In social circles perhaps the number one position is that of being the King of England.
Wealth alone does not guarantee you social position, although it helps one get there. In the Hamptons there is a mix of wealth and socialites. The families that have selected the South Fork to summer over the years reads like a who’s who in America’s social and economic history. It was quite a sight in Southampton years back when the private railroad car of Henry Ford was parked at for a whole week one summer so that the great Henry Ford could attend the wedding of his grandson Henry Ford II to a local Southampton girl. Movie stars like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Ginger Rogers mixed with the rich socialites even marring into the families.
One dapper socialite was Thomas Markoe Robertson graduate of Choate and of Yale 1910. Brother-in–law of A.J.Drexel Biddle, “Markoe” was known for his wonderful tweeds and stylish tasteful ways. In fact he was a competent architect who donated the designs that were used to originally build along with the . It was not unusual to see Markoe squiring about with a tweed jacket with matching double breasted waist coat and flannel trousers. Markoe had many friends but the ace of his deck of friends easily had to be Edward, Duke of Windsor, formally King Edward VIII of England. The very same King Edward who on Dec. 10, 1936 executed an “Instrument of Abdication,” which gave the throne to his brother George, father of present Queen Elizabeth. Because of this, Edward lived abroad for the rest of his life in exile dying in Paris in 1972, (although he is buried in Windsor Castle.) The reason behind this action was his love for an American, twice divorced Mrs. Wallace Simpson, as he phrased it, “the woman I love.”
"Edward and Wally" were yearly summer guest of Markoe at his home in the Ox Pasture section of Southampton. In August 1944 Herbie Edwards, then of Southampton, caddied for the Duke and his buddy Alan Borucke caddied for Robertson.
A few years back, Herbie in an interview explained that for two rounds of golf he carried Edward, the Duke of Windsor's golf bag around National Links while he played golf with Markoe. “He wore knickers,” recalled Herbie who was then all of 14, but chosen because his dad had crewed for Harold Vanderbilt in the America’s cup series aboard “Rainbow.” The caddy master knew Herbie would behave properly. Herbie added, “He (the Duke) shot in the eighties teeing off at about 2:30. The halfway house was closed due to the war so they played 18 holes without refreshments. He had a warm smile and was friendly,’’ but as was the custom Herbie stood back and only suggested clubs when asked. Herbie who now lives in Virginia is married to Southampton’s Dorothy Reminski and they are celebrating over 60 years of marriage. Herbie was actually assigned to caddy for the Duke a second time in which Gary Cooper’s, father–in–law, Wall Street scion Paul Shields,(who was a neighbor of Markoe), joined Markoe and The Duke of Winsor for the round of golf. Herbie laughs as he recalls, “The Duke asked Mr. Robertson how much should he pay me and Mr. Robertson said two dollars so he gave me two dollars. He walked up to the locker room to change and that was the last I ever saw him. I do have a photo of me holding his golf bag. He was thin in good shape about 6 feet tall.”
Now back in that era during the war what is now known as the in Southampton was the establishment of Herb McCarthy at Bowden Square. Imagine the buzz in the room when Markoe walked in with his wife and Edward and “Wally,” the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. There had to be stares at the man who gave up the throne, being King of England, to marry the woman he loved, sitting right there eating dinner and laughing with old friends. In fact there is a photo of all four posing at the entrance.
It may be noted that Edward never in fact had a coronation because it was decided the Mrs. Wallace Simpson matter be dealt with first. He also spent time on Long island in Locust Valley enjoying the links at Piping Rock.
So today in the Hamptons the tradition of the summer season fusing the social scene between both socialites and the new champions of wealth still plays on the same posh playgrounds. Most of the same posh homes endure. The ghosts of Marjorie Merriweather Post, Doris Duke, Paul Shields, Gary Cooper, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable, Barbara Hutton, Howard Hughes and Henry Ford II must still drop by for a peek. I wonder what they think?