By Richard René Silvin
Born in New York, Richard René Silvin grew up in Swiss boarding schools. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1970 and an MBA from Cornell in 1972, he spent 25 years in the investor-owned hospital industry. He rose to the head of the International Division of American Medical International, Inc., which owned and operated hospitals in 10 countries.
Silvin’s lecture on the Windsors is the result of his lifelong study aimed at understanding the complex lives of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and sorting out fact from fiction regarding the many rumors which surrounded the iconic couple.
Imagine being a twice-divorced, middle-aged woman of average looks, shunned by relatives, only to discover the most eligible bachelor in the world cannot live without you. Now imagine being that handsome, charming, royal bachelor who was taught nothing but tradition and duty in order to become a perfect King-Emperor destined to rule over one-third of the world.
Both of these extraordinary beings had the same secret dream: to break away with a soul mate from their apparent destiny, regardless of the costs and public outrage. So it was that in 1936, known as “the year of the three Kings”, Britain’s King Edward VIII abdicated his throne to marry Wallis Simpson – “the woman I love”- against the violent objection of the Royal Family, the Cabinet and the Church of England.
Unfortunately, their lives did not immediately become a fairy tale. Wallis fought desperately to avoid the abdication and yet she was demonized for England having lost its beloved King. The Royal family blamed her for the early death of King George VI, the Duke’s brother who assumed the throne, but who was woefully ill prepared to take on the kingly function.
In October of 1938, the Windsors made an ill-advised visit to Nazi Germany, which would haunt the Duke and Duchess for the rest of their lives, and beyond.
The Windsors became the “King and Queen of international high society” and their very public lives unfolded in front of the world due to relentless paparazzi, while the Duchess’ name and style became synonymous with chic fashion.
In the early 1970s, Silvin was hired by the U.S. State Department to take over the management of the famous American Hospital of Paris. At that time, the beleaguered hospital was the widowed Duchess of Windsor’s only charity and the sole beneficiary of her estate. Silvin, being the son of a friend of the Duchess’, became the Duchess’ confidant on what was occurring with her charity, and quickly turned into the widowed Duchess’ escort to the few social events she attended after the Duke died.
In “Noblesse Oblige – The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her,” Silvin recounts the tale of his encounters with the Duchess, intertwined with the history of the Duke and Duchess’ odd relationship. He owns one of the largest collections of pictures of the famous couple, and has access to the few televised interviews they ever made.
Although this is the second time this lecture is being offered at FAU Lifelong Learning Society in Jupiter, continued research has led to the creation of a new presentation.