Chateau de Cande and the Would-be Monarchs

And here’s the menu for what might have been a storybook wedding, but which turned out to be the start of a life in exile:

  • Jambon d’York
  • Langouste
  • Foie Gras
  • Caviar
  • Salade Russe
  • Navarin aux Legumes (lamb stew with vegetables)
  • Fricasse de poulard et poulet (fricasse of young hen and chicken)
  • Patisseries
  • Fruits refraichis (cold fruit)

All set out as a buffet in the chateau’s dining room

Windsor wedding buffet table

The Man-Who-Would-Be-King, Edward, who abdicated the throne of England for the woman he loved, married Wallis Simpson, the twice-divorced American socialite at Cande, the home of their friends, Charles and Fern Bedaux, in the heart of the Loire Valley, far from either England or America, and, as it turned out, far from most of the important people in their lives.

While the couple invited 300 people to their wedding, only 16 showed up and, even in the fabulous wedding portraits by Cecile Beaton, the couple don’t look so cheerful.

The sad and fascinating story of the Windsors has been written about endlessly, but it’s not a story that ever interested me enough to follow it — it’s not easy for me to be interested in two extraordinarily privileged, but profoundly selfish people.  Yet, after the tour of Cande, all I wanted was a comfy couch, a mound of bonbons (or M&Ms) and a stack of Windsor biographies.

Cande is unique among the famous chateaux of the Loire because it’s not as grand as the others — it would be easy to settle into the library for an afternoon catnap — and it wasn’t built (or even visited) by a king, as so many of the chateaux in the valley were.  But it was home to the Windsors for months before their marriage and there’s plenty of Windsorbilia to see.

Windsor sunglasses

The photos of the Windsors are extraordinary, particularly the famous picture by Philippe Halsman, which was part of his series called Jumpology.  Halsman’s theory was that a person’s true personality was revealed in his face during the act of jumping, the idea being that you drop your “mask” when you have to concentrate on thrusting yourself in the air and landing safely.

Here are the Duke and Duchess of Windsor caught mid-air, she looking happier than she appeared to be by all reports, and he looking terrified, as though he knew what a sad future he’d consigned himself to.

Indelible_windsor

The Halsman photographs are remarkable and, even though it’s totally unrelated, I can’t resist showing you the picture he took of a jumping Marilyn Monroe for the cover of Life Magazine

200px-PhilippeHalsmanLife11061959

All tours of Chateau de Cande are guided and our guide had a touching understanding — an affection, even — for the Windsors.  For any royal-watchers, the tour is a peek into a part of the family the Queen would probably like to forget; for anyone interested in fashion, the tour is a treat.

Wallis Simpson, credited with popularizing the phrase, “A woman can never be too rich or too thin,” spent her riches clothing her thin body, and there’s a small, but wonderful, selection from her wardrobe at the Chateau.  Her panther jewels from Cartier, her painted luggage, some of the elegant gowns made for her by Schiarparelli and Dior, and this ensemble

Lagerfeld dress

a very early design by a very young designer, Karl Lagerfeld, now the man responsible for Chanel.

Wallis may have lacked many qualities, but she sure had a good eye.

Dorie Greenspan

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