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Sunday, February 22, 1998 Published at 02:44 GMT

World: Americas

Abdication desk sold for $415,000
image: [ An anonymous telephone bidder bought the desk ]
An anonymous telephone bidder bought the desk

Sitting at his desk, King Edward VIII traded the British Crown for the freedom to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson by writing a letter.

[ image: King Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor]
King Edward VIII became the Duke of Windsor
In New York, that same desk has been sold for $415,000 (£253,360) to an anonymous telephone bidder.

The 18th century mahogany table was expected to sell for around $50,000. Within 30 seconds of the auction starting, bids had hit $200,000 and went on to reach eight times the estimated price tag.

For the final two minutes of the auction, the 700 people inside the Sotheby's salesroom watched in silence as two telephone buyers fought to beat each other's offers.

The sale of the desk where the king wrote the historic letter of abdication in December 1936 pushes the amount raised by the auction of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's assets to £3.6m on its third day.

[ image: The auction sparked worldwide interest]
The auction sparked worldwide interest
The desk was always expected to be the highlight of the sale, but it exceeded even the hopes of Sotheby's.

"We're doing very well and it was a great result," a spokesman said.

The proceeds of the auction of 40,000 items bought in 1986 by tycoon Mohamed Al Fayed - owner of London's prestigious Harrods store - will go to the Dodi Fayed International Charitable Foundation.

Mr Al Fayed's son, Dodi died with Diana, Princess of Wales, in a car crash in Paris last year.

Queen bids for heirlooms, says newspaper

Meanwhile Queen Elizabeth II has instructed agents to make anonymous bids for some of the items being sold in the nine-day auction, a British newspaper has reported.

Dickie Arbiter, who works for the Royal Collection, told The Sunday Telegraph: "If we do bid, then we always do it anonymously.

"When the Collection does buy, it is for artistic value or because we already have something of that particular collection."

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