One of the most controversial figures in the history of the House of Windsor, Wallis Simpson led a colourful life.

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The Netflix royal drama The Crown has already depicted the effects of King Edward VIII, played by Alex Jennings, abdicating and his attempts to carve out a role for himself as the Duke of Windsor.

The third season of the drama depicted the final days of the Duke, played by Derek Jacobi, and his funeral which was attended by his wife Wallis, played by Geraldine Chaplin.

However, the fifth season of the drama features flashbacks and testimony from the Duke's valet, Sydney Johnson, and also depicts the final days of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor.

So, what happened to the Duchess in her final days?

The true story of Wallis, Duchess of Windsor’s final days

Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Duke of Edinburgh meet Wallis Simpson (C), Duchess of Windsor, during their state visit in Paris, May 1972.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Duke of Edinburgh meet Wallis Simpson (C), Duchess of Windsor, during their state visit in Paris, May 1972. AFP via Getty Images

Wallis, Duchess of Windsor was by her husband's side at their home outside Paris in 1972 during his final days. The pair had a visit from Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and their son Charles, Prince of Wales, during the trio's state visit to Paris, France.

After the Duke's death, Wallis travelled to London to bury her husband and spend time with his family at Buckingham Palace - with whom she had always had a difficult relationship after Edward had given up the throne for her.

Wallis, who was also suffering from Arteriosclerosis, is said to have been nervous about coming face to face with her old enemy Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, who she feared remained angry at her for the abdication.

The pair were only reunited briefly on the day of the funeral itself which included a large ceremony with many public mourners but a smaller and more intimate burial.

After the funeral, Wallis returned to Paris with John Utter, the Duke of Windsor's secretary, who had accompanied her to London.

From that time onwards, Wallis lived in her home outside of central Paris on the remains of her husband's money and an allowance from the Queen herself.

A grudging reconciliation. Queen Elizabeth II speaking to Wallis, Duchess of Windsor after the funeral of Edward, Duke of Windsor.
A grudging reconciliation. Queen Elizabeth II speaking to Wallis, Duchess of Windsor after the funeral of Edward, Duke of Windsor. Reg Birkett/Getty Images

The Duchess became reclusive and unwell, suffering from dementia and having very few visitors.

Historian Hugo Vickers wrote in the Daily Mail that the Duchess' French lawyer Suzanne Blum abused her position with power of attorney for her own advantage and sold the Duchess' possessions.

Vickers notes: "Without the Duke, however, age, frailty and grief would take their toll. Over Christmas 1972, she fell out of bed and, though in considerable pain, was not given proper treatment. Only in the new year was it realised that the 76-year-old Duchess had broken her hip. After surgery, she recovered, and was eventually able to walk without a stick."

In 1975, as the Duchess became more isolated, she suffered from a perforated ulcer which she never recovered from.

After this, Wallis' condition continued to deteriorate and she was heavily medicated.

Vickers noted that by the spring of 1978, "the Duchess ceased speaking. She had almost ceased to exist as a person. Wallis could hardly move without assistance, being turned to the right and left, moved from her bed to a couch, and then back again."

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The Duchess received very few visitors, often at Blum's discretion.

The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, with her pug dogs at her home in Bois de Boulogne near Paris, France 1974
The Duchess of Windsor, Wallis Simpson, with her pug dogs at her home in Bois de Boulogne near Paris, France 1974. (Photo by Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images) Wolfgang Kuhn/United Archives via Getty Images

Vickers reports that Elvire Gozin, a night nurse who served Wallis for 10 years prior to her death, had travelled to London to warn the Queen of the Duchess' predicament, but these attempts failed to elicit a response and it is unknown if the Queen was ever aware.

James Leo, Dean of the American Cathedral in Paris, came to perform last rites for the Duchess in 1986 and noted how the once grand home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor was now in a state of disrepair and a shadow of its former self.

The Duchess died on 24th April 1986 and a memorial service was held in Paris before she was later buried next to her husband at Windsor Castle.

The funeral was attended by members of the royal family. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother attended the funeral but not the burial itself.

Among the mourners at the burial were Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales, and his wife, Diana, Princess of Wales.

Royal biographer Ingrid Seward writes that Diana claimed she had only seen the Queen cry once and it was at Wallis' funeral.

Who plays Wallis, Duchess of Windsor in The Crown season 5?

Lia Williams as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor in The Crown season 1.
Lia Williams as Wallis, Duchess of Windsor in The Crown season 1. Alex Bailey/Netflix

Actress Lia Williams, who portrayed Wallis, Duchess of Windsor in the first two seasons of The Crown, reprises her role for flashback scenes in the fifth season.

Actor Alex Jennings also reprises his role as Edward, Duke of Windsor in the third episode of the season, Mou Mou.

Williams also portrays Wallis in scenes depicting the death of the Duchess of Windsor.

On television, Williams can also be seen in Seaforth, The Russian Bride, Doc Martin, The Missing, Kiri, His Dark Materials, and The Capture.

The character was previously portrayed in her later years by actress Geraldine Chaplin in two episodes of The Crown season 3.

The Crown seasons 1 to 5 are available now on Netflix.

Sign up for Netflix from £6.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.

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