The Duchess of Windsor – Denying the style of HRH (Part two)

edward wallis windsor
Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

Read part one here.

The continued quest

Wallis later wrote, “The distinction did not seem particularly important to me. David (Edward) had given up the most exalted of titles. It hardly seemed worthwhile to me to quibble over a distinction in a lesser one. But nothing in the aftermath of the Abdication hurt David more than that gratuitous thrust. In his eyes, it was an ultimate slur upon his wife, and, therefore, upon himself. He could not bring himself to wholly to blame his brother, who, he knew, had bowed to strong pressure. But this action made for a coolness between them thereafter.”1

The Duke of Windsor would continue his quest to secure the style of Her Royal Highness for Wallis. In November 1942, he wrote to Winston Churchill and urged that “after five and a half years, the question of restoring to the Duchess her royal status should be clarified.” He had been requested by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to submit the names of local candidates for the New Year honours list, and he believed Wallis was the perfect candidate. “I am now asking you, as Prime Minister, to submit to the King that he restores the Duchess’ royal rank at the coming New Year not only as an act of justice and courtesy to his sister-in-law but also as a gesture in recognition of her two years of public service in the Bahamas. The occasion would seem opportune from all angles for correcting an unwarranted step.”2 King George VI replied to Winston Churchill that he was “sure it would be a mistake to reopen this matter… I am quite ready to leave the question in abeyance for the time being, but I must tell you quite honestly that I do not trust the Duchess’s loyalty.”3 Privately, he added, “I have consulted my family, who share these views.”4

In 1949, the Duke of Windsor consulted Viscount Jowitt for a legal opinion on the question of her title. He had also given his opinion in 1937 when he went on to declare that “the Duchess of Windsor is, by virtue of her membership of the Royal family, entitled in the same way as other royal duchesses, to be known by the style and title of ‘Her Royal Highness.'” This time he back-peddled slightly and added, “that the marks of respect which the subject pays to Royal personages are, as I said, in no source a legal obligation. They are simply a matter of good manners.”5 He pointed out that the matter could only be formally resolved by fresh Letters Patent and since these would not be issued by the King unless on the advice of his ministers, it was unlikely that these would be issued at all. However, Viscount Jowitt later wrote to Tommy Lascelles6 that he still believed a legal mistake had been made. “In reality, he remained HRH notwithstanding the Abdication, and the attribute to which he was entitled would automatically pass to his wife.”7

When the Duke of Windsor tried to arrange a meeting with Prime Minister Attlee, Queen Mary wrote to King George VI, “I cannot tell you how grieved I am at your brother being so tiresome about HRH. Giving her this title would be fatal, and after all these years, I fear lest people think we condoned this dreadful marriage which has been such a blow to us all in every way.”8 King George himself wrote to the Duke that there was no possibility of the issue being reconsidered. He wrote, “I made your wife a Duchess despite what happened in 1936. You should be grateful to me for this. But you are not.”9

The new Queen

When King George VI died in 1952, the Duke went to London alone as the Duchess was not welcome. She was quite worried that he would use the situation to press the HRH issue. She wrote to him, “Now that the door has been opened a crack, try and get your foot in, in the hope of making it open even wider in the future because that is best for WE… I should also say how difficult things have been for us and that also we have gone out of our way to keep our way of life dignified which has not been easy due to the expense of running a correct house in keeping with your position as a brother of the King of England. And leave it there. Do not mention or ask for anything regarding recognition of me. I am sure you can win her (Queen Elizabeth II) over to a more friendly attitude.”10 Nevertheless, he raised the issue with the new Queen, but she too would not budge on the issue.

In December 1963, Wallis was interviewed by Susan Barnes, who asked her if she believed she would ever become a Royal Highness. “Never!” she answered. “I don’t mind. There are a great many things I have had to learn not to give any importance to… I don’t know, but I think the refusal to give me equal rank with my husband may have been done to make things difficult for us. It is difficult – because people are puzzled about what to do with me. At parties. At any time. They don’t understand being married to Mr Smith and being called Mrs Jones. And I know it hurts my husband… I know that he has been hurt very deeply… I don’t mind for myself. I’ve lived without this title for twenty-five years. And I’m still married to this man!”11

In 1967, Philip M. Thomas published an article in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage called “The Duchess of Windsor – Her Position reappraised.” He concluded, “Not merely in justice, but as public recognition of the honour of the Duke, steps should be taken without further delay to right this most flagrant act of discrimination in the whole history of our dynasty.”12

The issue would follow the Duke and Duchess to the grave – literally. While the Duke’s tombstone lists him as “HRH The Prince Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David Duke of Windsor”, Wallis’ tombstone simply reads “Wallis Duchess of Windsor.”


Our book The Duchess of Windsor – A Collection of Articles is available now in the US and the UK.

  1. The heart has its reasons by the Duchess of Windsor p.290
  2. That Woman by Anne Sebba p.249
  3. That Woman by Anne Sebba p.249-250
  4. That Woman by Anne Sebba p.250
  5. That Woman by Anne Sebba p.256
  6. King George VI’s private secretary
  7. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.250
  8. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.251
  9. The American Duchess by Anna Pasternak p.251
  10. The Duchess Of Windsor by Greg King p.400
  11. The Duchess Of Windsor by Greg King p.454
  12. Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 104th Edition 1967 p. xxiii

About Moniek Bloks 2747 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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