Following in the Duchess of Windsor's Footsteps
On Thursday March 24, a number of personal items that once belonged to the controversial Duchess of Windsor, formerly known as Wallis Warfield Simpson were auctioned at Gardiner Houlgate in Wiltshire.
The size 5 shoes had been the property of David Campbell, valet to the Duke of Windsor in the 1950s. Now deceased, Mr. Campbell had allowed his niece to play dress-up with them, which is how they entered her possession. The brocade peep-toe heels with gold leather embellishment were designed by Andrew Geller; and I seem to recall that my grandmothers wore his shoes as well. As to the size, in British sizing a 5 would be the equivalent of a 7 in the US. Wallis was notoriously thin; after all, she was the woman who coined the phrase "You can never be too rich or too thin."
But when society photographer and fashion fotog Cecil Beaton met Wallis in the early 1930s he acerbically referred to her large hands; "peasant paws" he called them. So my guess is that Wallis's feet weren't quite as dainty as an American size 5 (not that a size 7 is exactly huge).
The shoes pictured above were expected to go for about £250 at the hammer. I am still trying to ascertain the final bid.
On December 10, 1936, Edward VIII famously abdicated the English throne to marry the woman he love, the twice-divorced American Wallis Warfield Simpson. He had been king for only 11 months, having acceded on January 20 on the death of his father, George V. Although most Britons thought that it was Wallis's divorced status that rendered her a Parliamentary pariah, or even that she was American, the real reasons that the English government would not, could not conscience her marriage to their sovereign was her political past. She was a known sympathizer of both the Nazi party and the Italian Fascisti.
Edward shared his paramour's political sympathies; consequently, his abdication was certainly for the greater good. The pair were married in a civil wedding in France on June 3, 1937, after Wallis's [divorce] decree absolute was filed. Edward was restyled Duke of Windsor and his successor, younger brother Bertie, who reigned as George VI, put an ocean between him and western Europe, appointing him governor of the Bahamas.
Bored out 0f their minds, the Duke and Duchess of Windor became the mid-century version of jet-setters. Their empty lives consisted mainly of shopping, golf, and endless sponging off their friends, leaving a trail of unpaid bills and untipped servants in their wake.
The couple spent a considerable amount of time racking up bills in Palm Beach and Manhattan. At one point the duchess's annual clothing budget was said to be $25,000, exponentially more in today's dollars (about $383,000, in fact).
At some point, she bought the pair of shoes at the center of today's blog post.
The Duchess of Windsor continues to be a controversial figure. People do tend either to love her or to hate her.
So, what's your opinion of Wallis Simpson? Love her? Despise her? Why?