Now that the Queen had visited them, the Duke and Duchess were visited by other family members. Mary, Princess Royal came by, and Princess Marina, The Duchess of Kent, came by with her daughter Princess Alexandra. Princess Marina had known Wallis since before the abdication, but they had not met since then. Wallis curtseyed to Marina, but Marina embraced her, and she and her children became regular visitors to the Duke and Duchess. The main absentee was Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who sent flowers but refused to visit.
In 1967, the Duke and Duchess were invited to attend the dedication of a memorial plaque to Queen Mary outside Marlborough House. The Queen Mother at first refused to attend if Wallis was invited, but she eventually relented, and to the public, it appeared to be a gesture of reconciliation. It was the first time since 1936 that Wallis met her sister-in-law. Wallis did not curtsey to the Queen Mother, but they shook hands, and the Queen Mother said, “How nice to see you,” before moving on. When The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh arrived, the Duke of Windsor bowed, and the Duchess curtseyed briefly. Upon their departure, Wallis dropped into a deep curtsey. That afternoon, they had lunch with Princess Marina and her family at Kensington Palace. It had been a tense affair, and they were not mentioned in the court circular as having attended the event.
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. He was waiting in a wheelchair against his doctor’s advice. As the Queen entered, the Duke rose and kissed his niece. 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.”1 The nurse on duty recalled that the Queen spoke amiably with her uncle. The Duke apparently interrogated Prince Charles about life in the navy until he had a coughing fit. Wallis soon escorted everyone downstairs, and as the royals left, Wallis curtseyed to each one. The visit has lasted just 30 minutes.
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.”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 The exiled King Umberto of Italy personally came by to express his condolences.
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 of 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 then 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.”7 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.
The following year, on 11 July 1973, the Queen sent a plane to collect Wallis so that she could visit her husband’s grave, and she joined the Queen for tea after the visit. It was the last time that Wallis would visit England. Relations with the royal family soon turned formal again. Christmas cards no longer came from “Lilibet” but from “Elizabeth R”, and only Lord Mountbatten continued to have friendly relations with Wallis.
The Duchess’ health deteriorated during these years, and she became blind, paralyzed and senile. She died on 24 April 1986 of heart failure following pneumonia. Her body was collected on the Queen’s instructions three days later. Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, escorted the body to Windsor. Her funeral took place on 29 April and was attended by The Queen and other members of the royal family. She was laid to rest next to her husband at Frogmore but not once was her name mentioned during the 28-minute long funeral service.