Wallis Simpson, the late Duchess of Windsor, was buried in Frogmore cemetery next to her husband, Edward. They lie beneath a plane tree that sheds its large leaves on the graves in the autumn. Wallis chose the spot because she didn’t expect anyone to put flowers on her grave. The plane leaves, she decided, would be a good substitute.
This is one of hundreds of little-known facts about the late Duchess of Windsor that are contained in the book Untitled: The Real Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor by journalist and author Anna Pasternak.
“Untitled,” said Anna on a recent book tour to South Africa (from her native England), “because she never had the title ‘HRH’ bestowed upon her – a title her husband, Edward, so dearly wished for her to have.”
Anna’s book tour brought her to the charming town of Dullstroom, Mpumalanga, where Mrs Simpson’s restaurant played host to around 100 book fans and royalists over two evenings.
“We named the restaurant in honour of Wallis Simpson because she was elegant, charming, sassy and a total fashion icon,” says Stephen de Meyer, who co-owns Mrs Simpson’s with his partner Bryan Wolmarans. “We believe the restaurant captures the spirit of the woman herself and the times she lived in.”
CN&CO’s Colin Ford and his mom, Brenda, attended the event on the second evening.
Says Brenda, “I was completely taken by Anna’s passion for her subject and her total belief in Wallis being the victim of circumstance. Irrespective of your own opinion on the relationship between Edward and Wallis, Anna’s journey and research is inspiring to this whole story.
“Whether you believe their relationship was right or wrong – or even if you’re indifferent – Anna’s talk shed light on a doting love that simply has to be admired because it was so deep and heartfelt.”
As an ardent royalist, Brenda also loved getting Anna’s perspective on the royal family “then and now”.
“Getting Anna’s perspective on the royals-then and the royals-now was really interesting. I loved how she drew comparisons between Wallis Simpson and a few, more recent royal wives – notably Princess Diana, Sara Ferguson, and the duchesses of Cambridge (Kate) and Sussex (Megan).
“Learning more about some of the inner workings of the British royal family was very insightful, especially in the setting of Mrs Simpson’s, with a large portrait of Wallis surveying the scene and making the duchess’s presence very strongly felt.”
The real Wallis Simpson
Anna’s compassion for the late duchess is evident in her book, which paints Wallis in a more sympathetic light than most literature, past and present.
“I was particularly touched that Anna felt so strongly about Mrs Simpson that she visited her grave with a bouquet of flowers,” says Brenda.
Here’s how Anna described the event in The Sunday Telegraph of 2 December 2018:
“On a sweltering June day last summer, I put on my best silk cocktail dress and my mother’s pearls. I wasn’t preparing to go to a party but to make a pilgrimage that was profoundly meaningful for me.
“I was going to Frogmore to place a bouquet of flowers on Wallis Simpson’s grave. I dressed up purely to honour the Duchess of Windsor, rigidly impeccable in her own style. I carried a special bouquet, the flowers chosen with care. It contained Wallis’s wedding blooms; white peonies, delphiniums the colour of her Mainbocher blue wedding dress, larkspur and sprigs of wild grasses.”
And so, thanks to the passion and dedication of a modern-day author, the duchess got flowers on her grave after all.