From 1980, Wallis spent most of her days alone in a wheelchair. She was taken care of by nurses, who bathed her and put her hair in a bun. She often had to be spoon-fed, and periods of lucidity came and went. Eventually, the Countess of Romanones was allowed to visit her, though another friend noted that she believed this was done to placate the other friends. By then, Wallis’ hair had turned white, and she did not recognise the Countess. When the Countess visited again several months later, Wallis had gone completely blind. A friend named Janine Metz never gave up on calling and finally won permission to see Wallis. She said, “She was like a little bird, all shrivelled up. I came up very close to the bed, bent down and kissed her, she seemed to have no idea who I was, or even that I was in the room.” She whispered to Wallis, “I am Janine. I am here with you.”1 She pressed Wallis’ hand, and she pressed back – the only way she could still communicate. Janine would be one of the last of her friends to see Wallis.
By the beginning of 1984, Wallis was completely paralyzed. She was being fed with an intravenous drip, and the doctor visited her regularly. Nurses changed her drip, washed her body and turned her to prevent bedsores.
The Duchess of Windsor died on 24 April 1986 of heart failure following pneumonia – she was 89 years old. Reverend Jim Leo told the press, “Death came round the corner as a very gentle friend, and she was content, she was happy.”2 Her body was washed and dressed in a simple black dress with a jewelled belt before being placed in an oak coffin. No autopsy was performed on the body. On 27 April, the Lord Chamberlain – on Queen Elizabeth II’s instructions – flew to Paris to collect the Duchess’ body. That same day, they landed at RAF Benson, where Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, waited to escort the body to Windsor. Eight members of the Royal Air Forced place the coffin into the waiting hearse, and a small motorcade escorted the procession to Windsor.
At St. George’s Chapel, eight members of the Welsh Guards carried her coffin inside to the Albert Memorial Chapel. Her funeral took place on 29 April at St. George’s Chapel at 3.30 P.M. Around 175 people were invited to attend the funeral, and during the service, her coffin rested on a catafalque before the high altar. On top of her coffin was a wreath from The Queen consisting of yellow and white madonna lilies. Sixteen members of the royal family attended the funeral, including The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Anne and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The service began with “I am the Resurrection and the Life”, which is a tradition for royal funerals. Then came psalm 90, a blessing and a prayer read by the Dean of Windsor. Several hymns and prayers followed before the Archbishop of Canterbury pronounced a final blessing and prayer. With the sounds of Enigma Variations, the Duchess’ coffin was carried out of the chapel. Not once was her name mentioned during the 28-minute long funeral.
The coffin was put back into a hearse and driven to the Frogmore burial ground, where she was laid to rest beside her husband. Reverend Jim Leo conducted a simple service at the graveside as the members of the Royal Family looked on.
The Duchess of Marlborough commented, “I went to look at the flowers… It was tragic. They were all from dressmakers, jewellers, Dior, Van Cleef, Alexandre. Those people were her life.”3