Monday, July 2, 2012

Noblesse Oblige; The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her

Last week, I attended another wonderful event at ADAC......a lecture and book-signing by Richard Rene Silvin, author of Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess Of Windsor As I Knew Her.

As many of you know, I collect (and sell) personal items and books on The Duke and Duchess of Windsor, so I definitely was not going to miss THIS! ....and I enjoyed every minute of it.


Noblesse Oblige is Silvin's personal description of the Duchess' last valiant battle to protect her young protégée while he was running a famous hospital in Paris, France. The detailed memoir sits atop an easily absorbed history of both protagonists as the author rejects historians' claim that the Duchess was a ruthless, conniving and superficial woman. Instead he validates TIMES MAGAZINE'S decision to honor her as the first Woman of the Year, who, it has been said "out-Hollywooded Hollywood" while making Greek tragedy seem trivial.

I had forgotten that TIME tidbit,......and the entire presentation by Mr. Silvin was a warm and passionate story told by one who knew Wallis personally.

Here is a taste of Mr. Silvin's book:
"As usual, I met Wallis at Le Bois in order to escort her to dinner. When I arrived, one butler dressed in black tails and two footmen, in red jackets; stood erect as yet another footman opened the carved metal double doors. The butler showed me into the main living room. Once again, I noticed how the beautiful nineteenth century home was cozy, if a bit cluttered. Wallis had referred to it as a ' miniature palace' and, thanks to her tireless ingenuity, it certainly was. It gave visitors an immediate sensation of being both grand and warm. It was inviting unlike a palace or castle. 'Le Bois' or 'The Woods' sits in the middle of a large garden with mature trees in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris' beautiful park on the edge of the city. Amazing one-of-a-kind antiques filled the home to capacity and memorabilia of the Duke's brief tenure as King of England could be seen everywhere: a beautiful collection of Royal silver and gold boxes and his abdication document were on display. Equally prominent were pictures, sculptures and mementoes of the couple's many adored pug dogs."


I, of course, attended the famous Sotheby's auction years-ago in New York. Although I couldn't afford ANY of the Duke or the Duchess's clothing (handkerchiefs went for $1500+ EACH!)......I amassed several wonderful lots of their personal things,....a Collection now worth over $100,000.

Here are a few of the Duchess of Windsor's personal items: a small, shell-topped basket, a carved wooden owl with blue glass eyes, and a woven, wicker basket in the form of a Bahamian-lady. These charming artifacts were made for Wallis by people who knew her in the Bahamas (Edward was "thrown a bone" by his Homeland and was Governor of the Bahamas). She cherished these homemade little items, and displayed them throughout her dressing-rooms along with her priceless antiques.

Tropical shell basket made for The Duchess of Windsor by a Bahamian friend. Shown in front of custom shadowbox, which measures: 8.5" W x 5" D x 8.5" H.  Sotheby's NYC provenance.

Charming, hand carved owl with blue glass eyes; owned by The Duchess of Windsor, given to her by a Bahamian friend. Provenance: Sotheby's NYC.  Shown in front of custom shadowbox, which measures: 7.5" W x 5" D x 8.5" H

 Basket in the form of a lady, made for The Duchess of Windsor by a Bahamian friend. Provenance: Sotheby's NYC. Shown in front of custom shadow box, which measures: 10.5" W x 6.75" D x 12" H

As Mr. Silvin reminded his audience, she was a very-kind soul, and cherished her relationships with the "common-folk."

Scalamadre hosted a delightful luncheon after Mr. Silvin's lecture, where he signed many-a-book for his audience. I personally cannot wait to spend a day in my gardens reading his wonderful memoir.


Thank you, ADAC for another informative day for we-interior-designers who love learning more about beautiful interiors and beautiful people.

Cheers,...... Mark.

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