Never-before-seen private photos of King Edward VIII and his mistress Wallis Simpson on a controversial cruise that triggered the start of the his abdication crisis have been discovered.
23 MAY 2016 • 12:02AM
The lost photo album of 200 holiday snaps has been locked in a safe for the last 80 years along with a treasure trove of gifts and mementos relating to the playboy monarch and his divorcee lover.
It has now been uncovered by the granddaughter of Herman Rogers, who along with his wife Katherine, was great friends of the couple and joined them on the cruise around the Adriatic Sea.
Against the advice of his government, Edward went on an extended summer holiday with American socialite Wallis in the first year of his reign in 1936.
Mr Rogers took the photos of the couple, whose illicit relationship at that stage was not known to the British public.
The black and white photos include ones of them swimming in the sea, enjoying picnics and of a bare-chested and scrawny-looking Edward posing in front of a Greek beauty spot.
When they returned to Britain the foursome continued the festivities at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and there are more photos showing the King amusingly dressed in a deer-stalking cloak with his cousin, Louis Mountbatten, stood next to him.
Weeks after the photos were taken Edward announced his intention to marry Wallis, sparking a constitutional crisis.
The news was met with widespread disapproval by the Church of England as Wallis was a divorcee and also caused a major public scandal.
By December of that year Edward chose to abdicate the throne so he could marry Wallis. His younger brother, George VI, then became King.
As well as the photo album, the newly-discovered archive includes a beautiful gold Cartier cigarette case Edward and Wallis gifted to Mr Rogers at their wedding in June 1937.
Mr Rogers gave Wallis away and on the inside lid of the case is an inscription that reads 'We will never forget a great friendship. Edward and Wallis.'
The dates beneath the wording - December 5, 1936 and June 3, 1937 - are for when Edward abdicated and their wedding.
The items have been locked away in a safe for generations at the Rogers' family home in Canada and have now been unearthed by his granddaughter.
They are now coming up for sale in London for a total estimate of £60,000.
Auctioneer Kerry Taylor said: "You think you have seen it all and there is nothing left to come out and then something fresh and quite exciting emerges for the first time after all these years.
"This archive hasn't been seen before. It has literally been in a safe in a basement of a house in Canada for the last 80 years.
"Herman Rogers' granddaughter didn't really know about it but luckily realised it was of great importance when it was found. She doesn't feel emotionally attached to the items and has decided to sell them.
"The photographs are quite remarkable.
"This was in August 1936 and at that stage the British public knew nothing of Edward's relationship with Wallis.
"He had only been King for a few months and decided to charter a yacht, The Nahlin, and go off on this cruise with Wallis. The Prime Minister advised against it but Edward pretty much said that he was King and he could do what he liked
"The Rogers joined them and were very savvy with a lot of foresight because they realised they in the middle of something very historic and took photographs and kept mementoes from this time.
"The photos clearly illustrate the romance and growing closeness between Edward and Wallis, who was still married at the time. They are lovely photos and show a happy couple who are quite carefree.
"The King is shown swimming and sunbathing bare-chested. This was Queen Victoria's grandson and for Edward to be seen in public bare-chested was quite extraordinary.
"Wallis is seen sporting rather unflattering rubber bathing hats and elasticated one piece swimsuits.
"In these pictures Wallis was thinking that she was going to be the next Queen of the United Kingdom, they didn't know of what was coming round the corner.
"After the cruise Edward didn't want the party to end and insisted they all go to Balmoral afterwards.
"It is astonishing to see any private Royal photographs but to find 200 of them in one album that chart the illicit romance of the king who gave away his Empire for the woman he loved is just remarkable."
The album is valued at £3,000.
The Cartier sapphire encrusted cigarette case Edward and Wallis gave to Mr Rogers is valued at £30,000 while a matching compact case gifted to Mrs Rogers is worth £20,000.
The guest book for the couple's villa in Cannes, south of France, that documents VIPs who visited them in the 1920s and '30s is also for sale.
Wallis, who was great friends with the Rogers before she met Edward, visited the villa regularly and signed her name according to who she was married to at the time.
In June 1923 she signed as Wallis Warfield Spencer, having married Earl Spencer in 1916 and then in 1929 she signed as Wallis Warfield Simpson, having married her second husband Ernest Simpson in 1928.
The guest book is valued at £5,000.
There is also Balmoral-headed stationery that still bears black edging to mark the mourning of the death of Edward's father, King George V.
The piece of paper is signed by Edward, Wallis and Louis Mountbatten. It is valued at £3,000.
Other gifts for sale nclude an 18th century engraved silver salver, given by Edward and Wallis when they were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor after the abdication crisis. It is valued at £3,000.
And a 1823 silver-gilt snuff box given by them to the Rogers at Christmas 1948 and worth £3,000 makes up the archive.
The items will be sold at Kerry Taylor Auctions on June 14.
‘Passion for Fashion’ 14th June 2016
The gifts, mementoes and private photographs originally belonged to Katherine and Herman Rogers – lifelong friends of Wallis Simpson and King Edward VIII. They were discovered by Herman Roger’s grand-daughter in a safe after the death of her grandmother. Herman Rogers was good-looking, athletic, well-educated and the son of the American millionaire railroad tycoon Archibald Rogers. He and Katherine explored the world, seeking out culture wherever they went.
The Rogerses had been friends with Wallis since the 1920s. In 1924 the couple offered her refuge at their home in Peking after the failure of her marriage to her first husband – Earl Winfield Spencer, a reputedly alcoholic and abusive US naval pilot from a rich and socially prominent Baltimore family. In June 1928 she stayed with them again in another of their beautiful homes near Cannes in the south of France – Villa Lou Viei, where she signed herself in the guest book (lot 204, estimate £3000-5000) ‘Wallis Warfield Spencer’ – taking her husband’s name despite their divorce in December the previous year. The guest book tellingly records other trips to Lou Viei
The collection also includes an intriguing album of over 200 photographs (many previously unseen) which clearly illustrates the romance and growing closeness between Edward and Wallis (lot 202, estimate £1500-2500).
On January 20th, 1936, everything was to change. King George V died and his eldest son Edward (or David as close friends and family referred to him) acceded to the throne. In August the same year, the un-crowned King made an ill-judged decision to go on an Adriatic cruise, taking with him Wallis (who was still married to Mr Simpson) and a small group of friends, including the Rogerses. The fact that Spain was in the throes of a civil war and there was unrest in the Balkans did not deter him, despite government advice to the contrary. The photographs taken by Herman Rogers record for posterity this notorious ‘Nahlin’ cruise.
The chartered Nahlin yacht was partially re-fitted for the cruise, with the on-board library being ripped out and converted into a large master bedroom for the couple. The King appears in the photographs swimming and sunbathing bare-chested (which caused much comment in the overseas press at the time). Wallis sports rather unflattering rubber bathing hats, elasticated one piece swimsuits or shelters under parasols (not for her the new-fangled sun-tan). Whilst Britain remained unaware of the royal romance (thanks to acquiescent press barons who quashed all mention), in the US and Continental Europe the affair was widely reported as Wallis’ aunt Bessie (who lived in the US) was to inform her upon her return to France at the end of the trip. Not all of the coverage was flattering.
As a memento of Rogers’ stay at the castle, the King and other guests signed a piece of Balmoral Castle stationery (lot 203, estimate £2000-3000).
Just three months after the highly publicised Nahlin cruise and Scottish holiday, the King finally decided to abdicate his throne, triggering a constitutional crisis. He had put his own desires and comfort above his Royal duty as King – being unable to rule without the woman he loved beside him. In consequence he was demoted in rank to HRH the Duke of Windsor. Wallis, after being hounded day and night by the press, again took refuge with Herman and Katherine Rogers at Lou Viei in France and recorded in her memoirs:
‘As the moment approached, everyone at Lou Viei, including the domestic staff, gathered around the radio in the sitting room. David’s (the informal given name for Edward) voice came out of the loudspeaker calmly, movingly. I was lying on the sofa with my hands over my eyes, trying to hide my tears. After he finished, the others quietly went away and left me alone. I lay there a long time before I could control myself enough to walk through the house and go upstairs to my room’.
It was to Katherine and Herman that Wallis turned to for help with the impending wedding which was to take place on June 3rd, 1937. They had been loaned the Chateau de Candé in the Loire by the American businessman Charles Bedaux. The Rogerses took with them the Lou Viei guest book and recorded the wedding guests and their dates of arrival. There were only 28 names listed including the married couple – others were the society florist Constance Spry (who arranged the flowers), and R. Anderson Jardine (the rebel vicar who officiated at the ceremony without the consent of the Church of England, which was to cost him his job). Cecil Beaton’s photographs of the event show the couple looking rather strained, with forced smiles.
The wedding was a relatively low-key, muted affair. Edward was used to the pomp and ceremony of large Royal occasions, with crowds of flag-waving patriots lining the streets. Most British aristocracy and establishment now shunned the couple and disapproved of the marriage. Poignantly, not one member of the Royal Family attended despite the Duke’s heartfelt pleas. Edward VIII had chosen to follow his own personal desires rather than putting duty and his country first – something that was not to be forgotten or forgiven by the British establishment.
On the wedding day, Herman was given the important role of walking Wallis down the aisle and giving her hand in matrimony. As a token of their gratitude he was presented with a beautiful
Other gifts to them include lot 207, the 18th century engraved silver salver, given by the Duke & Duchess of Windsor to Herman when he remarried in 1950, estimate £2000-3000 and lot 201, a 1823 silver-gilt snuff box given by the Duke & Duchess of Windsor as a gift to Katherine and Herman Rogers, Christmas 1948, estimate £2000-3000.
The collection will be sold as part of our ‘Passion or Fashion’ auction, Tuesday June 14th 2016