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ByChristopher Wilson for Mail on Sunday

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Published: 22:32 GMT, 20 September 2014 | Updated: 11:23 GMT, 21 September 2014



The dramatic moment when a devastated Duke of Windsor accused his wife of adultery has been revealed in the previously unseen papers of his former private secretary.

In a scene that undermines the myth that the marriage was ‘the greatest love affair in the world’, the former Edward VIII tearfully told Wallis Simpson, the divorcee for whom he gave up the throne in 1936, to break off her relationship with a wealthy playboy.

The private notebooks of Anne Seagrim, which she kept secretly during her service with the royal couple, offer further evidence that after 13 years of marriage, the Duchess had became bored with her husband, leading to an affair with a young American 19 years her junior, Jimmy Donahue, who until then had been a promiscuous homosexual.

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The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1951, the year after she started her affair with Jimmy Donahue

In an undated eyewitness account detailing the moment the ex-king became aware of the affair, Miss Seagrim  wrote: ‘The day that he came back from the [New York] Racquets Club where someone had told him “in his own interests” that the Duchess had  been out every night till dawn with the same young man –  he went to his room and lay  on his bed. She came in and, gaily unknowing, went into  [his room].

‘I heard him choking back  the tears in his voice, telling her what he had heard. I heard him say what he had no doubt rehearsed over and over again – “It’s not because you are the Duchess of Windsor, it’s because you are my wife. Any man would mind his wife  doing this.”

‘His voice wavered. She never said a single word – or at any rate I didn’t hear her voice,  and very soon she came out, all her gaiety gone – walking slowly with her head bent, her face submissive, her eyes blue & bewildered. She gave me a quick glance as she went through my room.

‘She was very quiet and submissive for a long time afterwards. She telephoned immediately cancelling whatever arrangement she had made with the young man.’

And Miss Seagrim says damningly of the Duchess:  ‘She revelled in this shoddy little success.’

The Duchess had started her affair with Donahue aboard  the Queen Mary in May 1950, when she was 54 and he 35, having first met him at his mother’s home in Palm Beach nine years earlier. He was a grandson of the founder of Woolworth’s and led an indolent life after being kicked  out of Choate, the ‘American Eton’, for non-attendance.

Jimmy Donahue with the Duchess at a nightclub in New York

The affair continued even after the Duke’s intervention, and came to an end in 1954, when he finally lost patience with his wife’s lover.

Miss Seagrim, who worked  at close quarters with the couple in Paris and New York between 1950 and 1954, wrote in her notebook of the Duchess: ‘She naively always hoped to get away with her affairs – brazened it out when another would have given herself away by seeming guilty.’

She added: ‘[She was] determined to have her fun – but when she realised she had been caught out, she didn’t excuse herself or try to fool him.

‘She was also really [regretful] at having upset him because although I was pretty sure she never felt the same passionate love for him as he did for her, she was very fond of him and had set herself the job of making him happy. But it was a “job”. It wasn’t a reciprocal love on the same scale as his for her.’

The notebooks, stored in a recently opened archive in Churchill College, Cambridge, are particularly revealing because throughout her life Miss Seagrim, who died aged 92 in 2011, publicly maintained her devoted support for  the Windsors.

Wallis with the Duke at a fancy dress party in America in the 1950s

The Cartier tiger brooch the Duke gave his wife after the affair

She wrote: ‘When HRH was happy, he used to call her “Peaches”. Nothing could be further from the truth!’ And of the Duke she observed: ‘Donaldson [Frances Donaldson, one of the Duke’s early biographers] misses the essential point about his character – his fundamental uncertainty about his sexuality & his ability to be a heterosexual man. He was fundamentally afraid of women.’

For four years, as I revealed in my biography Dancing  With the Devil: The Windsors and Jimmy Donahue, the trio were inseparable.

The Duke, who was pathologically worried about money  and happy to allow others to bankroll his expensive lifestyle, knowingly allowed himself  to be cuckolded.

Although rumours often swirled about the Duchess’s relationship with Donahue, his previously homosexual love-life led observers to believe that there was no sexual attraction between them.

After the affair ended, the dynamic between husband  and wife remained unchanged – he needy, she expecting total devotion.

A bejewelled Cartier tiger brooch and matching bracelet which were ordered by the Duke after the affair are being sold  at Christie’s in November and are expected to fetch £1.5 million.

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