On this day in history : 29th April 1986 – The funeral of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor – who is laid to rest alongside her husband, the abdicated King Edward VIII at Frogmore in Windsor….

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Public domain

The service at St. George’s Chapel was a simple affair, unlike most royal funerals…. One hundred guests attended, among them Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Leader of the Opposition Neil Kinnock…. The royal family was represented by Her Majesty the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, Princess Diana, Princess Anne and the Queen Mother….

At the Duchess’s request there was no funeral address and very few flowers…. Although a single striking wreath of orange, yellow and white lilies from the Queen lay on the English oak coffin – with its simple inscription on a silver plate ‘Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, 1896-1986’…. The final blessing was given by Dr. Robert Runcie, Archbishop of Canterbury….

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Wallis, 1919 – Public domain

Just eight personal friends and four members of the royal family – the Queen, Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and Princess Diana – stood at the graveside for the burial…. The Queen had decided that the Queen Mother would not be present as she and Wallis had endured a difficult relationship…. The Queen Mother blamed the premature death of her husband, George VI, on the stress that came with being King – a role forced upon him after the abdication of his brother, Edward VIII, to marry the woman he loved…. Something the Queen Mother could neither forgive nor forget….she was still angry…. Indeed she had once called the Duchess “the lowest of the low”….

The American divorcee married her second husband Ernest Aldrich Simpson, an Anglo-American executive and former officer in the Coldstream Guards and they settled down to live in London…. He had divorced his first wife Dorothea, with whom he had a daughter, to marry Wallis….

Not long after Wallis became friends with Thelma, Lady Furness – who was the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales…. On the 10th of January 1931 Thelma introduced Wallis to the Prince; he then met her with her husband several times more between 1931 and 1934 at various functions – Wallis was even presented at Court…. Meanwhile, Ernest was beginning to experience financial difficulties….

In January 1934 Lady Furness visited New York, whilst she was away Wallis and the Prince became lovers…. Soon he was besotted, showering her with gifts and jewels…. His parents however, particularly his father, King George V, were outraged….

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Wallis Simpson and Prince Edward 1935, Austria – Public domain

On the 20th of January 1936 King George V died and Edward succeeded to the throne…. Wallis was still married and the new King’s behaviour made him unpopular with the government and deeply upset his mother and brother, the Duke of York….

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King Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson on holiday in Yugoslavia – via Flickr the Commons – Public domain

Wallis divorced Ernest, on the grounds of his adultery – but even now she was free to re-marry she was thought to be unworthy as a Consort…. So, to marry the woman he loved King Edward VIII had to give up the throne…. On the 10th of December 1936 he signed an Instrument of Abdication….

They married on the 3rd of June 1937 in France….and remained together until his death in 1972…. Afterwards Wallis lived in chosen exile in France…. There are some who believe she married Edward for his wealth….but for others their’s was the love story of the century….

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Wallis and Edward, 1970 with President Richard Nixon – Image credit: Jack E Kightlinger – Public domain

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