Under normal circumstances, an auction in the English regions is unlikely to command the attention of the global media. But throw in a few letters, photographs and effects from Diana, Princess of Wales, then it’s an entirely different proposition.
The collection of Royal memorabilia offered at Cheffins of Cambridge yesterday garnered worldwide coverage from Sydney to Beijing – not to mention, naturally, from virtually the entirety of the British media.
The 42 lots, which included six letters in Diana’s hand, generated a £56,000 hammer total for the local vendors with almost every lot going for multi-estimate sums.
These included the £2600 bid for a Garrard silver letter opener inscribed ‘with love from Diana’ which had been estimated £400-600. With Cheffins’ director Luke MacDonald conducting the sale from the rostrum, the bidding on this lot features in the video here recorded from the live broadcast of the auction on thesaleroom.com.
Palace Steward’s Collection
The collection itself came to auction from the family of Cyril Dickman who served at Buckingham Palace for over 50 years eventually becoming chief steward. The letters in the sale from Princess Diana to Dickman all sold for between £1100 to £3200, making a total of £15,100, while a letter from the Queen took £1500.
With a packed saleroom and strong bidding emerging on the day, the auction brought back memories of the famous ‘Backstairs Billy’ sale held at Reeman Dansie in Colchester in July 2008 – another much-reported auction of royal mementoes formerly owned by the Queen's and Queen Mother’s servant William Tallon which generated over £200,000.
Following Dickman’s death in 2012, his collection was inherited by family members including his grandson. After they approached Cheffins last year for a valuation and advice, it was then decided to consign the collection for sale.
MacDonald said: “It is unusual for us to have a sale like this but the family who consigned this were from the local area. We have had the odd Royal thing before but nothing like this.
“The interest was really because of the personal nature of the letters from Diana. These were very personal letters that were particularly touching. He (Dickman) was more of a friend than just an employee. If there were other Diana lets that came up I don’t think they would do as well unless they were as personal as these were.”
The collection also contained cards and photographs from other members of the Royal family, including Prince Charles, Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.
The buyer’s premium for the sale at Cheffins was 22.5%.