People Staff
July 21, 1997 12:00 PM

IF YOU’RE INTERESTED IN THEIR UNMENTIONABLES, you’re out of luck. (Those will probably be donated to a Paris museum.) But between Sept. 11 and 19, 44,000 other items belonging to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor—from the table at which he signed the papers abdicating the British throne in 1936 for “the woman I love” to a white, silk-covered cardboard box containing a piece of their 1937 wedding cake—will go on Sotheby’s auction block in New York City. Why? Egyptian-born financier Mohamed Al Fayed, who acquired the Windsors’ Paris villa after the Duchess died in 1986, needs elbowroom. “I now wish to make more use of the Windsor residence,” said Al Fayed, 64, who, on visits to Paris with his wife and four children, stays in the top-floor, former servants’ quarters so as not to mar the Windsor furniture. “Rather than restrict my family’s use of this wonderful house, I have decided upon this auction.”

Al Fayed, who also owns Harrods and the Hotel Ritz in Paris, spent more than $30 million restoring the villa and its contents to look, he once told The New York Times, “as if the Duke and Duchess had just gone out to dinner.” While Sotheby’s predicts the sale will gross between $5 and $7 million (proceeds will go to children’s charities), with curios like the Duchess’s eyeglasses and the Duke’s adjustable-length safari shorts available, the auction will surely run higher. “It’s an extraordinary collection,” says Sotheby’s Joseph Friedman. “Al Fayed had a hard time parting with it.” Maybe not that hard. “[It’s] a great fantasy which I love to live in,” he told PEOPLE in 1990, but “it sometimes gives you the creeps.”

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