Wallis Simpson’s ‘impeccable taste’ revealed by Art Deco clock up for auction – and the butler she gave it to

Posted on 26/06/2018 in Press Coverage

In a ravishingly summery shade of yellow, this elegant Art Deco travel clock looks extra special, and it is. It has royal pedigree and American socialite polish.

It demonstrates the impeccable style of Wallis Simpson, the woman who became the Duchess of Windsor and forced the abdication of a king.

The clock was given by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to their butler, the late Alan Fisher. He worked for the famous couple for six years from 1954 at their French retreat, Le Moulin de la Tuilerie at Gif-sur-Yvette, and at their Parisian home in the Bois de Boulogne.

The silver and enamel clock, dating back to the 1920s, will be sold at Derbyshire’s Hansons Auctioneers Fine Art Auction on Friday, June 29 with a guide of £5,000-£5,500. It’s striking geometric design fits inside an accompanying silk-lined case.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “The quality of this time piece demonstrates the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s generosity and refined taste. This is an exceptional clock favoured by an exceptional couple who caused great controversy when they chose to marry.

“It brims with hot summer colours and encapsulates Mediterranean and French Riviera style. You can easily imagine the Duchess choosing it with great care.”

Wallis Simpson was a divorced American socialite whose intended marriage to British king Edward VIII caused a constitutional crisis.

The King’s desire to marry a woman who had two ex-husbands led to Edward’s abdication in December 1936 to marry "the woman I love".

Later on, the couple appointed Alan Fisher as their butler, a man born in the slums of Manchester in 1930. In 1978, he told the Los Angeles Times there was only one place to go - up.

Alan’s cheerful personality, humour and impeccable manners suited a life in service and his rise was swift. His career began with the Marks & Spencer retailing family. He went on to become valet to a Canadian governor general and later worked at Clarence House.

In 1954 he started working for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and said: “The Duchess taught me everything I know - twice over. She had impeccable taste and was impeccable in the way she dressed and lived her life.

“I was very aware I was living a part of history. It was a great thrill … they lived on a scale that far surpassed the royal family’s.”

Later, among many impressive job roles, Alan worked for Bing Crosby and his wife Kathryn. By that time, it was hard to gain Alan’s services. He said: “When you’ve worked for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, you’re not going to impress me if you’re Rock Hudson or Carol Burnett.”

Alan also enjoyed brief employment with Lady Spencer when her daughter, Diana, was being courted by Prince Charles. He also served as butler at Kensington Palace for three years, his last formal engagement. Alan died in 2006 and his integrity to his employers remained intact until the end.

He said: “The perfect butler sees all, hears all and tells nothing.”

The Art Deco clock will be sold at Hansons Auctioneers, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire on Friday, June 29. To find out more, email [email protected]