Frogmore House, one of the royal family's many residences, came back into the news this past month when we learned of its two new high-profile residents: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Harry, a longtime occupant of Kensington Palace, will start fresh with his wife Meghan in one of the House's cottages next year.
It may surprise some royal watchers that Meghan will not, in fact, be the first Duchess from America with a connection to Frogmore House. That would be Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor.
Simpson is buried next to her husband, the Duke of Windsor-and onetime King Edward VIII-in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore House. Although they share the grounds with several other members of the royal family (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to name just two) her and her husband's graves were purposely placed at a distance.
In 1936, the Duke of Windsor became the first British sovereign to abdicate voluntarily-and he did so for Simpson. The Church of England forbid a King from marrying a divorcée if her husband was still alive, so Edward renounced the throne in order to wed the twice-divorced Wallis.
The abdication and resulting scandal caused the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to be ostracized from the royal family. Simpson was brutally dragged in the press, and as writer Anna Pasternak notes in The Telegraph, she's often still "seen as the wicked witch who nearly derailed the monarchy." Pasternak, who's working on a biography of the late Duchess, was granted rare access to visit Simpson's grave. She paints a somber picture of the Duchess's final resting place.
When the Duchess of Windsor was finally allowed back into the royal fold for Edward VIII’s funeral on June 5th 1972, she was asked by the Queen, which side of her husband’s grave did she wish to be placed? Wallis chose to the left. She liked the idea, she said, of the leaves of the plane tree falling on her grave in the autumn. Acutely aware of her unpopularity and lack of any children, she commented that no one was ever likely to place flowers on her grave. The falling plane tree leaves would adorn her instead.
Pasternak, at least, is on a mission to rehabilitate Simpson's image. Should a few more writers take up the revisionist mantle, the Duchess's grave might not be such a melancholy site forever.
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