Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Question: The Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding rings

....I have not found, anywhere, any information on the wedding rings of the Duke and Duchess, and this is my query: Is there a photograph, or description of the rings – somewhere? Were the Duke and Duchess buried wearing the rings, or, were the rings auctioned at Sotheby’s with the Duchess’ jewelry (after her death)?

Thank you for your questions!

You're right, there doesn't seem to be a lot of photos of the wedding rings out there. But given the fabulous collection of jewels that the Duchess owned, this is not surprising. While there are some photos of her with a plain ring on her wedding finger, they're not close up. For the most part she seems to have been photographed with her engagement ring; a large flawless emerald cut from the size of a bird's egg that belonged to a Mogul Emperor. So while she might have worn her wedding ring everyday, the size of her engagement ring would have dwarfed it. Looking at wedding photos some of them show her wearing just the wedding ring. Incidentally, the gloves she wore for her wedding were designed to open on the ring finger of the left hand. In some photos during the Second World War, where she is contributing to the war effort, you can see her wearing just the wedding ring. Anything larger would have been inappropriate. Many photos show her wearing gloves so the rings would not be seen. She was said to be rather meticulous about her grooming and she had manicures everyday, but her hairdresser recalled: She hated her hands. She always sat with her hands between her knees trying to hide them. Interesting then that she wore such extravagantly large rings that drew attention to them.

In most books about her there is very little reference to the wedding rings. Considering the circumstances, that would have been a minor detail. One book refers to it as being made from gold mined from the Welsh hills with a platinum copy auctioned in 1987 at Sotheby's. There are several wedding rings listed in the Sotheby's sale: lot #142 lists a 'platinum wedding ring, English, 1937, inscribed 'Wallis 18-10-35 Your David 3-VI-37' the two dates commemorate when the Prince proposed and the date of their marriage. In lot #177 there are 'Four wedding rings, all inscribed'. In photos the Duke of Windsor wears two rings on the fifth finger of his left hand, which seems to be the place royal men wear their wedding rings. Why there are five wedding rings in the auction, and whether one of them would have belonged to the Duke of Windsor is anybody's guess. Maybe he was buried with his but I highly doubt it.

Unfortunately I cannot locate photos specifically of these rings. Your best bet would be to see if you can purchase the auction catalogue which is rare and depending on where you look, very expensive, Sotheby's The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor sold for the benefit of the Pasteur Institute. Or The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor, by John Culme and Nicholas Rayner, written after the auction and a more affordable option. You might find photographs there.

Update: Although it's an interesting book, The Jewels of the Duchess of Windsor by John Culme and Nicholas Rayner (written after the auction) does not have a photo of the wedding rings. Nor does the official auction catalogue.


The Windsor Style by Suzy Menkes

The Royal Jewels by Suzy Menkes

Famous Jewelry Collectors by Stefano Papi & Alexandra Rhodes

The Windsor Years by Lord Kinross

Edward VIII - The Road to Abdication - by Frances Donaldson

The Secret Life of The Duchess of Windsor by Charles Higham

The Windsor Story by J. Bryan III and Charles J.V. Murphy

Related Articles:

Royal Engagement Rings

Jewels fit for a Queen

© Marilyn Braun 2008

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