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The Duke of Wellington’s spectacles

… and 5 other fascinating lots connected to kings, queens and an emperor — all highlights from our Out of the Ordinary sale to be held on 14 September

  • 1
  • A slice of Queen Victoria’s wedding cake

Queen Victoria (1819-1901). A slice of wedding cake, 1840. In presentation box, inscribed ‘The Queens Bridal Cake BUCKINGHAM PALACE, FEBY. 10 1840’, beneath a Royal crown; together with Queen Victoria’s signature on paper with Royal cypher. Estimate £800-1,200. This lot is sold with a letter from the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle relating to the cake, and is offered in
Queen Victoria (1819-1901). A slice of wedding cake, 1840. In presentation box, inscribed ‘The Queen's Bridal Cake/ BUCKINGHAM PALACE, FEBY. 10/ 1840’, beneath a Royal crown; together with Queen Victoria’s signature on paper with Royal cypher. Estimate: £800-1,200. This lot is sold with a letter from the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle relating to the cake, and is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christie's South Kensington

Remarkably well-preserved, this slice of cake was present at Queen Victoria’s wedding to Prince Albert, on 10 February, 1840 — 176 years ago. Fittingly for a royal wedding, the couple’s cake was exceptional, weighing nearly 200 lbs, and measuring almost three metres in circumference.

The exact recipe is unknown, but a report in 1840’s Annual Register of History and Politics described a creation ‘consisting of the most exquisite compounds of all the rich things with which the most expensive cakes can be composed’. Figurines of the bride and bridegroom were presented atop, ‘somewhat incongruously in the costume of ancient Rome’.

  • 2
  • The Duchess of Windsor’s earrings

The Duke (1894-1972) and Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986). A pair of shell and turquoise earclips, circa 1965. Each with mottled shell (Nerita versicolor) in grey and white, with cabochon turquoise cap with tendril detail, unsigned. Estimate £8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christies South Kensington
The Duke (1894-1972) and Duchess of Windsor (1896-1986). A pair of shell and turquoise earclips, circa 1965. Each with mottled shell (Nerita versicolor) in grey and white, with cabochon turquoise cap with tendril detail, unsigned. Estimate: £8,000-12,000. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christie's South Kensington

King Edward VIII’s reign over Britain lasted just 326 days before his abdication in December 1936 — the monarch famously proclaiming he was leaving his post to marry ‘the woman I love’.

The woman in question was Wallis Simpson — the glamorous American socialite, whose relationship with Edward threw the UK into constitutional crisis. Simpson had two living ex-husbands, and divorced her second to be with Edward. After his abdication the former King became the Duke of Windsor, and Simpson his Duchess.

Formed from the mottled shells of a marine mollusc, Nerita versicolor, these ear clips feature turquoise tips surrounded by gold-coloured spirals. Thought to date from 1965, they appear in photographs of the Duchess of Windsor, who paired them with a blue coat.

  • 3
  • A cigar case owned by kings

First owned by King Edward VII, this crocodile and silver mounted cigar case went on to be inherited by King Edward VIII, later the Duke of Windsor — making it the only lot in the Out of the Ordinary sale to have been owned by not one, but two British monarchs.

Photographs of the Duke’s Bahamas study, taken in 1941, show the cigar case displayed prominently on his desk — one of a host of everyday essentials that included reading glasses, a letter opener, tobacco pipes and a telephone. In the centre of the case, a silver crowned garter badge is the symbol of the Prince of Wales.

  • 4
  • The Duke of Wellington’s spectacles

Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1795-1852), a pair of blued steel spectacles, first half 19th century. With round lenses and folding wire sides with arrow-shaped ends (one arm broken), with dark-red leather, gilt-tooled label to Interior, ‘JONES 62 CHARING CROSS’, an ‘X’ to each side, with manuscript memorandum in ink, ‘These spectacles belonged to the Duke
Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1795-1852), a pair of blued steel spectacles, first half 19th century. With round lenses and folding wire sides with arrow-shaped ends (one arm broken), with dark-red leather, gilt-tooled label to Interior, ‘JONES/ 62/ CHARING CROSS’, an ‘X’ to each side, with manuscript memorandum in ink, ‘These spectacles belonged to the Duke of Wellington. They were given to me on leaving Stratfield Saye to return to India on the 31st December 1841. I bequeath these to my dear Child Louisa Michal [?] June 14th 1843 Simlah C. H. Churchill’. Estimate: £1,000-1,500. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christie's South Kensington

Famous for his flexible, defensive style of warfare, the Duke of Wellington — twice prime minister of Great Britain — would undoubtedly have been less successful without his spectacles.

Made at some point during the first half of the 19th century, this pair features round lenses and folding wire sides, and comes with its original dark-red leather case. They are accompanied by a letter confirming that the spectacles were given directly to their former owner by the Duke himself.

  • 5
  • Napoleon’s wallet

Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821). A brown leather wallet, early 19th century. Double-sided with embossed Imperial crowned ‘N’s in gilt, overall 7 ¾ in (19.7 cm) wide. Estimate £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in the  Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christies South Kensington
Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821). A brown leather wallet, early 19th century. Double-sided with embossed Imperial crowned ‘N’s in gilt, overall 7 ¾ in (19.7 cm) wide. Estimate: £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in the  Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christie's South Kensington

Embossed Napoleon’s gilt imperial crowned ‘N’ cypher, this brown leather wallet once either belonged to the Emperor Napoleon or a member of his court — who presumably reached for it when buying their morning baguette.

Successful bidders might consider filling the wallet with gold Napoléons, first issued during the Emperor’s reign and known, historically, for their resilience to economic forces.

  • 6
  • Queen Victoria’s underwear

Queen Victoria (1837-1901). A pair of split drawers, late 19th century. The fine linen drawers with drawstring waist embroidered ‘VR 36’ beneath a crown. Estimate £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christies South Kensington
Queen Victoria (1837-1901). A pair of split drawers, late 19th century. The fine linen drawers with drawstring waist embroidered ‘VR 36’ beneath a crown. Estimate: £2,000-3,000. This lot is offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale on 14 September at Christie's South Kensington

Generously proportioned, these fine linen drawers were once worn by Queen Victoria — the British monarch who reigned for 63 years and seven months, from 1837 to 1901. Embroidered with a crown and the initials ‘VR’, the imperial undergarments feature a central split — a practical necessity in an era that saw extravagant hooped skirts and petticoats dominate women’s fashion.

During her reign, the Queen’s waistline expanded from a svelte 20 inches to nearly 50, with the size of her drawers indicating their date of creation. Devotees of Queen Victoria’s attire will be delighted to learn that her nightdress is among other royal lots offered in the Out of the Ordinary sale.