Duchess Buried With Little Ceremony

Times Staff Writer

After a 28-minute service in which her name was not once mentioned, the American-born Duchess of Windsor was buried Tuesday in the British Royal Family’s private cemetery near Windsor, beside the man who gave up the crown to marry her.

The duchess’ body was interred privately with only four members of the Royal Family, including Queen Elizabeth II, and seven members of her personal staff present.

Flowers for the service were reportedly received from around the world, but the duchess’ casket was adorned only with a single white spray of spring flowers from the royal gardens at Windsor, a wreath from the queen.

The woman born in Baltimore as Bessie Wallis Warfield died last Thursday in Paris at 89. Her passing was the final chapter in a love story that, half a century ago, captivated the world and plunged Britain into a constitutional crisis. Edward VIII’s love for the twice-divorced woman led him to abdicate after 10 months on the British throne in order to marry her.


Tuesday’s funeral, one of the most unusual held at the large 16th-Century chapel within Windsor Castle, was laced with contradictions--hinting that death had brought only partial forgiveness from the Royal Family for the turmoil her relationship with Edward had caused in life.

Although flags flew at half-staff and her casket was carried by a military honor guard, the ceremony was stripped of the elaborate trimmings of a full royal funeral.

Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and leading political figures joined royalty and a congregation of about 175 at the service, but afterward, a hearse carried the casket along private roads far from public view for the burial.

Queen Mother’s Gesture


The Queen Mother, said to have been the most unyielding of Royal Family members toward the duchess, attended the service but did not travel to the graveside. She is said to have blamed Wallis Simpson for causing her brother-in-law’s abdication in 1936.

There had been speculation that, as a gesture of reconciliation, the queen would grant the duchess in death what she had most wanted in life, the right to the the title “her royal highness.” However, the plaque on the lid of her coffin read simply, “Wallis, Duchess of Windsor 1896-1986.”

A spokesman at Buckingham Palace said the same wording will be used on her gravestone.

It was the duchess’ wish that Edward’s and her love letters be published after her death, apparently in an attempt to put to rest accusations that she had pressured him into abdication and marriage, or that she had courted him in the hopes of becoming queen.

British popular newspapers, which ignored the love affair at the time out of respect for the king, have wasted little time trafficking in juicy morsels 50 years later.

The Daily Mail, which bought serialization rights to the letters, began publishing them Monday in a special pullout supplement, complete with a glossary explaining the couple’s intimate expressions.

On Tuesday, the Mail announced that after publishing the letters, it will poll its readers, asking them if the duchess was guilty or innocent of the charge of trying to ensnare the king. It promised computerized results.