The Queen Did Actually Visit the Duke of Windsor in France Just 10 Days Before He Died

Heather Finn

From Good Housekeeping

  • In 1936, Edward VIII (a.k.a. the Duke of Windsor) abdicated the British throne in order to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

  • The couple was exiled and moved to France, where the Duke died in 1972.

  • Just 10 days before Edward VIII died, Queen Elizabeth II visited her estranged uncle in France.

Back in 1936, Edward VIII made waves among the British royal family by abdicating the throne less than a year after his coronation. Upon being forced to choose between being King and marrying the woman he loved, American socialite (and divorcee) Wallis Simpson, he chose love: "I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of king, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love," he said at the time, according to History.

Photo credit: Patrick Lichfield - Getty Images

Of course, this unprecedented move by the Duke of Windsor is what ultimately set up the current British monarch, Elizabeth II, to become Queen one day. It's also the subject of the first episode of new CNN docuseries, The Windsors: Inside the Royal Dynasty, which premieres on Sunday at 10 p.m.

But what happened to Edward VIII after he gave up the throne? Most immediately, his younger brother Albert (Queen Elizabeth II's father) took over the role, becoming King George VI. Meanwhile, Edward became the Duke of Windsor, married Wallis (who became the Duchess of Windsor), and moved to France, as he and his wife were effectively exiled from England. Estranged from his family, the Duke rarely went home.

In 1952, King George VI died of lung cancer, leaving his eldest daughter to become Queen Elizabeth II. The Duke of Windsor returned to England for his brother's funeral, but did not attend his niece's coronation — and to this day, it's unclear exactly what kind of relationship the Duke of Windsor had with the Queen.

Family history and other tensions aside however, the Queen did visit the Duke of Windsor one final time before he died in 1972.

Photo credit: James Andanson - Getty Images

Edward suffered from throat cancer in the years leading up to his death, so when Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip, and their son Prince Charles paid a visit to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor during a state visit to France in May 1972, he wasn't well enough to properly receive them. Still, the Queen reportedly spent a few private minutes with him that day — and, as is seen in season 3 of The Crown on Netflix, the Duke reportedly rose from his bed to bow to her.

Accounts of this meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor vary, but according to many, it was a somewhat awkward one. The Queen was reportedly not a fan of Wallis, and she grew "annoyed" with her at times. Still, she allegedly greatly appreciated that her uncle put so much effort into paying her the "final courtesy" of bowing.

Photo credit: Keystone - Getty Images

On May 28, 1972 — just 10 days after the Queen's final conversation with him — the Duke of Windsor died of complications from his throat cancer. Despite his rocky relationship with his family, Edward was still laid to rest at the Royal Burial Ground in Windsor, following a funeral at St. George's Chapel.

"I know that my people will always remember him with gratitude and great affection and that his services to them in peace and war will never be forgotten," the Queen said in a telegram following his death.

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