In May 1972, Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were scheduled to visit Paris. By then, the Duke of Windsor was terminally ill. On 18 May, Wallis watched from the steps of their villa as the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and Prince Charles arrived. She curtseyed deeply but almost lost her footing. The visit began with tea in the drawing-room before Wallis led the Queen upstairs to the boudoir. The dying Duke had received a blood transfusion that morning to have enough strength to meet his family.1
The Duke had insisted on getting dressed to meet his niece, but his clothes hung around his emaciated frame as he weighed less than six stone (84 lbs or 38 kg) at that point. He was on a drip, but his doctor had hidden the apparatus behind the chair in which the Duke was seated. The Duke rose slowly from the chair as The Queen entered to bow to her before kissing both cheeks. When she asked how he was, he replied, “Not so bad.”2
Wallis later told the Countess of Romanones, “The Queen’s face showed no compassion, no appreciation for his effort, his respect. Her manner as much as states that she had not intended to honour him with a visit, but that she was simply covering appearances by coming here because he was dying and it was known that she was in Paris.”3 The nurse on duty recalled that the Queen spoke amiably with her uncle. The nurse said, “As the Duchess brought Prince Charles in [the Duke’s] face lit up, and he started asking him about the navy… but, after a few minutes, I saw the Duke’s throat convulse, and he began coughing. He mentioned me to wheel him away, the Royal Family stood up, and I had the feeling that this was his way of avoiding any formal goodbyes. It had all been brief, immensely cordial, and very important to him, but he had no reserves of strength left.”4 The whole visit has lasted just 30 minutes.
The Windsors’ secretary later said, “That visit by the Queen was very healing. Nobody knows exactly what was said, but it was extremely important. The Duke always said that he loved the Queen.”5
On 28 May 1972, 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.”6 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.”7