Wallis's aide says sale was 'spiritual rape'

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The Independent Online
THE sale of the personal possessions of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor amounted to "physical, mental and spiritual rape", the Duchess's long-time private secretary said yesterday.

Janine Metz accused Mohamed Al Fayed, who organised the $20m (pounds 12.5m) sale at Sotheby's in New York, of reneging on repeated promises to turn the Windsors' former Paris home into a museum.

She said the French state should have stepped in to prevent the collection of the Windsors' most personal possessions and memorabilia from leaving France. "I counted on Mohamed Al Fayed's assurances that he would preserve the Windsor residence as a shrine, a place consecrated to the memory of the Duke and Duchess," she told the newspaper Le Figaro. "All at once, that's out of the question: everything, from the most royal object to the most intimate, was going on to the sales block."

Ms Metz said Mr Fayed had no "moral right" to sell the objects in this way, even for charity.

She had attended the sale to try to buy a portrait of the former king which the Duchess had especially liked.

But she said the occasion, packed with "nosy people who knew nothing about the Windsors", was a "physical, mental and spiritual rape". She said she was "paralysed with emotion" and made no bid for the photograph, which went for $13,000. "How could the French state allow the dispersal of what should have remained under the protection of a museum? Did no one care that this was the residence of a former king?"

Mr Fayed acquired the lease of the Windors' former villa in the Bois de Boulogne from the City of Paris in 1986. He said originally that he intended to turn the home into a museum.

He bought many other items from the Pasteur Institute, to which the Duchess left the bulk of her possessions when she died.

The millionaire owner of Harrods, the Ritz hotel in Paris and Fulham Football Club now plans to turn the Windsor villa into a private home.

The proceeds of the New York sale will go, he says, to create a Fayed foundation, which will perform charitable works in the name of his son, Dodi, and Diana, Princess of Wales.

The couple visited the Windsor villa the day before their fatal car accident in Paris six months ago; there has been speculation that they intended to get married and live there.