The Duchess of Windsor – Wallis & Mary, Princess Royal

Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood (public domain)

Mary, Princess Royal was the sister of King Edward VIII, later known as the Duke of Windsor, and as such was the sister-in-law of the Duchess of Windsor. Mary and Edward were close in childhood, and she would be the first royal to visit the former King in exile.

Mary continued to correspond with her brother, but it wasn’t until 1947 that she began to acknowledge Wallis in her letters to her brother and enquired about her health.1 When the Duke and Duchess did not receive an invitation for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip in 1947, Mary reportedly felt this was going too far and deliberately stayed away from the ceremony. However, a letter by Mary suggests that this was just gossip, although she remains rather ambiguous. She wrote, “I would like you to know that after all I shall not be coming to London. I felt that the wedding festivities might prove too great a strain. I am very disappointed to miss the wedding. November 17 or 18 the press must announce that I have a chill or something of the sort.”2

She became one of the first members of the royal family to meet the Duchess after the wedding3, although not until 1953. Mary had been on a royal tour when Queen Mary‘s health took a turn for the worst. She cut the tour short and travelled to New York where the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were staying so that she could travel back together with her brother on board the Queen Elizabeth. Wallis was – of course – not invited. It was under these sad circumstances that Mary came face-to-face with Wallis. Mary was reportedly charmed by Wallis, and they even posed for photos.4

The Duke wrote to Wallis from the ship, “The bulletins from Marlborough House proclaim the old lady’s condition to be slightly improved. Ice in place of blood in the veins must be a fine preservative… Mary seems to have become more human with age and has revealed a few interesting family bits of gossip.”5

When the Duke of Windsor was in London in 1965 to have surgery for a detached retina, much was made of the two visits of The Queen, but Mary also visited her brother. She brought flowers with her and spent 45 minutes inside speaking to him and Wallis on 17 March. A newspaper reported that it was hoped that now, “Mary would do much to draw the Duke and Duchess back into the family circle.”6 But tragically, if she had any plans of this nature, she would not have the time.

On 28 March 1965, Mary tripped and fell and apparently had heart thrombosis. Her son later wrote, “I supported her while the boys ran off… There was no apparent crisis, and I had no idea that in the quarter of an hour which intervened before the car came, she had died quite peacefully in my arms.”7

On the same day of the funeral, a memorial service was held for her in Westminster Abbey. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor attended the memorial – their first joint public event in the United Kingdom.


Our book The Duchess of Windsor – A Collection of Articles is available now in the US and the UK.

  1. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.204
  2. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.207
  3. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester had met her briefly in 1938 in Paris
  4. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.233
  5. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.233
  6. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.256
  7. Princess Mary by Elisabeth Basford p.257

About Moniek Bloks 2749 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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