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Tuesday, February 10, 1998 Published at 12:29 GMT

World: Europe

Duke of Windsor's abdication desk goes under the hammer
image: [ A silver Chrichton Brothers flatware set. Estimated price between $30,000 and $50,000. ©Sotheby's ]
A silver Chrichton Brothers flatware set. Estimated price between $30,000 and $50,000. ©Sotheby's

Thousands of treasures which belonged to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor -- perhaps best known as Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson -- are being put under the hammer by their current owner, the Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed.

[ image: Portrait by Henry Cecil in a Cartier gold frame. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000 ©Sotheby's]
Portrait by Henry Cecil in a Cartier gold frame. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000 ©Sotheby's
The entire collection, which includes the desk at which the former king abdicated the British throne in 1936, was bought by Mr Al Fayed after the Duchess's death in 1986. He has been renovating and completing the collection, and is selling it in New York next week.

Home's contents

The Duke's abdication desk, a George III mahogany library table, made in about 1755, is expected to sell for between $30,000 and $50,000.

In total there are more than 40,000 objects, collected into 3,200 lots, which have come from the couple's Paris home where they lived after the abdication until their deaths. The auction is expected to take nine days.

[ image: Black velvet handbag belonging to the Duchess of Windsor. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000. ©Sotheby's]
Black velvet handbag belonging to the Duchess of Windsor. Estimate $4,000 to $6,000. ©Sotheby's

It had originally been Mr Al Fayed's intention to sell the collection last September, but the auction was postponed after the deaths of his son Dodi Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales.

'The final chapter'

The proceeds will now go to a foundation being set up in Dodi Fayed's memory, aiming to provide funds to causes supported by Dodi Fayed and the Princess.

The auction was originally billed as 'the final chapter in the most celebrated love story of the 20th century'. That is a billing made more poignant by the deaths of the Princess and Dodi Fayed.

There were reports after the deaths that the Princess and Dodi Fayed had visited the house on the day they died, possibly with a view to making it their home. Children's charities

A spokesman for Sotheby's, which is auctioning the collection, said most important of these charities would be those helping children.

Diana Brooks, Sotheby's chief executive, said: "With extraordinary depth, the Collection documents Edward's
[ image: Portrait of Mrs Simpson by Cecil Beaton. ©Sotheby's]
Portrait of Mrs Simpson by Cecil Beaton. ©Sotheby's
childhood, his early years when he was considered perhaps the most popular Prince of Wales up to that time, his brief reign as King Edward VIII and his abdication.

"It extends through his courtship and marriage to Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor, and to the Paris years during which they were undisputed leaders of society and key figures in the world of twentieth century fashion."

Works of art

Among the collection are a group of 10,000 photographs, which were discovered in a covered bath in the house while renovation was taking place. There are also paintings by Munnings and Degas.

It is ten years since the Duchess's jewels were sold, also by auction, following her death.

Mr Al Fayed said his family wished to use more of the Windsor residence for their own use. He had decided to sell its contents to give them the space to be able to do so.


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