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Royal spirits collection goes under hammer

The British royal family's predilection for gin is inherited, not learnt, if the soon-to-be-auctioned spirits collection of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor is anything to go by.

The contents of the couple’s cellar have lain untouched since the Duke’s death thirty years ago. They are expected to fetch more than £80,000 (€125,174) at Christie’s Paris on 12 December.

An original wooden case of Gordon’s Gin, stamped with HRH The Duke of Windsor and expected to fetch up to £2,000 (€3,128), is testament to a habit that’s been passed down the generations.

The Duke’s sister-in-law, the late Queen Mother, was famously fond of gin, and his niece Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister, who died this year) used to have a Gordon’s ‘stiffener’ every morning at 11.00. Every bottle of Gordon’s still bears the Royal Warrant – the Queen’s coat of arms.

Also in the sale are four magnums of 1811 cognac complete with original wax seals and two magnums of 1812 Cognac Napoleon Grande Fine Champagne – valued at between £5,000-£7,000 (€7,823-€10,952) each.

Many of the lots are embossed with the Prince of Wales’ seal, Edward VIII’s pre-coronation title. Two square bottles of Paddy Old Irish Whisky of Great Age (John Dewar & Sons) bear the remains of the royal wax seal and are valued at £1,000-£1,500 (€1564-€2,346) each.

The Duke of Windsor, who was crowned Edward VIII in 1936, triggered a constitutional crisis when he abdicated the throne after 11 months in order to marry Wallis Simpson, a twice-divorced American woman. At the time it was unthinkable for the monarch to marry a divorced person. The couple lived in self-imposed and very social exile in Paris until the Duke’s death in 1972.

‘We expect a lot of extra interest because of the royal connection,’ David Elswood, head of Christie’s international wine department said.

The collection was sold by the Duchess of Windsor to an unnamed Parisian collector. It has never left Paris and Elswood confirmed that the bottles are all in exceptionally good condition.

This is the second sale to take place at Christie’s Paris since it opened in September.

Written by Josie Butchart28 October 2002

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