Juliana Chatard Alexander talks about her three week experience in 1972 as the night nurse of the former King Edward VIII, who had given up his throne to marry Baltimore divorcee Wallis Simpson. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun video)
When she was in her 20s, Juliana Chatard Alexander was the night nurse for the Duke of Windsor, formerly King Edward VIII, the man who abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson.
After long declining interviews with historians and biographers, the Mays Chapel woman spoke with royal biographer Andrew Morton — and with The Baltimore Sun. Here, in her own words, are more memories of the former Duke and Duchess of Windsor:
About why she finally granted an interview to biographer Andrew Morton after keeping silent about her experience for more than 45 years:
My father was Al Capone’s doctor, and he never talked about it. So, I think I learned to follow his example.
After the Duke died, I came back to the U.S. for about three months. The word got out and all these historians got in touch with me, but I refused to talk to them.
But then, recently, Andrew got in touch with me. He was very charming and had a winning personality. By now, all the people I might have talked about were dead, and it is part of history.
So, I thought, “Oh, what the hell.”
About how she came to work for the ailing Duke in 1972:
I was managing an art gallery at the time. My friend, Oonaugh [Oonaugh Shanley-Toffolo] was the Duke’s day nurse. She asked me if I’d be interested in helping her out and doing some night duty. I was working full-time at the gallery, but I needed to earn extra money because I wanted to go to India. So I said, ‘”Why not?”
About why the Duke accepted her as his night nurse when he had dismissed several predecessors:
I was from Baltimore, and I had no idea what to call this man. So, on the first night, I turned to him and said, “Hey, Duke.” Later I found out I was supposed to call him, “Your royal highness.”
I also found out later that that there had been quite a number of fancy-dancy nurses before me, and the Duke fired them all. But not me. He adored America and Americans, and I always thought the reason he kept me is that I’m American and called him by John Wayne’s nickname.
And, I think he liked it that I was so familiar with him. I didn’t treat him like a golden lamb, but just like any old person.
Recollections of life at the Windsors’ Paris apartment:
The first night I was there, the Duke’s valet brought in the most beautiful poached pear in a crystal bowl sitting on a silver salver. The Duke waved it away. A few minutes later, the valet came back with the same salver holding one cigarette.
The Duke liked to talk, talk, talk. Poor old fellow.
She said, “Darling, darling, no matter. When I get bored, I frequently push the buttons on purpose.”
About the couple’s relationship:
Well, the Duchess was sort of caboozled into this marriage, but their relationship was fairly distant from my standpoint. She hardly ever came in to see him. I saw her in his room on the first night, and then again the night he died. I was there from 7 pm to 7 am for about three weeks, and during that time, she didn't come in and eat with her husband.
He was constantly calling for her in his final days: ‘Dolly, Dolly Dolly.’ His pug was called Dollar, and for a long time I thought the Duke was calling for his dog, who would not come into the room. After he died, that’s when the dog finally ran in and hid under his bed. But now I think the Duke was calling Wallis. I heard “Dolly,” but it might have been “Darling” or "Wally."
How the Duchess reacted when her husband died:
There was some dementia beginning with the Duchess at that time, but she was still enjoying life. She wasn’t gaga completely, but you could see it coming on the horizon.