The Duchess of Windsor’s jewellery
When the Duke of Windsor died in 1972, he had specified that his wife’s jewellery -most of which he had lavished upon her – should be dismantled and broken down after her own death.
He did not get his way.
For on April 2nd, 1987, less than a year after the duchess’ death, her collection went to auction in Geneva.
Even though the gems were fabulous, a major part of the attraction was that these jewels were a part of history.
Plus of course, symbols of a curious romance, an abdication and events that changed the course of history.
It’s said that when Edward married Mrs Simpson, he lavished jewels upon her to make up for what she had lost – her freedom.
It’s also suggested by more than one historian that the duchess had little choice than to marry King Edward when he abdicated so that he could make her his wife; hence the expensive gifts.
But Wallis loved jewellery. And a thousand people flew to Geneva for the auction.
It was almost as though the jewellery formed a tangible biography. The gems had been presented to her by the Duke over a period of almost forty years – the duration of their relationship.
The auction room featured a live link-up to Sotheby’s in New York where a further thousand people could bid. The jewellery had been previewed there for several days before going to Geneva. They had also been on display in Palm Beach and in Monaco. The crowd in the auction house waited eagerly for the sale to begin. The first item was a a gold clip set with rubies and sapphires. It sold for more than ten times it’s actual value.
As the sale progressed, buyers weren’t purchasing tangible pieces of jewellery- they were buying into the romantic story of the gallant king who had given up his throne for a Cinderella-type commoner.
In total,there were 230 lots to be sold. After the first thirty had gone under the hammer, a quick stocktake showed that these first items had sold for three million dollars. One was a bracelet which sold for $486,000 – it bore the legend ‘Hold Tight’. It can only be assumed that this was given to Wallis Simpson by the king when the abdication crisis was taking place.
The engagement ring that he had given her sold for almost two million dollars – the stories it could tell if only it could speak. The American dealer who had bought the first item spent a total of 2.7 million dollars at the sale. Before he left the auction room he sold one pearl necklace he had purchased – for a profit.
It had been estimated that the sale would make seven million dollars. The final figure was almost fifty one million.
The legacy that has remained about Wallis Simpson seems to imply that she was grasping social-climber who was determined to marry the king of England.
This may or may not be the case.The author of the book you see here suggests – with the help of documents and letters that had previously been unseen – that Mrs Simpson was more of a victim in the whole business.
Certainly she had an affair with the king (beginning when he was the Prince of Wales) but has history dealt with her rather cruelly? After her marriage to Edward, the couple were exiled. Certainly she had jewels and clothes that many women would envy but did she really love her husband? Did she enjoy their life together?
Because the king abdicated, the course of history was changed. Both Mrs Simpson and Edward were known to be Nazi sympathisers – had he been king during the Second World War how would history have been changed?
I recommend this fascinating book to give you a glimpse of another version of a story we think we know so well.
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