Norfolk link to Duchess of Windsor jewels mystery

The publication of a new book on the last years of the Duchess of Windsor has sparked memories of a strange Norfolk connection to some stolen jewellery. Trevor Heaton reports.

When Great Yarmouth-born thief Richard Dunphie tip-toed his way along the corridors of Ednam Lodge in leafy Berkshire he was after the possessions of a special couple. For staying in the country home in October 1946 were the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

The royal couple had left the Sunningdale home of the Earl and Countess of Dudley, along with their hosts, to go to London on the night of October 16. But the duchess had left much of her jewellery behind in Berkshire. By the time Dunphie made his escape, he was carrying perhaps �25,000-worth of the duchess's gems. At eight the next morning, her jewel case was found abandoned on a nearby golf course, together with numerous items including a string of pearls once belonging to Queen Alexandra. But that still left �20,000 of gems unaccounted for...

The story has been revived in a new book about the duchess by respected royal biographer Hugo Vickers. The 1946 jewel theft is only a footnote in a long and ultimately tragic life, but its appearance has intrigued former Norfolk man Michael L Nash.

Michael, a former lecturer at Norwich City College and UEA, contributor to the EDP, and former 'royal-watcher' for BBC Radio Norfolk, has pointed out the Norfolk links to the crime go beyond Dunphie's place of birth.

For it was in Norfolk that Dunphie was finally brought to book for his crimes, and also – intriguingly – the truth about what happened to those missing jewels may have close local connections too.

To read more of this intriguing story see the EDP Sunday supplement in this Saturday's EDP.

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Behind Closed Doors: The Tragic, Untold Story of the Duchess of Windsor, by Hugo Vickers, is published by Hutchinson, �25.