In 1967, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor 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. However, it was more likely because the Duke of Gloucester (the only other surviving son of Queen Mary) refused to attend unless Wallis was also invited.
It was the first time since 1936 that Wallis met her sister-in-law as noted by the Daily Express: “The poignancy of the Duchess’s meeting with the members of her husband’s family will be heightened by her encounter, for the first time since 1936, with her sister-in-law, the Queen Mother.”1
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor arrived in Southhampton on board the SS United States and were greeted by Lord Mountbatten and members of the press, who shouted questions at them. They spent the night at Lord Mountbatten’s home, and his private secretary later said, “The staff were in great twitter – should they curtsy or bow to her? I asked Lord Mountbatten, and he said that although he would not insist, he felt it would be polite if we accorded her the same niceties that we did the Duke, so we all inclined our heads to her.”2 As they had not been invited to stay at a royal residence, the Duke and Duchess booked a room at Claridge’s Hotel. The day before the unveiling, they had lunch with the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester at York House.
On 7 June, a large crowd stood waiting outside Marlborough House as the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were among the first of the family to arrive. They alighted their car to loud cheers. Wallis was impeccably dressed in a blue Givenchy coat and a matching pillbox hat. Other members of the family began to arrive – The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester with their children and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent with her children.
Then came Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. 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. A short memorial service was followed by the unveiling of a plaque of Queen Mary’s profile by The Queen. Upon The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s departure, Wallis dropped into a deep curtsey. As the Queen Mother left, Wallis shook her hand. The Queen Mother said, “I do hope we meet again.” Wallis replied, “When?” leaving the Queen Mother without further comment.
That afternoon, they had lunch with Princess Marina and her family at Kensington Palace. They had not been invited to the derby at Epson Downs, which The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen Mother and the Duchess of Gloucester attended.
It had been a tense affair, and they were not mentioned in the court circular as having attended the event. The Lord Chamberlain later tried to explain this by saying that only members of the royal family who undertook active engagements were listed, but this proved to be inaccurate a year later when the Duke of Windsor was listed as having attended Princess Marina’s funeral.