The engagement of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle might not have been possible without a love story from decades ago.
In 1936, King Edward VIII had to give up the throne to marry a twice-divorced American socialite from Baltimore.
What a difference three quarters of a century makes.
The childhood home of the Duchess of Windsor in Baltimore is now split up for condos, some of them sit vacant on a busy street in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood.
But Phil Baty is among the many who are still obsessed with the story of the king who abdicated for love. In his basement a few doors from the Duchess’ former home at 212 E. Biddle St., he keeps a by appointment-only museum to the former Wallis Simpson and King Edward. Their romance was a scandal that dominated the headlines.
“She's Baltimore's Duchess, not another one,” said Baty when asked the source of his fascination.
But what was scandal then is not today. Meghan Markle, a divorcee and actress, has been greeted with delight from the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“The Duchess of Windsor opened doors,” said Alexandra Deutsch of the Maryland Historical Society. “Would there be a Meghan Markle, would there be a Kate Middleton today if this hadn't happened? Arguably not.”
At the Maryland Historical Society, the Duchess’ donated 1954 designer gown embroidered with monkeys is among the artifacts visitors are most eager to see.
Wallis Simpson was a stunning woman, filled with joy and whimsy.
“He was besotted with her,” said Mark Letzer, the CEO of the historical society. “When he met her, his whole world was transfixed. He couldn't imagine his life without her.”
She was never a princess nor a queen, but by all accounts, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor lived happily ever after, just as princes and princesses are supposed to.
The Maryland Historical Society is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday from noon to 5.
To visit the Duchess of Windsor Museum, email Philip Baty at email@example.com.