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Bring on the bling: jewels from a scandalous royal marriage go on sale

30 NOVEMBER 2010

If Wallis Simpson loved King Edward VIII - the sovereign who abdicated to marry her, thus rocking the foundations of the British monarchy - she adored opulent jewellery almost as much.

And to seal the 20th century's most scandalous love affair, the royal lavished gems on the bewitching American – whose two previous divorces made it impossible for him to have her hand and stay on the throne.

Created the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937, they retired to the Riviera, where Wallis became a striking presence at parties, with the extravagant stones perfectly set off by her impeccable monochrome outfits and sleek hairstyles.

The collection, now on auction at Sothebys, symbolises the fusion of history, passion and fashion.

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When the Duke's love tokens were bought by the Syrian billionaire Wafic Said in 1987, the year after Wallis' death, they were the largest collection of jewels belonging to a single owner ever put on the market.

One of the most personal items is the bracelet the Duchess wore on her wedding day. It featured gem-encrusted crosses, engraved with inscriptions marking key points in their romance.

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One recorded her appendectomy, while another reading "God save the King For Wallis", refers to an assassination attempt on Edward.

Another, with the words "The Kings [sic] Cross" marks the time in 1936 that, after a heated argument, she hailed a taxi and said "King's Cross" to the driver. "I'm sorry lady," he replied.

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Other outstanding pieces are a ruby, sapphire and emerald Cartier flamingo clip and an onyx and diamond bracelet, valued at £1.5 million and fashioned like a panther, with one sensually outstretched paw.

Meanwhile, a gold cigarette case, given to him by her, poignantly features a map and recalls their holidays together, including a Mediterranean cruise in 1936, after which he made the decision to give up his birthright.

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