Lot 335: King Edward VIII Signed Photo
12th September 2018
Handsome matte-finish 8 x 9.75 gelatin silver portrait photograph of Edward, Duke of Windsor in uniform of Colonel-in-Chief of the Welsh Guards, taken by Hugh Cecil in the 1930s when he was Prince of Wales, presented in an 11 x 15.5 mat, signed and inscribed on the mat in ballpoint, "To Norma and Alan Fisher, from Edward, Duke of Windsor, February 1960.” Blindstamped "Hugh Cecil, London" in the lower left, which is duplicated in stylized script outside the image. Verso affixed with paper label of "Hugh Cecil, 8 Grafton Street, Bond Street, W1; No. 11,393.F.," penciled “490/1200.” Presented as a farewell gift to the Duke’s butler, Alan Fisher. Framed to an overall size of 15 x 19.5. In fine condition. Provenance: Acquired in September 2013 from the estate of Alan Fisher, butler to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor from 1954–1960. Edward, Duke of Windsor, was a popular member of the royal family and heir to the throne. In 1931, then known as the Prince of Wales, Edward met and fell in love with American socialite Wallis Simpson. After George V's death, the prince became King Edward VIII. However, because his marriage to Simpson, an American divorcée, was forbidden, Edward abdicated the throne after ruling for less than a year. Thereafter, he took the title Duke of Windsor and embarked on a jet-setting life with his new wife. He died in France in 1972. Alan Fisher was born in the slums of Manchester in 1930. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1978 he remarked “From there, there was only one place to go – up.” Fisher’s cheerful personality, sense of humour and impeccable manners evidently suited him to a career “in service” and his rise was swift. His career began with the Marks and Spencers retailing family and, after leaving for Canada to do National Service, he became valet to the first Canadian Governor General, Raymond Massey’s brother, Victor. In 1951, on returning to England, Fisher worked at Clarence House where he met his future wife, Norma. In 1954, Alan moved to France where he became butler to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at their retreat, Le Moulin de la Tuilerie at Gif-sur-Yvette, which the Duchess reportedly called “their only real home”; and at their more public Parisian house in the Bois de Boulogne. “The Duchess taught me everything I know – twice over” said Alan. “She has impeccable taste, was impeccable in the way she dresses and lived her life.” During his six years with the Windsors, Fisher remarked, “I was very aware that I was living a part of history. It was a great thrill…they lived on a scale that far surpassed the Royal Family’s.” Following the Windsors, Fisher worked for many different high society households, including that of Ralph Lauren, Terry Allen Kramer, the Broadway Producer; “Jock” Hay Whitney, US Ambassador to London and publisher of the New York Herald Tribune; and Robert Lehman of Lehman Brothers. By the early 1960’s, Fisher’s reputation was well known as a butler in the grand British tradition and Bing Crosby and his wife Kathryn were eager to secure his services. It was not a position that immediately excited Alan. “I was working for a German-Jewish banker who I liked and who had more charm than eight Bing Crosbys. When you have worked for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor you’re not going to impress me if you’re Rock Hudson or Carol Burnett.” But Mrs. Crosby persisted and finally won, engaging him for seventeen years. Alan and his wife Norma were heavily involved in raising the three Crosby children whilst their parents pursed their respective careers on stage and screen. Alan and Norma remained close to Harry, Mary and Nathaniel Crosby (Norma gave Mary away on her wedding day) and when asked why he has never written a novel about his unique “inside” experiences as a butler, his answer was “for three very good reasons – the Crosby children.” After a brief period of employment with Lady Spencer, when her daughter, Diana, was being courted by Prince Charles, Alan’s popularity with the Prince and Princess of Wales led to a close relationship and he served as butler at Kensington Palace for three years, his last formal engagement. In his own words, “the perfect butler sees all, hears all and tells nothing.” Alan lived up to his definition until his death in 2006.
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