ON THIS DAY    29 April      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1986: Simple funeral rites for Duchess

VIDEO : Images from the Wallis Simpson's funeral

The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, has been laid to rest alongside her husband, the abdicated King Edward VIII, at Frogmore in Windsor.

She was buried in an English oak coffin, marked with a silver plate inscribed simply "Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, 1896-1986".

The funeral service, at St George's Chapel, was marked by its simplicity. Although flags were flown at half-mast, there was little of the pomp and ceremony which usually marks Royal funerals.

The 100 guests included the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, and her husband Denis, as well as the Labour leader, Neil Kinnock.

No funeral address

The Royal guests were led by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Beside them sat the Prince and Princess of Wales, Princess Anne, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, as well as other members of the Royal Family.

There was no funeral address, in accordance with the Duchess's wishes, and at no point in the service was there any mention of her name, or reference to her life. There were few flowers: most conspicuous was a single wreath of white, orange and yellow lilies from the Queen, which lay on her coffin.

The Duchess's status within the Royal Family was recognised only by the final blessing, given by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Robert Runcie, and by the slow and stately procession which bore her coffin out of the Chapel, to the tune of Elgar's Nimrod.

At the burial, just four members of the Royal Family watched the coffin lowered into its final resting place under the spreading plane tree where King Edward VIII has lain since his death in 1972.

The Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince and Princess of Wales were joined by just eight private retainers and friends of the Duchess in her last years in voluntary exile in Paris.

The Queen Mother did not attend the burial itself, on the decision of the Queen. She is known to have had the most difficult relationship with the Duchess, whom she once called "the lowest of the low".

Her husband, George VI, was forced onto the throne by Edward VIII's abdication, to her anger and dismay. She is thought to have blamed his early death, in 1952, on the stresses of kingship.

In Context
Wallis Simpson, later Duchess of Windsor, was an American commoner and a divorcee when she and the King of England fell in love and decided to marry in 1936.

Edward VIII's decision to abdicate his throne rather than give up the woman he loved has been described as "the greatest love story of the 20th Century".

The bulk of Wallis Simpson's estate, valued at 5m, went to the medical research foundation, the Pasteur Institute, recognising the help of France in providing her with a home. There were no major bequests to the Royal Family.

Many of the Duchess's possessions, including her Paris mansion, were bought after her death by Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed. He sold much of the collection in 1998, raising more than 14m for charity.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |