The museum was able to make the purchase with funds provided by the Art Fund, V&A Purchase Fund, Friends of Museum and Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery.
The boxed set of Fabergé cutlery, together with an archive detailing its royal history, sold for £20,000 at Christchurch, Dorset, auction house Bulstrodes on March 2, doubling the top estimate.
Wartski told ATG the firm had been approached by the Pump House prior to the sale to appraise the collection. Wartski then acquired the item at the sale and said: “We did work with them when they produced a publication about their jewellery collection in 2014 [but] we have not purchased any items for the museum in the past, so we were thrilled to do so on this occasion."
The champlevé enamel suite was a gift from Princess Alix of Hesse (later Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna) to a Mrs Allen, who was a hotelier at Cathcart House in the spa town of Harrogate. Mrs Allen had given birth to twins during the princess’ visit to take ‘the cure’ as a treatment for her sciatica.
The princess took this as a good omen for her forthcoming marriage to Nicholas and asked to be godmother to the children and that they be named Alix and Nicholas. The future Empress of Russia attended the baptism in St Peter’s Church and regularly sent them gifts for years afterwards.
In 1994 Nicholas’s son, Michael, gave many of these to the Royal Pump Room Museum in Harrogate but the whereabouts of the Tsarina’s gifts to her goddaughter was unknown.
The Fabergé suite which emerged at Bulstrodes was consigned by “direct descendants of the recipient”. ATG previewed the collection in February.
One of two identical sets sent to Alix Allen as her first birthday gift in 1895, the lot included a family scrapbook documenting the Russian royal connection to the Allen family plus two handwritten letters signed by Carl Faberge and telegrams from Queen Alexandra to her sister Princess Victoria, who also stayed at Cathcart House.