King Edward’s Possesions Auctioned
NEW YORK (AP) _ A 61-year-old piece of wedding cake sold for $26,000 on Thursday, part of the spirited bidding in the first round of a nine-day auction of the Paris estate of the late Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Though likely very stale by now, the cake, sealed in a nearly three-inch-square white box, has the distinction of being from the 1937 wedding of Edward VIII, the former king of England, and the woman for whom he gave up his throne, American divorcee Wallis Warfield Simpson. It had been valued at up to $1,000 in a pre-sale estimate.
Telephone bidders joined an audience of about 1,000 at Sotheby’s in purchasing an array of items from the estate.
The cake’s buyer, 31-year-old Benjamin Yim, identified himself as a San Francisco entrepreneur and said he intended to keep his purchase.
``I’m not going to eat it,″ joked the Hong Kong native, who said he was attracted to the item by the couple’s love story. ``I think it’s epitome of true romance.″
The duchess, who survived her husband, left most of the estate to the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The institute sold it to the Dodi Fayed International Charitable Foundation, headed by Egyptian-born millionaire Mohamed Al Fayed.
The auction initially was set for last September but was postponed after the Paris car crash that killed Fayed’s son, Dodi, and Princess Diana.
Proceeds of the auction will got to the foundation.
Also sold were a brass ashtray, which went for $1,200, and a pair of glass claret jugs given to Edward by his grandmother, Queen Alexandra. The jugs, valued before the auction at up to $3,000, sold for $35,000 to a Los Angeles buyer.
``This is the biggest auction we’ve ever held in the United States, and as a royal collection, more or less unprecedented in history,″ said Sotheby’s expert Joe Friedman. ``One has to go back to the 17th century to find anything comparable _ the sale of the possessions of Charles I.″
Edward’s short-lived reign ended in 1936 when he doffed the crown to marry Simpson and became the only English monarch ever to abdicate. He died in 1972; she died 14 years later, leaving the estate to charity.
Among 40,000 items to be sold, the priciest was Sir Alfred Munnings’ 1921 painting of Edward, Prince of Wales, in riding habit astride ``Forest Witch,″ valued at $600,000 to $800,000. The cheapest: a small 1962 portrait of the Duchess, $40 to $80.
Otherwise, bidders could choose from an array of furniture, paintings, jewelry, housewares, dishes, rugs, bric-a-brac, clothing, scrapbooks and souvenirs of the merry _ and not-so-merry _ lives of Windsor.
When not sitting for portraits by photographers Cecil Beaton or Man Ray, the Duchess tended her ``pug collection″ _ dozens of the snub-nosed dogs in paint, porcelain, bronze, plaster, embroidery, even a bath mat and a pug-headed cane.
Two green-jade Maori war clubs, gifts to the Prince of Wales during a visit to New Zealand in 1921, were to be sold Sunday despite 11th-hour appeals by government officials and tribal leaders in New Zealand for their return.
Ethnologists said Maori tradition requires that a gift be returned once the recipient no longer wants it or dies.
Sotheby’s spokesman Matthew Weigman said Fayed foundation trustees had elected to sell the clubs, and ``several″ advance bids had already been received. They were valued at $3,500 each.
Separate sessions were reserved for sale of the couple’s extensive wardrobes.
Hers included dozens of gowns and dresses by Chanel, Dior, Givenchy, St. Laurent and Valentino, while the Duke, a diminutive 5-feet-4, with a 31-inch waist, left behind closets full of suits, military uniforms, formal wear, tweeds and yachting blazers, many reflecting the relaxed American styles he often favored. The morning coat and trousers he wore to his wedding on June 3, 1937, was valued at $10,000 to $15,000.