I apologize for the long winded post yesterday, I was tired and rambling, I went back and cleaned it up a bit this morning. Sorry about that!
Let’s get back to the Windsors, shall we old chap?
After the couple was married, things calmed down a bit, although the Duchess on her own had become quite the media sensation. She was photographed frequently in all the latest styles. Here is a photo from the Vogue article done by Cecil Beaton right before they were married.
Wallis Simpson by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1937 wearing the famous Elsa Schiaparelli lobster dress.
The Duchess of Windsor wearing her emerald engagement ring as well as her cross bracelet in 1937.
The Duchess of Windsor’s engagement ring was designed around an impressive emerald of 19.77 carats. This precious stone, representing hope, was a symbol of protection for the marriage. In 1958, the Duchess returned the ring to Cartier asking for it to be brought up-to-date with a more opulent mount in yellow gold set with diamonds.
Duchess of Windsor 19.77 emerald engagement ring.
The acquisition of jewelry became a central focus throughout their marriage. I think the purchases were a combination of both of their tastes and ideas but each piece was very personal and very well chosen. Much thought went into each piece and they both knew what they liked. By the way, these items are a mere sampling of what the Duchess owned. The Sotheby’s 1987 sale of her jewelry was tremendous. Her jewelry filled an entire catalog.
The Duchess of Windsor wearing Queen Mary’s pearl necklace combined with the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia’s necklace, 1955. Photo by Dorothy Wilding.
The slightly longer necklace with the pearl pendant attached, is a necklace King George V bought in May 1929 from the jewels of the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia. The Dowager was the Duke’s aunt who had died in exile in Denmark the previous year. The quality and size of the necklace are evidence of its imperial provenance. The necklace was restrung with a Van Cleef & Arpels diamond clasp.
The shorter necklace, is a single strand natural pearl and diamond necklace designed and executed by Cartier, for Queen Mary of Teck, during the reign of her husband King George V, from 1910 to 1936. The necklace is composed of 28 natural pearls ranging in size from approximately 9.2 mm to 16.8 mm. The length of the necklace is 14 inches, which makes it a “choker.” Queen Mary, who became famous for superbly bejeweling herself for formal occasions, and had a great passion for collecting jewels and jewelry, gifted the single-strand pearl and diamond necklace to her son, the Duke of Windsor, who in turn gifted it to his beloved paramour, the twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, after his marriage to her in 1937 following his abdication as King of the United Kingdom. Wallis Simpson assumed the title Duchess of Windsor after her marriage to Edward, the Duke of Windsor. Thus the modification of the name to “Duchess of Windsor/Queen Mary” gives a true reflection of the provenance of the celebrated jewelry pieces. This is believed to be the only piece of jewelry Queen Mary gave to her son, the rest of the collection they built on their own. It was supposed to be a “gift of an apology” of sorts from his mother, Queen Mary.
Although the royal family detested Wallis and would not receive her, Edward would sometimes meet his mother and siblings. Queen Mary referred to Wallis as “that woman”. Queen Elizabeth hated Wallis and blamed her for the early death of her husband. Wallis on the other hand was equally as bitter referring to Queen Elizabeth as “Mrs. Temple” and “Cookie,” alluding to the Queen’s solid figure and fondness for sweets. She referred to the future (now) Queen Elizabeth as “Shirley” as in Shirley Temple. Wallis deeply resented the denial of the royal title and the refusal of the royal family to accept her. Within her own household, everyone addressed her as “Her Royal Highness”. When his brother George VI died in 1952, the Duke returned to England for the funeral. The Duchess did not accompany him. She told her husband, “I hate that country. I shall hate it to my grave.”
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor at the Gala a l’Orangerie ball, in June 1953. The Duchess is wearing the iconic amethyst, turquoise and diamond bib necklace and matching earrings, made in 1947 by Cartier. Below, the necklace and the matching bracelet and ring.
Cartier’s jewelry director Jeanne Toussaint, created this exotic flamingo brooch, decorated with rubies, sapphires, emeralds, citrines, and diamonds which was bought by the Duchess in 1940.
Cartier’s jewelry director Jeanne Toussaint designed the first panther piece the Duchess of Windsor commissioned, a brooch featuring the ferocious feline perched atop a cabochon emerald in 1948.
Jeanne Toussaint also designed the second Cartier panther piece the Duchess commissioned in 1949. The sapphire and diamond panther sits atop a sapphire cabochon.
Jeanne Toussaint also designed the third item commissioned by the Duchess of Windsor, the iconic articulated panther bracelet. It is pave set throughout with diamonds and onyx and has emerald eyes. The Windsors acquired the bracelet in 1952.
This pair of earrings was part of the 1987 Sotheby’s Geneva Auction “Jewels from the Duchess of Windsor”. They are quite unusual in design. They were made by Cartier in the 1950’s, the diamond set circle holds four hoops made of sapphire beads.
After their marriage the Duke and Duchess lived in France during the pre-war years. In 1937, they made a high profile visit to Germany and met Adolf Hitler at his Berchtesgaden retreat. After the visit, Hitler said of Wallis, “she would have made a good Queen”. Needless to say, the visit only enforced the strong suspicions of many in government and society that the pair were Nazi sympathizers. With the outbreak of the war in 1939, the Duke was given a military post in the British Army stationed in France. In the meantime, the Duchess continued to entertain friends associated with the fascist movement and leaked details of the French and Belgian defenses gleaned from the Duke. Eventually, someone in the British government moved them to the Bahamas where the Duke was installed as Governor.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor meeting Hitler on October 23, 1937.
Wallis hated Nassau and called it “our St. Helena,” in a reference to Napoleon’s final place of exile. Throughout the war, Wallis continued to be pro-German and anti-British. Sir Alexander Hardinge wrote that her suspected anti-British activities were motivated by a desire for revenge against a country that rejected her as its queen. After the war, the couple retired to France.
The Duchess of Windsor was a victim of her own ambition. One of her biographers said it best “she experienced the ultimate fairy tale, becoming the adored favorite of the most glamourous bachelor of his time. The idyll went wrong when, ignoring her plea, he threw up his position to spend the rest of his life with her”. She was left with fewer alternatives than she had anticipated. The Duchess herself is reported to have summed up her life in a sentence, “you have no idea how hard it is to live out a great romance”.
I hope you enjoyed this. What a couple! Very glamorous on the surface…..