been active on the eastern coast polo circuit, and boasted an eight-goal rating. Felton Elkins was likewise a member of the Del Monte Club team and enthusiastic enough to be the donor of the Felton Elkins Challenge Trophy open to California polo clubs. Carleton F. Burke played normally for the Midwick Club of Pasadena and had come north with the Coronado Club accompanied by his sister, Miss Louise Burke. Mrs. Luther Martin Kennett, Coronado socialite and a top woman golfer in California, had made the trip to cheer on her home town team.
Let us now ponder the surprising revelation that Wallis had spent the days north while the Prince of Wales gathered the headlines in San Diego. It should be kept in mind that Wallis herself must have volunteered the information to the Union of her whereabouts for the eyes of her Coronado friends. It seemed reprehensible then for Wallis in her memoirs to gloss over a legend which she knew had no basis of truth. In a way, of course, she could be said to be telling the truth of not meeting the prince but it could be equally interpreted as Wallis having been in town but abstaining from participation. It would certainly have enhanced her memoirs to have confessed and explained her decision to prefer one event over another. It would have added an element of excitement to her manuscript. The fact that many of her Coronado friends lived well into the decades when the legend became known and yet none came forward to offer their recollections is surprising; the memory is a troublesome physiological phenomenon. On the part of Wallis the factor may have been later the poignant memory of strained domestic relations and a determination to shut it out of her life.
The further passage of years brought no change in her position. The lengthier the intervening years mounted up the more one might indeed plead the vagaries of the memory. To put the best face on the enigma, a devil’s advocate might submit some evidence of her frailty as to the past. In the issue of December 14, 1955 (A-26:3-4) the Union suggests such a possibility during the editorial preparation of her memoirs. To assure the accuracy of the chapter for the Coronado years, the uncertainty of Wallis over details and dates prompted long distance calls from the New York publishing house to her transbay friends. That such an effort would be thorough could be assumed since her sponsor was Kennett Longley Rawson, president of David McKay Publishing company. He was a nephew of Luther Martin Kennett whose sister Edith had married Frederick Holbrook Rawson, a Chicago banker and their son was none other than the above Kennett Longley Rawson. In the end it might be added that the task of editor was turned over to Charles J.V. Murphy, previously editor of the Duke of Windsor’s memoirs (and later co-author with Joseph Bryan III of the aforesaid The Windsor Story).
In short, the intimate role of the Kennetts for the Coronado chapter should be patent. Both Isabella (Mrs. Luther Martin Kennett) and her sister-in-law Mrs. Florence Kennett Dupee (first wed to a wealthy Chicago stock broker and poloist and later to become Mrs. George Burnham, a local congressman) had been friends of Wallis. The literature notes that Isabella and Wallis were members of a bridge club. In the case of Florence, her spacious Tudor residence on Ocean Boulevard was the scene for the wedding of Rhoda Fullam to Raymond Welch at which Wallis had served as a bridesmaid. To cap it all, Isabella had been north too for the polo games and present at the dinner party hosted by Samuel F.B. Morse at Pebble Beach on April 11, 1920. Surely, Isabella and Wallis on the occasion must have said something more to each other than “imagine seeing you here.” Nor did the San Francisco press let them forget about the festivities in progress at San Diego honoring the Prince of Wales. And upon their return southward it seems incredible that local friends would not tease them about missing the excitement in San Diego. All the ingredients were there for Isabella to come forward and jog the memory of Wallis. Whether or not Isabella raised the “reality” with the duchess or the editor is not known but nothing followed. For a postscript, apparently no feathers had been ruffled in the process since the Windsors were at a christening ceremony in March 1956 in New York. The duchess had held the baby Kennett Longley Rawson, Jr. while the duke read the responses and among those present had been Aunt Florence (Mrs. George Burnham).
No less mystifying was the uncertainty in the mind of the widow.Mrs. E. Clarence Moore (formerly Mrs. Claus Spreckels). Presumably Isabella had contacted her not only as to the Coronado years of Wallis but about the latter’s presence during the visit of the prince. At the risk of a slight diversion to show how well Ellis knew Wallis, the oft-mentioned article written by her for the Charity Ball souvenir program of 1953 is quoted.
“One evening so long ago by this time, I was of a small and convivial group in the Hotel del Coronado Casino when our gay conversation was suddenly silenced by the arrival of an unusually good-looking couple who were passing through the Casino. . . . A few days later we met them at tea: they were the new commandant of North Island and his wife, Lt. Cmdr. and Mrs. Winfield Spencer. After that evening Wallis and Win were frequently in our group, sometimes playing golf, sometimes enjoying informal parties. . . .
Wallis in both her sports and formal attire was completely ‘comme il faut.’ Her supper parties were always anticipated and the food delicious and exquisitely served. No butlers were around in those days. In no uncertain terms Wallis knew how. The color blue was very kind to Wallis for it enhanced her beautiful dark sapphire-blue eyes, full of sparkle and nice mischief. Her laugh was contagious, like a tonic. . . .”
Considering that Mrs. Moore had attended in 1920 as Mrs. Claus Spreckels all the social affairs honoring the prince and had a quasi-official role, her haziness about the legend is disappointing. For her response the source is Eileen Jackson in the issue of the Union (August 2, 1953, D-9,11). If it will be recalled, the occasion had been the letter she had dispatched to the San Diegan living in Baltimore as to the status of the legend and “the red dress.” Eileen Jackson had inquired of Ellis and included her comments in the letter. Presumably the contents still held true in December 1955 when Isabella checked out Ellis on behalf of those editing the memoirs of Wallis. To repeat the gist of what Ellis had said, “she is ‘sure’ the famous couple met for the first time that April night.” One can only lament that the legend had not yet emerged publicly the summer of 1935 when the widow Mrs. Claus Spreckels visited Wallis in her Simpson apartment in London while the romance was still in the chrysaloid stage. Woman talk might well have turned to the coincidence of having crossed paths back in April 1920. As it was, of course, Mrs. Claus Spreckels had no reason to raise the right question. And subsequently, as she confessed in the souvenir program article, “I haven’t seen Wallis since those days.”
What prompts the possibility of a motive for the frustrating silence is a gossipy comment by Cleveland Amory, the New York writer, in his book, Who Killed Society? (1960, pp.236-237). Referring to the marriage of Wallis and Lieutenant Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr., he described it as “the personification of glamour and the catch of Wallis’ set,” illustrative of her vanity to be foremost in competition. More to the point,’ he cites a knowledgeable lady, none other than Mrs. Emory Sands (Marianna Fullam), “who. . . in her firm opinion [believes that Win Spencer] took to drink not for the reasons Wallis has always said he did [pressures of a career and being sidetracked for promotions in favor of less experienced men].” Rather the resort to drink, averred Mrs. Emory Sands, was “because of the exasperations occasioned by her flirtations with other men.” In her own memoirs (p.71) Wallis tells us that “I am naturally gay and flirtatious and I was brought up to be as entertaining as one can be at a party.” A case in hand might be the socializing in the 1950s between the Windsors and Jimmy Donahue, Woolworth heir. At any rate, the thought suggests itself that perhaps the coquetry of Wallis with the several poloists at the Morse dinner-dance held in Pebble Beach might have discomfited Isabella (Mrs. Luther Martin Kennett) who preferred to close the book on the trip north as a topic of conversation.
Turning to Commander Earl Winfield Spencer, Jr. and his oft-quoted statement “they had gone through the reception line but he did not remember whether Wallis had talked to the Prince of Wales,” there may be likewise a clue to his evasive reply. If it is true, as Wallis states in her memoirs, that the Spencers were well on the road to the breakdown of their marriage, her solo trip to Del Monte Lodge did not help matters. It is not beyond the realm of their relationship that her decision to go off by herself further strained the connubial bond. Whether rumors got back to. Spencer of her social trifling in Monterey is speculative. Or possibly his suspicions were aroused by her own account to him of her trip. As it was, it would not be surprising that a sulking Spencer had chosen to make himself scarce during the festivities.
Nor was Spencer any more than Wallis inclined to speak in succeeding decades, especially after the romantic link between the Prince of Wales and Wallis had been leaked in the 1930s. The vicissitudes of his own personal life must have only strengthened his resolve to shy away from denying the legend. Already his public identification in the press as the “ex-mate of the king’s friend” was a source of irritation. Twice more he returned for tours of duty on North Island. He made no attempts to renew social contacts with Coronado residents. Neither was it pleasant to have his three successive marriages and two more divorces bared in the local press on the basis of his newsworthiness as the first husband of the Duchess of Windsor. Reporters were ever ready to pounce upon anything he did or said. That his private life may have cost him esteem among ranking naval authorities is likely. So he continued to hold a stiff upper lip and if he thought much about the entrenched legend, it might have been in the spirit of the cliche, “let sleeping dogs lie.” Ironically, his death on May 29, 1950 of a heart attack at the age of 61, occurred at the El Cordova Hotel, across the street from the caravansary, while on a nostalgic visit to Coronado.
If anything more is needed to arraign Wallis upon the count of knowingly concealing the truth, it is the railroad trip westward which the Windsors took in March 1959. The final leg of the journey, by automobile, found them visiting friends in Monterey and San Francisco. Many social affairs were held in their honor and among those she renewed acquaintance with were Samuel F.B. Morse, Mrs. Jane Selby Hayne (now Mrs. Harry Hunt), and Mrs. Arthur Hill Vincent. Disappointingly, while conversations must surely have turned upon the visit in April 1920, the circulating legend was apparently not raised. Yet all these persons must have been familiar with the legend if they had read her memoirs or the biographies written about her. Not even a titillating comment made by Wallis at one of the many interviews produced a spark. To cite chapter and verse, in responding to a query whether the Windsors had ever been in the peninsula before, she is quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle (March 25, 1959, 6:6) as saying, “I visited northern California a lifetime ago in 1920 but the duke has never been there; I think he will love it.” At her side was the duke and one would have thought the chronological coincidence with his stay at San Diego would have stirred some thoughts and conversation. Perhaps had the reporter himself been conscious of the romantic legend, he could have pursued the subject further with her. If another golden opportunity went aglim-mering, still the statement by Wallis should be confirmation that she remembered well being north when the prince was in San Diego.
To conclude, both the Duchess of Windsor and Commander Earl Win-field Spencer, Jr. must stand guilty for the genesis of the legend. If Wallis was right in denying the truth of the legend, she failed to state the reasons. If Spencer may have been made out to encourage the legend, he did not come forward to disavow it. More recently, if Thomas Morrow (see part I of this article) was right in doubting the legend, it was for the wrong reasons. Whether the result of this investigative research will end the reign of the legend is another matter. History redounds with instances that revisionism is a slow process. This is not to infer that the demise of the legend is an ear-thshaking fact or crucial to the survival of civilization. But truth is truth and for all seasons. With due apologies for the role of a spoiler of an appealing myth, no inference is intended that the visit of the Prince of Wales should be relegated to historical oblivion. The claim can be made, and a respectable one, that memorializing the advent of the prince in San Diego as an Alice-in-Wonderland chapter is pride enough. Both Los Angeles and San Francisco would have liked to host the royal appearance on the Pacific coast. For Hotel del Coronado it was due testimony of an elegance and ambiance fit for a king. Its Hall of History in the arcade marks that treasured heritage with relevant memorabilia.
Acknowledgements are due many people and institutions in the preparation of this article: Sylvia Arden, Librarian of the San Diego History Center; Dr. Stephen A. Colston, Director of the Center for Regional History at San Diego State University; California Collections Room at the main branch of the San Diego Public Library; Larry Cruse, staff member, Department of Government Documents at the University of California San Diego; staff members at the library of the Naval Air Station on North Island; personnel records centers of the Navy at St. Louis and Washington, D.C.; and library holdings in the areas of Los Angeles and San Francisco.