ROME — When the Duke of Windsor was waiting for Wallace Simpson to divorce her second husband, he carried his good luck charm, a pocket-sized teddy bear, with him everywhere he went. When Simpson traveled between the couple’s residences, she always had on hand two leather-bound frames, each containing photos of her and Edward.
These items and many more — including a series of personal letters and some of Simpson’s custom-made Christian Dior pieces — hit the auction block today at Christie’s in Rome. “Souvenirs of a Life With the Dukes of Windsor,” offers an intimate look at the everyday life of one of the most famous couples of the 20th century.
This story first appeared in the June 17, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
By now, the story of how King Edward VIII abdicated the throne so he could marry the American divorcée is part of romantic history. However, what isn’t well-known by the public is that Simpson and her second husband, Ernest Aldrich Simpson, remained in contact throughout the scandal. In the lot containing 14 correspondences between Wallace and Ernest, the letters express his resolve to understand her decision and his immutable support.
“I felt somewhat stunned and slightly sick over recent events,” Ernest Aldrich Simpson wrote on Dec. 13, 1936, just days after Edward VIII announced his abdication. “I am not, however, going into that, but I want to believe — I do believe — that you did everything in your power to prevent the final catastrophe.”
The letters between Simpson and Edward, dated from 1936 to 1955, reveal the couple’s extraordinary love for one another. Edward often starts the letters with “My own sweetheart” and finishes them with “God Bless WE.”
Gaston Sanegre and his wife, Ofelia Baleni, two of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s most loyal servants, were the original owners of the 200-plus objects that comprise the collection. The pieces eventually went to Baleni’s nephew, who served as the Duke of Windsor’s valet for seven years.
“Between the Duke and Duchess there’s a real feeling of sentiment and love,” says Fabio Bertolo, director of Christie’s Books and Autographs in Rome. “All the objects provide an intact and extraordinary memory of these people.”
— Courtney Colavita