FOR MORE than 25 years two albums of thick paper, bound in green leather and embossed with gold, have lain in the dusty attic of a large French house not far from the centre of Paris. They were once the personal photograph albums of the Duke of Windsor, the only British monarch ever to have willingly renounced his throne. When the Duke died in 1972 his widow gave them away to a family friend, as a keepsake. It was probably an impulsive act of generosity; but it was probably also a gesture of contempt for the British royal family which had spurned her and exiled the man she loved.

The first of the albums shows pictures of the young prince before the First World War. They show moments of childish happiness against the background of the repressed Victorian royal household. But the second album, from which we reprint this final selection of intimate photographs today, dates from the dramatic period of the months before Edward's abdication from the throne.

The images, which the editor of Wallis and Edward's letters, the historian Michael Bloch, has described as remarkable, are a poignant evocation of a vanished age. They tell the story of the life of the Fast Set of Bright Young Things which Edward drew around him in the Twenties and Thirties.

But the intimate and playful scenes of the early pages of the album give way to an altogether more sombre mood as the shadow of the abdication looms, with growing intensity, over the King and the woman he loved. In their last days together on his native soil their increasing isolation seems evident. In the final pages there are few friends in evidence. The shots are of solitary figures. Wallis by Edward. And Edward by Wallis. In the end all they had was each other.

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