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A 40-year-old slice of Princess Diana’s royal wedding cake is going under the hammer in Britain

"We advise against eating it,” the auction house said of the cake decorated in a royal coat of arms

A slice of cake from one of the 23 official wedding cakes made for the royal wedding of Britain's Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 will be auctioned Aug. 11. (Dominic Winter Auctioneers/AP)
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It is 40 years old, and probably not fit for consumption — but a slice of cake from the royal wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 is still expected to fetch hundreds of dollars when it goes to auction in Britain next month.

The layer of white cake icing and a marzipan base was given to Moyra Smith — an employee of Queen Elizabeth, the mother of Queen Elizabeth II, who died in 2002 — at the royal residence Clarence House, according to the auction house.

The icing is decorated with a royal coat of arms colored in gold, red, blue, and silver, along with a small silver horseshoe and leaf spray. It is described as “partly cracked” and with “slight damage” to the shield. It was apparently preserved in plastic wrap, and placed in an old cake tin with a paper label signed by Smith taped to the lid.

The auctioneer, Dominic Winter Auctioneers, has put an estimate on the slice of cake, which weighs in at about 28 ounces, of 200 to 300 pounds (about $300 to $400). It was initially sold to a collector by Smith’s family in 2008 for an undisclosed sum.

“It appears to be in exactly the same good condition as when originally sold, but we advise against eating it,” the auction house said in a detailed statement describing the auction lot. (The scenario brings to mind an episode of the NBC comedy show “Seinfeld” where the character Elaine eats a slice of cake from the wedding of the former King Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson, an American socialite, fictionally valued at $29,000.)

This would not be the first time a slice of the royal wedding cake has fetched a high price. Another slice sold 33 years after it was baked for the equivalent of about $1,600 in today’s dollars, according to royalist weekly Hello magazine.

According to the auctioneer for this slice, Smith began her career at Clarence House in the kitchen before moving on to more general duties. Besides the main official five-tier wedding cake, some 22 other wedding cakes were supplied by various bakers.

“This seems likely to have been one sent to Clarence House for the consumption of the Queen Mother's staff,” the auctioneer said. “In view of its size, it is most likely that it was either from the side of a cake, or from the top of a single-tier cake.”

A royal letter and bottle of commemorative beer that accompanied the cake in its original sale are not included, although the sale does include a printed order of service for the wedding in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral, and a memorial royal wedding breakfast program for Buckingham Palace, dated July 29, 1981. Local media reported the set of items, including the cake, is expected to fetch between 300 and 500 pounds (nearly $700).

The nuptials between Prince Charles and Lady Diana, billed as a storybook wedding, captured the world’s attention and garnered an audience of some 750 million television viewers.

The pair separated just over a decade later, however, and divorced in 1996. The Princess of Wales was killed a year later, in August 1997, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, in an automobile crash along the Seine River in the heart of Paris as her car sped to evade paparazzi photographers pursuing the celebrity couple.

It was a sudden and tragic ending to a life that was part fairy tale and part soap opera and that had captivated millions for nearly two decades.

“I am utterly devastated,” Britain’s then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said in London at the time. “The whole of our country, all of us, will be in a state of shock and mourning.”

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