Elegant reminder of a royal scandal laced with a touch of Honiton

Honiton Museum owns this elegant dress that belonged to Wallis Simpson

Honiton Museum owns this elegant dress that belonged to Wallis Simpson - Credit: Honiton Museum

Ten years ago Honiton museum successfully purchased this scarlet chiffon nightdress, capelet and full length cape (circa 1940s – 1950s) at a London auction. 

The lingerie is appliquéd with Victorian Honiton lace flower sprays and was once owned by Wallis Simpson. 

Wallis was the twice divorced American who scandalised Britain when King Edward abdicated the throne in December 1936 so that he could marry her.

There was so much opposition to the marriage, mainly because Wallis had two living ex-husbands that it caused a constitutional crisis.  Edward announced in a radio broadcast that “I have found it impossible ... to discharge my duties as King as I would wish to do without the help and support of the woman I love.”

After abdicating, the former King was created Duke of Windsor. 

Wallis and Edward married on June 3, 1937 at the Château de Candé but none of the English Royal family  attended the ceremony.

Commenting on her sense of style, the Duchess once wrote: “My husband gave up everything for me... I’m not a beautiful woman. I'm nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone else. If everyone looks at me when I enter a room, my husband can feel proud of me. That’s my chief responsibility.”

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The couple lived the rest of their lives in exile in France. The contents of their home (including the lingerie) on the Bois de Bologne in Paris were bought by former Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed when the Duchess died in 1986.

A short while  after our successful auction bid a lady contacted the museum and donated a pink boudoir sachet appliqued with Honiton lace and  a pair of scarlet travel slippers with a matching  case  to the museum collection.

She used to work as a lady’s maid for Wallis in Paris. Wallis commissioned the slipper and bag sets to be made  in New York, in red and many other colours,  all decorated with her customary  bow motif. Wallis gave  the slipper set to her maid as they both had the same size three feet.

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