The Legacy of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Enduring symbol of romance

The legacy of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is threefold. First, the significance of the romance on the popular culture resonates to this day. Although the British may view him as having abandoned his duty as King, Edward VIII’s decision to renounce the throne of the greatest empire in the world, in order to marry the woman he loved, set a standard of personal sacrifice for love that has never been matched before or since, nor is it likely to ever be matched. The magnitude of this choice is almost incomprehensible.

Indelible imprint on fashion and style

Second, the Windsor influence on fashion, style and elegance is pervasive through to the present day and admiration for their contributions is universal in those worlds . The Duke’s combinations of patterns demonstrated an unerring eye for design and his inventive and creative instincts were in the same league as those of the most important designers of any era. The Duchess also maintained a level of impeccability in her appearance and in all her endeavors that others in the highest social circles could only aspire to.

A monumental gift to the Pasteur Institute, whose scientists discovered HIV, leading to the treatment of AIDS

The third important aspect of their legacy is less well known. The Duke, who predeceased the Duchess, left everything to her, but they agreed before his death that she would leave her entire estate to the Pasteur Institute, a major scientific research facility engaged in the pursuit of pure scientific knowledge. The Duchess made this bequest in gratitude to the people of France for their kindness to her and the Duke throughout their married life. (Because they were so unwelcome in England, they lived lives tantamount to exile in France for the thirty-five years of their marriage.) The gift is equivalent to 90 million dollars in today’s currency, and is the second largest the Institute has ever received. The Pasteur Institute discovered the human immunodeficiency virus, which led to treatment for AIDS, and the saving of thousands of lives. The two scientists at the Institute, who made this great discovery, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2008. Thus, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor have indirectly benefited all mankind.

With all these impressive contributions to the world, it still seems that the most outstanding aspect of their lives is Edward VIII’s abdication of the British throne for love: the most romantic public gesture in the history of the world.