A wheelbarrow fit for a duchess

The leather contraption is among the Hermès creations for Edward and Wallis shown in a new exhibit

Many of us have struggled with the dilemma of what to get the woman who has everything. For the Duke of Windsor, out shopping for Wallis Simpson, the answer became bizarrely clear: a leather wheelbarrow.

Stumped as to what to buy his wife, the duke took the advice of staff at French fashion house Hermès in Paris. As the duchess already had "wheelbarrows" of fragrances and gloves, he commissioned a wheelbarrow instead.

The black patent cow skin piece, made in 1947 complete with brass handles, drawers and leather-upholstered wheels, is going on display in the UK for the first time next month as part of Hermès' free Leather Forever exhibition at 6 Burlington Gardens in London. The wheelbarrow, which measures 140cm by 50cm by 50cm, was not designed for the garden but was a decorative present filled with perfume and gloves.

"Edward came to the store in Faubourg [Saint-Honoré] and he was looking for a gift for her," said a Hermès spokeswoman. "He was asking advice from one of the salespeople and they said, 'What about fragrances,' and he said she had wheelbarrows of them. The salesperson said, 'What about the gloves then?' He said, 'It's just same thing: she has wheelbarrows of them.'

"The window designer at the time, Annie Beaumel, heard them speaking and said, 'If she [the duchess] has all of these, why don't you get a wheelbarrow then?' And he said, 'Why not.'"

Other pieces Hermès custom made for the couple that will feature in the free exhibition include a 1950s black cow skin and Royal Stuart tartan blotter bearing the duke's initial "E". In the 1940s, he commissioned a sporran and green leather belt with an engraved silver-plated buckle with the badge of the Prince of Wales. The duchess's leather Chaîne d'Ancre handbag, featuring the intertwined initials "WE", will also be on display.

Founded by Thierry Hermès in Paris in 1837 as a house of harness-making and later saddle-making, Hermès, best known today for its designer handbags, is celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The exhibition, which runs from 8 to 27 May, will explore the company's history across 11 rooms and craftspeople will demonstrate how they hand make its leather bags.

One room will be dedicated to two of its most coveted bags: the Kelly, named after the actress Grace Kelly, and the Birkin, named after the singer and actress Jane Birkin.

To celebrate the exhibition, Hermès has created four unique versions of its Passe-Guide handbag representing England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, which Christie's is auctioning online next month. Proceeds from the sale will be donated to the Royal Academy of Arts.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
news
Sport
Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas
footballChelsea vs West Ham live kicks off coverage of all 10 of Boxing Day matches
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all