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Not all royal fans remember that Queen Elizabeth was never supposed to become the queen. The only reason the 93-year-old monarch is in her position — besides fate, of course — is because her uncle, Edward VIII, fell in love with American divorcee Wallis Simpson.

Elizabeth’s father, Albert (who later became King George VI), was second in line to the throne as Edward’s younger brother. But at the time, Edward was effectively blocked from marrying his love interest, which forced him to choose between the royal family and the woman he wanted to marry. He chose love, abdicated the throne, and just like that Queen Elizabeth became the heir apparent when her father was crowned king.

This all made for some very awkward family interactions. What did Queen Elizabeth really think of her Uncle Edward and his life-changing decision?

Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Queen Elizabeth
Duke and Duchess of Windsor with Queen Elizabeth | Keystone-France\Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Edward VIII was estranged from his family after he gave up the throne

As you can imagine, life was never the same for Edward VIII after he made the choice to give up his royal responsibilities for a very different life. He and Simpson decamped to France and rarely returned to England. With few visitors, they didn’t get to see the royal family very often.

Meanwhile, Edward’s younger brother made a favorable impression on his subjects until his sudden death in 1952. Suddenly, Elizabeth stepped into the role she was never supposed to have. She would go on to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history.

Queen Elizabeth visited her uncle right before he died

The Duke of Windsor
The Duke of Windsor | Bettmann/Contributor for Getty Images

There’s proof that Queen Elizabeth is a forgiving person, especially during pivotal life moments. One way we know is that she went to visit her estranged uncle Edward just before he died in 1972.

Edward had suffered declining health for years prior to his death due to throat cancer. Even though they weren’t close at the time, the queen and Prince Philip along with Prince Charles traveled to France to visit the Duke of Windsor shortly before his death.

Rumor has it Queen Elizabeth visited with him privately during that trip. Even though Edward couldn’t stand for prolonged periods anymore, he allegedly rose from his deathbed to bow to the queen. It would have been an immense sign of respect that Her Majesty definitely appreciated.

The queen apparently didn’t get along with Wallis Simpson

Queen Elizabeth and Wallis Simpson
Queen Elizabeth and Wallis Simpson at Edward VIII’s funeral | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty Images

Though she had no lingering animosity toward her uncle, Queen Elizabeth was not very fond of his wife. Good Housekeeping reported that the queen was “annoyed” with the Duchess of Windsor for so many reasons. Could it be because Simpson inspired Edward to betray the royal family so deeply? We’ll never know the answer to that.

Edward VIII died 10 days after Queen Elizabeth’s visit. And even though he was estranged from his family at the time, he’ll always have an important part in British history. Without his choice, we wouldn’t have Queen Elizabeth or any of the other royal family members we know and love.

And clearly his final bow made quite the impression on Queen Elizabeth too. “I know that my people will always remember him with gratitude and great affection and that his services to them in peace and war will never be forgotten,” she wrote in a telegram after he died.