Uri Geller buys a Royal spoon.
22nd February 1998
The Sunday Telegraph
Queen bids for Duke of Windsor heirlooms
by JAMES HARDY and CATHERINE MILNER in New York
THE QUEEN is secretly bidding for Royal Family heirlooms at the New York auction of the possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
An agent acting on behalf of the Royal Collection is monitoring a number of lots due to go under the hammer during the nine-day sale, which ends this week.
The Royal Family was angered by the duke taking property without permission to his Paris mansion in the bitter aftermath of his abdication in 1936. And, initially it said it was not to be interested in buying back the property. But a limited number of lots have since been identified as potentially valuable additions to the Royal Collection.
The sale of more than 40,000 items includes everything from furniture and flags to stationery and ornaments. It was put up for auction by the Harrods owner Mohamed Fayed, who took the lease on the Paris residence after the death of the Duchess in 1986. It is believed that the Royal Family declined an invitation from Mr Fayed to deal with him directly before the auction.
He has said that the proceeds, after deductions for expenses and commission, will go to the Dodi Fayed International Charity Foundation, which supports children’s charities around the world.
One of the main items said to interest the Royal Family is a painting by Sir Jeffry Wyattville of Fort Belvedere, the home at Windsor where the duke, as Edward VIII, signed his abdication papers. It is understood the picture would fill a gap in the Royal Collection.
Other items that may be of interest include a doll in the shape of a chimney sweep made for the duke by his mother, Queen Mary. The doll meant a great deal to the King, who rarely set out on a journey without inquiring: “Have you got the sweep?”
A painting by Sir Alfred Munnings featuring a regal Edward VIII on horseback is also thought to be of interest.
The Royal Collection acts in the name of the Queen, who is the duke’s niece, but royal bidders could also include Princess Margaret, a keen collector of memorabilia, and Prince Edward, who recently made a television programme about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson.
There was surprise in New York that the Prince of Wales showed no interest in the investiture sword of his predecessor which was withdrawn from sale, or in flags from the Duchy of Cornwall.
The sale at Sotheby’s is being hailed as one of the biggest recent successes in auction history – with many of the lots being sold for 11 or 12 times their estimate.
Uri Geller, the psychic, paid £1,194 for a small silver medicine spoon, given to Mrs Simpson by the then Prince of Wales in 1934, to add to his collection of spoons with a history.
But a number of lots have been withdrawn, suggesting either that Mr Fayed wishes to keep the items for himself or to sell them privately.
Also on sale yesterday was the desk at which Edward VIII signed his abdication papers at 10.30am on December 10, 1936 – a lot not expected to excite the interest of the Royal Family.
Hugo Vickers, the respected author on royalty, who was attending the sale, said: “The Queen needs a desk to work on, not to abdicate on.”
Dickie Arbiter, director of media affairs at the Royal Collection, said: “If we do bid, then we always do it anonymously. When the Collection does buy, it is for a number of reasons – for artistic value or because we already have something of that particular collection.”
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