Thomasville Times Enterprise

Local News

January 16, 2014

Brush with royalty

THOMASVILLE — Landmarks will begin its inaugural lecture series with a guest of royal influence.

The series will kick off at 6 p.m. on Feb. 1 at Glen Arven Country Club. It comes to Landmarks through a grant from Georgia’s Humanities Council secured by former Executive Director Brent Runyon.

Richard Rene Silvin, author of Noblesse Oblige: The Duchess of Windsor As I Knew Her, will deliver a first-hand account of his experience of knowing Wallis Simpson, the duchess of Windsor.

The presentation will provide an overview of the duke and duchess’ life: Their formative years, the story of the “scandalous” royal romance, the December 1936 abdication, the couple’s duties during World War II and their roles as king and queen of international society during the post-World War II years.

Silvin’s presentation will conclude with a discreet description of the duchess’ last five years while she was confined to her bedroom at her estate in Paris and her 1986 funeral at Frogmore, the British royal family’s cemetery.

Silvin grew up in Swiss boarding school from the time he was seven until 18. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in 1970, with a MBA from Cornell quickly following in 1972, in both Hospital Administration and Finance. Silvin spent a total of 25 years in the hospital industry.

As a new MBA graduate, he decided to join his father-in-law’s hospital consulting firm where he founded the American Academy of Hospital Consultants and quickly became president of the small, struggling firm. Once restored to profitability, Silvin sold the company to American Medical International (AMI).

In 1973, the famous administrative collapse at the famous American Hospital of Paris occurred. Following the event, Silvin’s firm was hired by USAID and he became the hospital’s interim crisis executive director.

While living in Paris, Silvin met the recently widowed duchess of Windsor. He began working with her as she served on the hospital’s Board of Governors, which was the duchess’ only charity and passion.

The duchess partnered with Silvin on a mission to restore the hospital, its management and medical staff to its former greatness. She taught Silvin how to wage a high-stakes political battle against the establishment while enlisting the support of key players in Paris’ highly social Franco-American community. Silvin has commented that she “treated him as the son she never had.”

Silvin eventually rose to head the International Division of AMI, which owned and operated 30 hospitals in nine countries. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Health Care, Who’s Who in Finance and Industry and Who’s Who in the World.

As a sought-after lecturer, he has spoken at numerous graduate schools and universities in the U.S. and Europe, as well as clubs and associations, including the Palm Beach, Fla., area and in Highlands, N.C., where he owned a home for many years.

Today, Silvin is noted as a Palm Beach author and speaker. Landmarks’ has invited the entire community to come and take part in listening to the guest speaker as he tells about the life of the Duchess of Windsor, including his personal relationship with her in Paris after the Duke’s death.

Last summer, when Silvin accepted the invitation to the lecture series, he said, “Of course I know about Thomasville, but I have never been there so it will be my pleasure to come for the inaugural lecture in your series.”

Following the pattern of the Washington, D.C.’s Sulgrave Club lecture series, guests will be offered wine and hors d’oeurves from 6 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. The lecture with a power point and dinner will follow.

Reservations can be made through Jan. 28, by calling the Landmarks office at (229) 226-6016 or e-mailing MaryLawrence@rose.net.

A British menu ranging from Beef Wellington to English Trifle and a grand Salmon presentation during the hors d’oeuvres will be served.

The cost is $50 (wine and beer included). Must be paid by check to Landmarks, P.O .Box 1285, Thomasville, Ga., 31799.

Reporter Susanne Reynolds can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.

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