Wallis: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on July 23, 2014

Portrait of Wallis Simpson, 1936

This one has fascinated me since I first read about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in the 1980s.

Our Baby Name of the Day is Wallis.

It was quite the scandal when Charles and Diana divorced, providing years of tabloid fodder. But I suspect it wasn’t quite as shocking as the abdication of King Edward VIII to marry a twice-divorced American.

Born Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David, and called David by his family, his great-grandmother Queen Victoria was still on the throne when he was born in 1894.

By the 1910s and 20s, he was quite the playboy, known for his wild ways and many romances – but showed no signs of settling down.

Bessie Wallis Warfield was born in small-town Pennsylvania.  Named for an aunt, she was called Bessie Wallis or even Bessiewallis as a girl.

Wallis is a variant spelling of Wallace. Both come from the Anglo-Norman waleis - Welsh, originally from an Old English word for a foreigner.  Wallace is more common in Scottish; Wallis, in English.

A handful of boys were named Wallis in the US over the years.  But it was very unusual for a girl.

Then again, Wallis Warfield was no ordinary girl.  She was stylish, with a knack for attracting glamorous friends.

Her second marriage brought her to England in the 1930s, with her wealthy shipping magnate husband.  The charming Mrs. Simpson moved in a certain circle of London society, a circle that soon brought her into contact with Lady Furness – the Prince of Wales’ mistress.  Wallis and the prince soon met, and it wasn’t long before the prince’s new romance was the worst kept secret in England.

In January 1936 King George V died, and David became King Edward VIII.

It became clear that David intended to marry Wallis – and equally clear that the government would not accept such an arrangement.

Eventually, King Edward VIII abdicated in favor of his younger brother.  In his final address to the nation, he explained that he could not carry out the duties of governance “without … the woman I love.”  It’s an immortal statement.

In June 1937, the couple tied the knot, and Wallis became the Duchess of Windsor.  Fashionista Wallis wore a dress by go-to designer Mainbocher, in a color he called “Wallis Blue.”

Around the same time, there was a very brief spike in the number of girls given the name – just six in 1936, but 33 in 1937.

The name quickly faded – and, indeed, the couple faded from the headlines.  Sparked by the wedding of Charles and Diana, all things royal got a boost in the 1980s.  The death of the Duchess in 1986 sparked a flurry of  interest, too, as did the auction of many of her jewels.

But it hasn’t led to a significant uptick in girls called Wallis.

Actor Anthony Edwards and cosmetics entrepreneur Jeanine Lobell have three daughters: Esme, Poppy, and Wallis, plus a son called Bailey.

Even in 2014, it’s hard to separate the name from the figure.  And yet, she’s an interesting possibility. She reads as a feminine form of Wallace, and she’s similar in sound to the classic Alice.

If you’re debating choices like Ellis and Hollis, Wallis is another one to add to your shortlist.

What do you think of Wallis?  Would it work for a girl in 2014?  Do you automatically think of the Duchess of Windsor when you hear the name?

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