One would expect the brash Duchess to go out with a bang not a whimper, but that was not to be. The anti-climax of the Duchess' last years is really appalling. However, this sprightly reminiscence of author Blackwood's attempts to visit the Duchess but kept at the door by Wallis' rottweiler-lawyer, Suzanne Blum, is often hilarious. But there is pathos involved, too. The Duchess is actually up-staged by Madam Blum but Wallis does not go away- she's hovering like the spirit of Rebecca in "Rebecca" but she's not calling the shots.
Blum had absolute control not only over the Duchess' estate and power of attorney but over her nursing care. To author Blackwood who interviews her for the substance of this book ,she spins a series of ridiculous lies, such as that both the Windsors were highly cultured and read many books and NEVER set foot in nightclubs. Blum crooningly rhapsodizes about Wallis' beautiful skin "so soft." and that the bed-ridden old lady is still beautiful. Blum seems to be in love with her client and gives you the creeps. Wallis was never beautiful, with a flat figure and big "utilitarian"hands and feet which have fascinated people for decades and we all come back to the old mantra -what did Wallis have to inspire David to give up his throne? Delightful as "The Last of the Duchess" is you will still be left wondering.
You laugh at Diane Moseley's description of Wallis as "the poor little creature." Trying to morph Wallis into a poor little creature even if she is flat on a bed with a feeding tube stuck up her nose is virtually impossible for the average reader. Lady Mosely was, of course a well-known Fascist, her husband being head of the Fascist community in England. She offers up some disturbing information that Hitler played buddy-buddy with the Duke when the Windsors foolishly visited him, threw his arm around David's shoulder and disappeared with him after having the doors firmly shut in the Duchess' face. But the fact that the ex king of England was a Nazi aficianado boggles the mind.
Maitre Blum had not only tried like Pygmalion to mold the Duchess in her own image, she had taken over the Duchess' life and persona. Since it was impossible for author Blackwood to see Wallis, she attempted to interview the few friends of Wallis who were not dead.
Freda Dudley Ward, one of the Prince's early and most lasting lovers, after half a century and a marriage to a Marquis, was still bitter that Wallis had replaced her. She was filled with sneering laughter that "one horrible old lady was imprisoned by another horrible old lady."
Other old friends of the Windsors were more charitable. Lady Diana Cooper talks about the love affair between Wallis and the sadistic, homosexual heir to the Woolworth fortune, Jimmy Donahue, who was some twenty years younger than the Duchess. She supposes Wallis was trying to escape from the besotted, smothering attentions of the Duke. David was frequently in anguished tears over some episode concerning his wife, he was abject, and if there was anything Wallis would despise, it was abjectness.
When asked by author Blackwood if the Duchess was ever in love with the Duke, Lady Monckton replied "you can always tell when people are in love" implying that Wallis was not in love with her husband."Did the Duchess simply want to be Queen?" queries the author. "Yes, I suppose she did" answered Lady Monckton.
There will never really be a "last of the Duchess." Deceased, she has not gone away. Blackwood's observations and reviews are often surprisingly touching. Wallis had been pushed and trained since birth to believe that an aristocratic girl's purpose and destiny in life were to snare a rich husband. It took her two tries and then she hit the jackpot. The horror of her story is that she ended up alone, wired up to a bunch of tubes and under the control of her lawyer, a spider controlling the fragile web of her remaining life.