A King’s Ransom in Jewels -The Jewels of The Duchess of Windsor

The intense love affair between King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson has been well documented and often not so favourably but this romance and the devotion and dedication of the King to his love, cannot be ignored.

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King Edward VIII gave up his throne to wed the love of his life and the marriage not only lasted but thrived.   As a sign of his complete and utter devotion, Edward gave his wife some of the most magnificent jewels ever created.

As socialite, Sir Henry Channon, wrote in his diary in 1936, “Her collection of jewels is the talk of London,”. “The King must give her new jewels every day….He worships her…The king is insane about Wallis, insane…Cartier’s are resetting magnificent, indeed fabulous jewels for Wallis, and for what purpose if she is not to be Queen?”

Wallis Simpson and her Cartier panther bangle designed by Jeanne Toussaint.

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Sadly, some of her most exquisite pieces were stolen in 1946, when she and the Duke were taking tea with Lord Dudley in Sunningdale, near Windsor Castle. None of the jewels were ever recovered.

The jewels that remained were still spectacular and her collection increased dramatically over the years. In her latter years, the Duke’s equerry, Dudley Forword, described the Duchess as “blazing with rings, earrings, brooches, bracelets and necklaces, almost stooping under their weight.” 

In April, 1987, a year after the Duchess’s death, Sotheby’s in Geneva auctioned many of her jewels. The sale included 87 pieces by Cartier and 23 pieces by Van Cleef & Arpels.

The Duchess’s engagement ring has an interesting history. John Culme, Sotheby’s director says: “The magnificent emerald was first purchased by Cartier in the 1920s. One of the Cartier jewellers went to Baghdad to see a collection of gems. He sent back a messenger to say he needed a very large sum of money. The money was sent but when the representative came back, all he brought was a tiny pouch. Out of it tumbled a very large, almost unsalable emerald.”

“His Boss said,: “You must be mad. We can’t sell this sort of thing now that the Russian aristocracy has gone.’

“The representative said: ‘Don’t worry, I’ve been thinking about it. We’ll divide the emerald in half and re-cut it.”

“And that is what they did. One half went to an American millionaire – I don’t know where it is today. The other half was sold to King Edward VIII.’

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A stunning charm bracelet, representing the depth of their love for one another, was crafted for their wedding day. The bracelet is hung with nine gold and jewel studded crosses, including one engraved with – “Our Marriage Cross Wallis” and other crosses engraved with WE – which stood for “Wallis and Edward” and for the royal “we” and for the couples unity in love.

Another cross is engraved with “The King’s cross” which John Culme explains; “There was a joke going round London that Wallis Simpson had gone to Scotland. She was in a hurry, so she jumped in a taxi and said “Kings cross” (the name of the London railroad station from which one leaves for Scotland). The taxi driver said: “I’m very sorry to hear it, madam.”

 It is rumoured the King was so proud of the gifts he gave the woman he loved, that after her death he wanted to have the pieces dismantled, so no one could ever wear the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels.   Sadly he was not to have his way.

The proceeds of the sale of the Duchess of Windsor’s jewels by Sotheby’s in 1987, went to the Institut Pasteur, a research centre and hospital in Paris. The Duke and Duchess made this decision to show their appreciation to the people of France. They lived happily in France for nearly half a century.


1 comment

  • Does anybody know if a book on the stolen jewels has ever been written? I would love to read about them.

    Dennese hume

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