Did Queen Elizabeth Visit the Duke of Windsor Before He Died, Per 'The Crown'?

'The Crown' season 3 shows the Queen meeting with the Duke of Windsor, Edward VIII, on his deathbed. It really happened — but it was a fraught reunion.

La Reine Elizabeth II, Le Duc de Windsor ex roi Edward VIII Et La Duchesse de Windsor Wallis Simpson Celebrent Le Centenaire De La Naissance De La Reine Mary
(Image credit: James Andanson)

Season 3 of The Crown will cover the time period between 1964 and 1977, which notably saw the 1972 death of Edward VIII, a.k.a. the Duke of Windsor, a.k.a. the King of England who abdicated after he was unable to marry Wallis Simpson. The relationship between the entire Royal Family and Edward was notably strained after the abdication, although Queen Elizabeth was only 10 years old when it happened and may not have been quite as incensed with him as other members of his family.

Although the precise feelings between the two are not exactly known, we do know that they were able to make amends formally before he died, but that the interaction was uncomfortable—especially because Simpson and Elizabeth apparently clashed. What happened, exactly?

Elizabeth and Edward did see each other years before his death.

After their wedding in 1937, Edward and Simpson lived in France and rarely came back to England. The Royal Family refused to meet with Simpson formally, and the relationship remained estranged. In a rare public event, however, Edward was present during the ceremony of the centenary of the birth of Queen Mary in London in 1967.

Seen here bowing to Elizabeth, everybody looks pretty unhappy as the Queen looks away:

La Reine Elizabeth II, Le Duc de Windsor ex roi Edward VIII Et La Duchesse de Windsor Wallis Simpson Celebrent Le Centenaire De La Naissance De La Reine Mary

(Image credit: Keystone-France)

And the whole thing just looks very awkward, although the Queen Mother did give Edward a kiss at one point when she saw him.

Ceremony in Memory of Queen Mary of England

(Image credit: Hulton Deutsch)

Elizabeth did visit before he died.

By 1972, Edward was dying of throat cancer, and Elizabeth came to make a final reconciliation a mere 10 days before he passed away. And...the meeting was real awkward, no surprise. In a 2018 British documentary called Elizabeth: Our Queen, royal historian Hugo Vickers indicated that Elizabeth was "annoyed" by Simpson.

Queen With Wallis Simpson

(Image credit: Hulton Archive)

“The dogs jumped up and that rather annoyed the Queen because the Queen doesn’t like badly behaved dogs. And they talked about anything and everything except the one thing that was on everybody’s minds, the poor man dying in his room upstairs,” he said.

“The Queen went up to see the Duke of Windsor. With great difficulty he rose from his bed to give his bow because, of course, she was his Queen now, as well as his niece, and it meant a great deal to him that she paid him this final courtesy.” The two apparently chatted, and made as good a reconciliation as possible given the context.

Elizabeth also did attend Edward's funeral and was seen speaking to Simpson after the ceremony:

Windsor Funeral

(Image credit: Keystone)

But the situation remained complex, despite the reunion.

The Crown cast a sentimental glow over the visit.

Spoilers for season three. As might be expected, The Crown depicts their final conversation as a profound closing of a chapter. It's an awkward reunion, as might be expected, but it's also tender—the Queen gently informs the Duke of Windsor that he needn't feel guilty any longer, because everything worked out. She's implicitly saying, of course, that her abrupt ascent to Queen has been a blessing, rather than something she might regret having happened. As with real life, the Duke insists on rising from his seat to bow to the Queen, to which she protests.

In The Crown, the final face-to-face between the two is brief but meaningful, and although we can't really know what happened in that room IRL between the two of them, it's not unlikely that a similar conversation unfolded. What is completely made up, however, is the Duke telling the Queen about Camilla Shand, the woman who has stolen her son's heart. In the episode, the Duke gifts the Queen with the private letters Charles had written to the Duke (ouch!), which is one way the royal family discovers just how serious Charles is about Camilla. (This is a complete fabrication—Charles may have been serious about Camilla, but The Crown's historical consultant has said on the record that the handing over of Duke's letters is merely a plot device.)

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Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.