A cherished wartime Christmas present from a notorious Duchess
December 1941 must have felt like an extraordinary Christmas anyway for English schoolboy David Madden; the world was at war and he had been relocated to the Bahamas, but to then be presented with a toy train set by the Duchess of Windsor, aka the notorious Wallis Simpson, would make it a Christmas to really remember. This can be seen, not just by the look on his face in a photograph taken at the time, but also by the fact that the complete boxed train set has been safely kept for almost 80 years.
After Edward VIII’s scandalous abdication in 1936 in order to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson, the press rapidly dropped any reverence to his position and they were rarely out of the newspapers. The embarrassment caused to the Royal family was exacerbated when war broke out, and the couples unpatriotically sympathetic views towards Hitler and Nazism became known. The newly re-titled Duke & Duchess of Windsor were rapidly shunted off to the Bahamas, where Edward was given the role of Governor. The couple settled into Government House, Nassau, where they took on the duties of the post, which included hosting a Christmas party every year for children on the island. During the war, this included British evacuees who had either been sent privately to safety out of Europe by their parents, or were part of the CORB (Children’s Overseas Reception Board) tasked with evacuating English children to the British Dominions during 1940.
Despite making it clear that she was unhappy about their new posting, the Duchess of Windsor threw herself into working for the Red Cross on the island, which according to associated paperwork is possibly where she met Mrs Evelyn Madden, young David’s mother, who was working at the Doreen dance studio on Shirley Street, Nassau. Unfortunately, we don’t know anything further about David, except that he clearly cherished his gift and probably his time on the island.
This Louis Marx Stream Line electric train set is typical of the companies’ intention to make affordable yet high quality toys. As can be imagined, this made them incredibly popular during the depression-hit 1930s and into the ‘40s and ‘50s. The boxed set with instructions is sold with the photograph of David receiving the gift, his invitation to the Christmas party at Government House, and a letter from Bishop Spence Burton to Mrs Madden thanking her for her help at a dance. The lot will be No.417 in our 27th June Toys & Models auction - full catalogue here.