The Duchess of Windsor – Wallis & Queen Mary (Part one)

wallis mary
(public domain)

Queen Mary (born Mary of Teck) was the wife of King George V of the United Kingdom and the mother of King Edward VIII. As such, she was the mother-in-law of the Duchess of Windsor, but she never accepted Wallis and barely acknowledged her.

Their first meeting happened before Wallis was even involved with the future King Edward VIII. On 10 June 1931, Wallis was officially presented at court before the King and Queen. It had involved jumping through quite a few hoops as, for many years, a divorced person could not be presented at court. This had recently changed, and now one could be presented at court if they could prove that they were the injured, blameless party. Legal proof had to be provided to the office of the Lord Chamberlain, and so Wallis obtained copies of her divorce decree from the United States, and she forwarded them to St. James’s Palace. Wallis borrowed a dress from her friend Consuelo Thaw and train, feathers and a fan from Thelma, Viscountess Furness. She bought a large cross to wear around her neck and elbow-length white gloves. That day, Wallis swept into a deep curtsey before King George V and Queen Mary, but they exchanged no words. It had lasted less than a minute.

When Wallis was firmly established as the favourite several years later, she and her husband Ernest received an invitation to the wedding of Prince George and Princess Marina (The Duke and Duchess of Kent). Two days before the wedding, they were also invited to a state ball for the bride and groom. Edward quickly sought her out and presented her to Prince Paul of Yugoslavia and then took her over to his parents. He said, “I want to introduce you to a great friend of mine.” Wallis curtseyed deep before the King, and he took her hand in his. She then turned to Queen Mary and curtseyed again. Queen Mary, too shook her hand. By then, both the King and Queen were well aware of Wallis’s presence in their son’s life. It would be the only time Wallis had a proper meeting with her future parents-in-law. Wallis later wrote, “It was the briefest of encounters – a few words of perfunctory greeting, an exchange of meaningless pleasantries, and we moved away. But I was impressed by Their Majesties great gift for making everyone they met, however casually, feel at ease in their presence.”1

After King George V’s death and the accession of Edward, Mary remained rather quiet on the topic of Wallis. She later said, “I have not liked to talk to David (Edward) about his affair with Mrs Simpson, in the first place because I don’t want to give the impression of interfering in his private life, and also because he is the most obstinate of all my sons. To oppose him over anything is only to make him more determined to do it. At present, he is utterly infatuated, but my great hope is that violent infatuations usually wear off.”2 In May 1936, Wallis’ name appeared in the court circular as having attended a dinner with the King. Queen Mary showed it to Mabell Ogilvy, Countess of Airlie – Lady of the Bedchamber – and said, “He gives Mrs Simpson the most beautiful jewels. I am so afraid that he may ask me to receive her.”3

On 16 November 1936, the King dined with his mother and his sister and informed them that he intended to marry Wallis. As she feared, he asked Queen Mary to receive Wallis, which she refused. When he asked her why, she replied, “Because she is an adventuress!”4 Queen Mary may have believed that Wallis was actively working to marry the King, which she was not. He later wrote, “To my mother, the monarchy was something sacred and the Sovereign a personage apart. The word ‘duty’ fell between us. But there could be no questions of my shirking my duty.”5 For Queen Mary, there were just two options: marry Wallis and leave the country, or not marry and remain as King. When he informed them in December that the abdication was to take place the following day, Queen Mary was overheard exclaiming, “To give up all that for this!”6

The day after the abdication, Edward made his now-famous radio speech and then returned to the Royal Lodge to say his goodbyes. Lord Brownlow, Lord-in-waiting to the former King, recalled, “Edward went up to Queen Mary and kissed her on both hands and then on both cheeks. She was as cold as ice. She just looked at him.”7 The following day, Queen Mary released a message for the British people, “I need not speak to you of the distress which fills a mother’s heart when I think that my dear son has deemed it to be his duty to lay down his charge and that the reign, which had begun with so much hope and promise, has so suddenly ended. I know that you will realize what it has cost him to come to this decision; and that, remembering the years in which he tried so eagerly to serve and help his Country and Empire, you will ever keep a grateful remembrance of him in your hearts. I commend to you his brother, summoned so unexpectedly and in circumstances so painful, to take his place… With him, I commend my dear daughter-in-law, who will be his Queen.”8

The public may have been critical of the King’s abdication; the following humiliations did not seem correct. The Archbishop of Canterbury publically denounced the King, and his speech received the support of Queen Mary, who wrote to congratulate him on his speech. Others in the family followed suit and Queen Maud of Norway (Edward’s aunt) wrote of Wallis, “Wish something would happen to her!” She described Wallis as “one bad woman who has hypnotized him.” She later added, “I hear that every English and French person gets up at Monte Carlo whenever she comes into a place. Hope she will feel it.” His great-aunt Louise, Duchess of Argyll, repeated a joke that Wallis must spend a lot of time in the bathroom as it would be the “only throne she would ever sit on.”9

Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth would soon close ranks altogether. Henry Channon, a politician, wrote of Queen Mary, “Certainly she and the Court group hate Wallis Simpson to the point of hysteria, and are taking up the wrong attitude; why persecute her now that all is over? Why not let the Duke of Windsor, who has given up so much, be happy? They would be better advised to be civil if it beyond their courage to be cordial.” The following year, Queen Mary answered in response to a question as to whether the Duke of Windsor would return to his country, “Not until he comes to my funeral.”10

Read part two here.


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

  1. Wallis and Edward edited by Michael Bloch p.124
  2. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.152
  3. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.158
  4. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.196
  5. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.196
  6. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.231
  7. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.240
  8. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.244
  9. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.245
  10. The Duchess of Windsor by Greg King p.250

About Moniek Bloks 2701 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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