From the Sotheby's Catalogue 1997
Sotheby's catalogues from 1997
The Duke's wardrobe, photograph from the Sotheby's Catalogue 1997
In a way, they were the Pop culture icons of their time (although the twice divorced Duchess was not exactly popular with the general public), celebrated for their fashionable lives.
At their country house, the Duke in full Tartan suit, from "The Windsor Style"
French antiques in Paris via "The Windsor Style"
Table setting with monogrammed glasses, Royal Copenhagen assembled china service circa 1880, English silver flatware circa 1932 with monogram, and Porthault 1950's appliqued place mats and napkins via Sotheby's Catalogue 1997
The mix of high/ low continued in many facets of their lives - the Duchess was very fond of costume jewellery (as well as her very expensive Cartier pieces) and helped to popularise it during the 1950's. All of her costume Jewels were given specially made leather cases with the monogram on them too. When worn with her couture clothing, Roger Vivier shoes, and monogrammed crocodile handbags the overall effect was stylish perfection. Monograms were on her handkerchiefs (made from the finest linen) and even the bust of her hand embroidered silk and lace nightgowns. You could say the diminishing of their Royal status led to an obsession with achieving it. The Duke was known to tell people that he was one of only 3 actual blood Royals alive - that Queen Elizabeth II was only half Royal as her mother was aristocratic, but not Royal herself.
The Duke's bedroom with royal ephemera including the Order of the Garter and his royal insignia from his time as King via Sotheby's Catalogue 1997. Next to his bed he kept his childhood nursery toys, which would be packed when he travelled by his Valet.
lined up and waiting...staff in full livery from "The Windsor Style"
airbrushing out the wrinkles including the "Frown that Cleaves her forehead ('as though she'd been hit by an axe' says Anne Slater)" her friend via "The Windsor Style"
So what is it about them that has meant that they are still talked about so many years later? In a way, they were the equivalent to today's reality TV stars. A dramatic family dispute and explosive scandal, and then the theatre of their life: vacuous, boring, lacking direction and industry and completely excessive - played out on a self publicised and perfectly managed stage set. The sale of their collection in 1997 has meant that they have achieved notoriety and fame through their legacy of the one thing that they devoted themselves to passionately: their appearances and their things.
The Windsor Style is definitely worth hunting down if you are interested in reading more about them - filled with all sorts of interesting tidbits on their life, their style, their influence on fashion and Interiors, and their collections. The talk I attended was an excellent overview of a strangely fascinating couple. Their contribution to society in a meaningful way never eventuated - they celebrated the surface, and perhaps, in always striving to be ahead of the times, they managed to be the icons and precursor to our modern scourge - the celebration of the individual, the celebration of style over substance.
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