BALTIMORE (Reuters) – A fan of Wallis Simpson, the American socialite who married a British king 80 years ago, is hoping to capitalize on the attention around the upcoming British royal wedding by putting up for auction his collection of memorabilia.
The 210-item private collection, known as the Duchess of Windsor Museum, is located on the ground floor of a house in Baltimore, Maryland, just three doors from one of Simpson’s childhood residences in the U.S. city.
It includes coronation souvenirs, magazine covers, replica jewelry, and newspaper clippings documenting the shocking 1936 decision by Britain’s King Edward VIII to abdicate the throne in order to marry Simpson, an American divorcee.
The auction on eBay will open on May 9 and end on May 19, the day when divorced American actress Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry in Britain. Prospective buyers can view the collection in person on May 6 and May 13, as well as indulge in a “Duchess-inspired” brunch.
“We decided that during the royal wedding it was the perfect time, with all the interest in the duchess,” said collector Philip Baty. Baty, who is retired, said he and his husband plan to downsize and move to a warmer climate.
Baty began amassing artifacts more than 20 years ago after becoming fascinated by Simpson’s glamorous lifestyle. He did not say how much he thought the auction would bring.
“All the better jewelers, especially Cartier, designed all kinds of beautiful stuff for her. It was said that her jewelry rivaled Queen Elizabeth’s private collection of jewelry,” Baty said.
As the royal wedding day draws near, Baty cannot help but marvel at how times have changed since the 1936 constitutional crisis over Edward’s desire to marry a divorced woman.
“That was the scandal of the century,” he said. “Now look at Ms. Markle. No one’s hardly said a word. They’re just proud of her and thrilled.”
Wallis Simpson died in Paris at age 89 in 1986, 14 years after the death of Edward, who was ostracized by the royal family after his abdication and marriage.
Reporting by Vanessa Johnston; Editing by Matthew Lewis