The Duchess of Windsor – Wallis & Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (Part three)

By Allan warren - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Read part two here.

The Queen Mother and Wallis did not come face to face again until 1967 when both attended 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’s) refused to attend unless Wallis was also invited. An official in the Queen’s household told a friend that the Queen Mother was “absolutely vitriolic in her hatred of the Duchess and that she had got it into her head that her husband died an early death because of the Duchess.”1 By contrast, Robert Fellowes commented, “Queen Elizabeth would not have minded the Prince of Wales being kind to the Duke of Windsor. She was herself very kind to the Duchess. On the rare occasions when I talked to her about the Duchess, she showed no animosity at all, but rather sympathy for the Duchess’s plight.”2

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.3

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.

When the Duke of Windsor died in 1972, Wallis came over to the United Kingdom for his funeral and was invited to stay at Buckingham Palace. Wallis was invited to dine with The Queen and Prince Charles, but the Queen Mother, who was suffering from a mild attack of shingles, did not attend. Elizabeth Longford wrote that the funeral was a “considerable ordeal” for the Queen Mother. “The Queen Mother was gentle with [the Duchess], as became a Queen, taking the sadly bemused by the arm.”4 One of her ladies-in-waiting remarked that “she was perfectly all right about meeting the Duchess.”5 When the Queen Mother was on an official visit to Paris in 1976, the possibility of her visiting the Duchess was discussed, but Wallis was too ill to receive her. Instead, Elizabeth sent her a large bouquet of roses with a signed card of good wishes.

Wallis herself was in ill health for quite some time before she died on 24 April 1986. As requested, she was to be buried beside her husband at the Frogmore burial ground. Her funeral service at St George’s Chapel was attended by members of the royal family, including the Queen Mother.

After the publication of the letters between the Duke and Duchess from the years 1931-1937, Elizabeth received both letters of support and letters that blamed her for the estrangement. Elizabeth believed that Wallis was “the woman who killed my husband”6 and her animosity passed down to the next generations, which made any reconciliation virtually impossible. Prince Charles once reportedly called the Duchess a “dreadful woman”, which he knew7 “because my grandmother says she was.”8

Whatever the Queen Mother’s true feelings were at first and at a later stage, perhaps a reconciliation would never have been in the cards. We’ll never know.


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

  1. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.457
  2. The Queen Mother by William Shawcross p.845
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.459-460
  4. The Queen Mother by William Shawcross p.846
  5. The Queen Mother by William Shawcross p.846
  6. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.461
  7. He had not met her at this point
  8. Sovereign: Elizabeth II and the Windsor dynasty by Roland Flamini p.38

About Moniek Bloks 2391 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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