An excerpt for Wait for Me! Memoirs
When the Duke and Duchess of Windsor moved to an old mill at Gif-sur-Yvette, they became the Mosley’s neighbors. Andrew and I had first met them years before in the South of France when staying with our friends Loel and Isabel Guinness in Cannes. The Windsors lived at nearby Château de la Croë and when they invited the Guinnesses to dinner, they included us in the invitation. The Duke was very attractive, with his shining blond hair and irresistible touch of pathos. He wore a kilt at dinner with all its extras, including laced-up pumps and a dirk in his stocking. A piper went round the dinner table playing his deafening music- more suited to the misty glens than the Côte d’Azur in the heat of July.
“Are you the Duchess of Devonsheer?” the Duke asked me. I said I was. “Aw, I didn’t like her. She used to tell on me and it got back to my mother.” (Granny Evie passed on information, probably got from her son Charlie Cavendish, to Queen Mary about the Duke’s visits to nightclubs when he was a young man.) I asked him if Granny Evie had been nasty when he met her face to face. “Nasty? Smarmy as be damned,” he said. We got over this poor start and dinner was extremely enjoyable, the Duke speaking with nostalgia of England and the English, whom he called “the British.”
The Windsors had a pack of pugs that had superseded their Cairn Terriers. “Aren’t they beguiling?” said the Duchess, using an adjective I had never before heard attached to any member of the canine race, let alone a pug. I could not like her, she seemed so brittle, her face bony, angular and painted, her body so dangerously thin she might snap in half. It was difficult to understand why the Duke adored her, but he certainly did and was in love with her until the day he died. He never took his eyes off her during dinner and shouted down the table, “Wallis, Wallis, did you hear that?” when there was something he thought she might have missed.
Years later I discovered a curious quirk of the Duchess. Our Chatsworth housekeeper, Dorothy Dean, who had been housemaid to the Windsors at Château de la Croë, was discreet and never gossiped about her old employers. But one day she did open up a little and told me that the Duchess would only employ blondes in the house: the footmen, the housemaids and even the people in the kitchen were all fair-haired. Why, I do not know. She herself was dark.
@2010 by Deborah Devonshire
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 10011
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