Duchess’s Body Lies in Chapel before Burial
WINDSOR, England (AP) _ The body of the Duchess of Windsor lay in a chapel at Windsor Castle today, where she will be buried in the royal family’s cemetery beside the man who gave up an empire rather than rule without her.
The oak casket bearing the remains of the former Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson was escorted to England on Sunday from the Paris mansion where she lived with her husband, the Duke of Windsor, for more than 20 years. She died there Thursday at age 89.
Queen Elizabeth II and members of the royal family were expected to pay their respects to the duchess today. Buckingham Palace said there will be no public viewing.
The closed casket, covered with wreaths of white flowers, will remain in Albert Memorial Chapel at the royal castle’s St. George’s Chapel until Tuesday’s funeral and burial at Frogmore Gardens.
In Paris today, about 80 people, including British Ambassador Sir John Fretwell, attended a memorial service for the duchess at the American Cathedral.
″She was a sinner as we are, a struggler beset with all the temptations that we are,″ her religious adviser, Episcopalian Dean James Leo, said in the eulogy. ″Her priorities were not always right. Her hat, so to speak, was not always on straight, nor is ours. Her face was sometimes faulty.″
But death could not take away ″the graces of her spirit,″ Leo said. ″In Wallis’ best moments, and there were many, in those moments she gave to the world and to us who knew and loved her.″
The service was also attended by Dr. Jean Thin, a physician who cared for the duchess for the last 20 years, Suzanne Blum, the duchess’ lawyer and confidante, and Georges Sanagre, the Windsors’ butler for 38 years.
King Edward VIII reigned for less than 11 months until Dec. 10, 1936. He renounced the throne because, as ruler of the British Empire and temporal head of the Church of England, he could not marry the twice-divorced American and make her his queen.
After Edward stepped down, he became the Duke of Windsor and the couple left for France, where they were married in 1937. They remained alienated from the British royal family for decades, making only brief and strictly private visits to Britain.
Elizabeth ended the ostracism of her uncle by inviting the couple to attend a 1965 memorial service in London for his sister, Princess Mary. In 1972, the queen visited the Windsors’ home in the Bois de Boulogne 10 days before Edward died of throat cancer at age 77.
The duchess’s funeral at Windsor, west of London, will fulfill Edward’s last wish: that in death he and his wife return to Britain as a married couple recognized by the royal family.
The service is expected to be attended by the queen and most members of the royal family, including the Queen Mother Elizabeth, one of the fiercest critics of Edward’s decision to abdicate.
The queen mother is the widow of King George VI, Edward’s somewhat shy younger brother who never relished the limelight as the new monarch.
The duchess will be buried next to her husband’s simple tomb, which is surrounded by tall trees that separate it from the graves of the rest of Queen Victoria’s 20 descendants.
The duchess had arthritis and had been confined to her home for about eight years. Sources in Paris said she died of bronchial pneumonia.
Leo was quoted Sunday by the Press Association news agency as saying he was at the duchess’ bedside shortly before she died and had said to her, ″You are looking forward to going home, aren’t you dear?″
She replied ″yes″ and nodded her head, Leo was quoted as saying.
The duchess’ coffin was borne from her French mansion by six Royal Air Force pallbearers, taken in a hearse to Orly Airport and flown in an RAF VC-10 to an airbase in Oxfordshire.
A four-car cortege carried the body to Windsor Castle, where a bugler sounded a salute and 20 Irish Guards presented arms as a sign of respect.
Kathleen Sheehan, one of about 400 onlookers lining the streets of Windsor, told a reporter, ″It was the end of a great love story, my dear. I came all the way from London especially to see it.″