A collection of lingerie belonging to the Duchess of Windsor and given to a Worcestershire family will be on rare public view before it is presented to the V&A Museum later this summer.
The unique collection is owned Sally Simmonds who lives near Clifton-on- Teme and who has generously offered the opportunity to view and discover more about the beautiful items at a lunch and lecture on Thursday, 6th July in aid of St Richard’s Hospice.
The underwear and other items belonged to Wallis Simpson, the woman whose marriage to King Edward VIII led to the 1936 abdication crisis.
Mrs Simmonds inherited the items from her mother Lady Millichip who was given them after befriending the Wallis Simpson’s lady’s maid, Frenchwoman Pauline Armitage who worked for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in Paris in the 1950s after the King’s abdication. Wallis Simpson was an American socialite who was twice divorced before marrying the King. Edward VIII was forced to choose between Mrs Simpson and the throne because Parliament would not allow him to marry a divorcee.
The couple, who became Duke and Duchess of Windsor, lived in Paris before World War Two and returned after 1945. The Duke died in 1972 and the Duchess in 1986.
Mrs Simmonds is living with secondary breast cancer and being supported by St Richard’s Hospice. Along with her husband, Grant, the couple decided they wanted to help raise funds for the charity as a way of saying thank you for the care and support they are receiving.
The lunch will take place at The Wood Norton Hotel and Restaurant, near Evesham on Thursday, 6th July. Guests will be able to view the collection which includes silk nightdresses; French silk knickers, a negligee and kid gloves worn by the Duchess.
Following lunch, Susanna Cordner will talk about the history of underwear with particular reference to the 1930s, the era from which the Duchess of Windsor’s collection hails.
Susanna is a fashion history researcher and curator with a particular interest in the 20th century. She previously worked at the V&A Museum in a range of roles including Assistant Curator of Textiles and Fashion, most recently, ‘Undressed: a brief history of underwear’. In her current role as Senior Research fellow: Archives, Susanna now runs the fashion archive collections at the London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.
Tickets for the lunch are £30 each, tables of ten are available. To book, go online to www.strichards.org.uk/royal-lingerie or call the fundraising team on 01905 763963.
Mrs Simmonds said, “The needlework on the lingerie is exquisite and they are so beautifully made. It’s incredible to think about them being worn by the Duchess. The V&A were keen to have the collection and we know they will be well looked after.”
She added, “St Richard’s has been marvellous for me, an absolute comfort blanket which is why we wanted to help raise funds for the charity.”
Mrs Simmonds has received support and advice from a St Richard’s specialist nurse at home as well as the hospice secondary breast cancer nurse. She has also benefited from complementary therapy and is a founding member of the new hospice patient group for women with secondary breast cancer.
“We love coming to the group – all of us are in the same boat. We meet once a month and it’s very casual. We see how everyone is and if they need any
moral support, plus we have guest speakers on topics of interest to us such as nutrition, Citizen’s Advice and complementary therapies.
“The best thing is talking to other women in a similar situation and how they cope, learning form others and sharing experiences.
St Richard’s Hospice provides free specialist palliative care for patients living with life-limiting illnesses and supports their loved ones. Each year the hospice team supports more than 3,000 patients, family members and bereaved in Worcestershire.
The hospice strives to provide the best medical, practical, emotional and social support they can to help people live life to the fullest, as independently as they can, for as long as they can.
St Richard’s is an independent charity and is grateful for all donations to help it continue its work.