The Year of the Duchess of Windsor – The funeral of the Duke of Windsor




funeral duke windsor
Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

The day after the Queen’s visit, the Duke seemed to improve a little, but on 25 May, he was unable to leave his bed. The following day, Wallis called their American physician Dr Arthur Antonucci to come to Paris to see the Duke. He dropped everything and was in Paris late that afternoon. After examining the Duke and conferring with Dr Thin and nurse Shanley, he told Wallis that there was nothing he could do. From then on, Wallis barely left the room.

Late Saturday night, the Duke told Wallis to get some rest. He said, “Darling, go to bed and rest. Oonagh (nurse Shanley) will look after me.”1 Just a few hours later, around 2.20 a.m., the Duke of Windsor died in his sleep. His nurse went to wake up Wallis, who kissed his forehead and cupped his face while saying, “My David, my David… You look so lovely.”2 The news was released by Buckingham Palace, and the text of a telegram sent by the Queen to Wallis was also released. “I know that my people will always remember him with gratitude and great affection and that his services to them in peace, and he will never be forgotten. I am so glad that I was able to see him in Paris ten days ago.”3

During the Duke’s visit to a London clinic in 1965, he had asked his niece if it would be possible for him and Wallis to be buried at Frogmore, and he had asked for their funeral services to take place in St. George’s Chapel. He had already purchased a burial plot in the Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore several years earlier as he had been unsure if he would be allowed to return to England – even in death. The Queen agreed to these requests ten days later as the publicity of a former King being buried in the United States would be unwelcome.

And so on 31 May, the Duke’s body was brought to England for burial and for the first time, Wallis was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace. She did not go at the same time as the Duke’s body as she felt absolutely devastated and remained secluded in Paris.

She followed on 2 June on an aeroplane from the Queen’s flight. She was welcomed by Lord Mountbatten, who helped her down the ladder.

The following day, the Court Circular finally recognised her existence as it mentioned her arrival in the country. Wallis would spend four days at Buckingham Palace, and she was received by the Queen in her private sitting-room. Wallis later recalled, “They were polite to me, polite and kind, especially the Queen. Royalty is always polite and kind. But they were cold. David always said they were cold.”4 A courtier recalled, “The Queen didn’t want to have much to do with Wallis. Dinner was given in the Chinese Room – with anybody else, it would have been in the Queen’s own dining room. She preferred to go down to where Wallis was set up. It was okay – everybody behaved decently. Charles was there, and helpful. But there was certainly no outpouring of love between the Queen and the Duchess of Windsor and vice versa.”5

Wallis was determined to remain dignified throughout the visit and told the Countess of Romanones, “In all the time I was there, no one in the family offered me any real sympathy whatsoever. They were going to continue to hate me no matter what I did, but at least I wasn’t going to let them see David’s wife without every shred of dignity I could muster.”6 On 3 June, Trooping the Colour went ahead as usual as the Queen refused to cancel it. Instead, she wore a black armband, and a piper’s lament was played. The Duchess of Windsor was caught by a photographer looking down on the event.

Afterwards, the Queen went to Wallis to inform her that the family would be going to Windsor Castle and that she could join them if she wished. Wallis decided against going and remained behind alone at Buckingham Palace. That evening, Wallis visited St George’s Chapel, where the Duke lay in state. That day would have been their 35th wedding anniversary.

On 5 June, Wallis left Buckingham Palace for the funeral of her husband.  She joined the other members of the royal family in St George’s Chapel and recalled how the Queen Mother was dressed. “I really must copy that outfit. It looked as if she had just opened some old trunk and pulled out a few rags, and draped them on herself. And that eternal bag hanging on her arm… She wore a black hat with the brim rolled up, just plopped on her head, and a white plastic arrow sticking up through it. I thought how David would have laughed.”7

The Duke’s coffin was carried down the nave and into the choir, followed by several male members of the royal family. It was then placed onto the catafalque. Wallis was often overwhelmed during the one-hour service, and the Queen helped her find the place in the order of service.

Afterwards, she joined them in the private apartments for the after-funeral reception. Lord Mountbatten took Wallis to a sofa where she could rest and where she was surprisingly joined by the Queen Mother, who said to her, “I know how you feel. I’ve been through it myself.”8 The actual burial took place immediately after the reception, and Wallis wanted to return to Paris as soon as possible. She was not accompanied to the airport by a member of the royal family. Later that day, she walked back into the home they had shared for so long – alone.

  1. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.473
  2. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.473
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.474
  4. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.478
  5. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.478
  6. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.478
  7. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.482
  8. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.484






About Moniek 1960 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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