Photo: Windsor in Coronado
Location: Hotel Del Coronado in Coronado, CA
Date: January 6, 2016
Camera & Lens: Canon 6D and 70-300 DO lens
About This Photo: As a history nut, I love when movies like The King’s Speach refresh memories regarding events like King Edward VIII abdicating the throne to marry a divorced American lady named Wallace Simpson. Rumor has it they met at a magical ball in Coronado, California but there’s a little more to that story. While some believe Wallace Simpson and Edward met at Coronado’s famous Hotel Del Coronado, it simply didn’t happen that way… Ouch. My apologies to Coronado and the Hotel Del, but it’s been “documented that the Coronado socialite was, in fact, on a trip to San Francisco when the prince visited Coronado.” So Simpson wasn’t anywhere near the San Diego area when Edward visited Coronado. DOUBLE OUCH! The two actually met in the English countryside sometime in 1931 after which time she became his mistress.(1) Yes, the romantic notion of the twice divorced socialite meeting her prince at a fairy tale ball on the golden shores of Coronado has been reduced to simply meeting in the countryside when “she became his mistress.” Simplified, no ball, they hooked up. Yes, as stated, Simpson had been married before, and that was the sticky part for the Crown. Wallace’s first husband was Earl Winfield Spencer Jr., a Naval Aviator, who was sent with his wife in 1917 to Coronado, CA to report as the first Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station North Island until 1921.(2) That marriage didn’t last and Wallace would marry one more time before ‘hooking up’ with Edward. Earl Spencer Jr., not to be outdone, was married Not once, not twice, but five times and both possibly believed that old adage of, at first if you don’t succeed, try, try, try again. So that’s how Wallace Simpson ended up in Coronado, but what does that have to do with my photo at the top of this page? Hold on sparky, I’m getting there… When Wallace and Earl arrived in San Diego, they lived for a couple of months near Balboa Park but in January 1918, they moved to Coronado, first roughing it in a suite at the Hotel del Coronado but eventually renting three houses in Coronado.(3) It’s the house they rented at 1115 Flora Avenue that we’re talking about here, in the photo to the left. This house was moved from Flora Avenue to the Hotel Del Coronado in 1999 and is now “the social hub” of the “Club at The Del, an exclusive venue for members and Beach Village owners and guests.”(4) What does that even mean? Simply, it means you ain’t gettin’ in, ever.
The photo at the top of this page, Windsor in Coronado, is that house now standing at the Hotel Del. I was trying to capture this semi-historic house, or part of it, in a different way that could also show it’s place relative to the Hotel Del Coronado which by the way is the real gem. I’m not sure what the connection of this house to the Hotel Del Coronado could possibly be beyond perpetuating the myth that these two met at the Hotel Del. Maybe Coronado is just proud of one of their own who became famous? Nope, Wallace was from Baltimore. Anyway, the truth is that Wallace Simpson briefly lived in this house while married to someone also not from Coronado, who was not the King of England but has a place in US Naval history. Meanwhile, the City of Coronado can proudly claim that the first Commanding Officer of Naval Air Station North Island is buried nearby at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery with his fifth wife and Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, is buried in a nearby continent at the Royal Burial Ground near Frogmore House in England. This is also where Meghan and Harry will soon live, which also has nothing to do with Coronado. TRIPLE OUCH and get a band aid for that cut!
1. Zuniga, Janine. Memories of Windsor. San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, [ 2009 ]. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/sdut-memories-windsor-2009oct15-htmlstory.html (accessed April 13, 2019).
2. King, Greg. The Duchess of Windsor: The Uncommon Life of Wallis Simpson. London: Aurum Press, 2000. 79-85.
3. Larsen, Sharon. The woman who changed royal history. San Diego: San Diego Union-Tribune, 2012. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/entertainment/books/sdut-the-woman-who-changed-royal-history-2012feb25-htmlstory.html (accessed April 13, 2019).
4. Club at the Del. Coronado: Hotel Del Coronado. https://www.clubatthedel.com/windsor-cottage (accessed April 13, 2019).