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Estimated at £40,000-60,000 at Hansons on September 28, it was given as a gift to a man who helped a high society couple after they fled the sinking liner.

The case is inscribed with the message Ernest G F Brown RNR, in remembrance of kindness. SS Carpathia. From Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon and, on the front, the initials EB.

Ernest Brown helped the couple on board the RMS Carpathia, the ship which rescued Titanic survivors.

Just last month, as ATG reported, Bourne End Auction Rooms of Buckinghamshire sold the gold medal awarded to the bursar on board the Carpathia, for £45,000 against an estimate of £18,000-25,000.

The medal was one of only 14 medals in gold that were awarded by the Titanic Survivors Committee to the captain and senior officers of the Carpathia.

The name of that bursar? Ernest GF Brown, the man who also helped the Duff-Gordons on board the rescue ship.

Later scandal

Many Titanic items have fascinating back-stories. Sir Cosmo and Lady Duff-Gordon were accused of bribing their way off the liner as it sank in icy waters in April 1912.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “Sir Cosmo and famous fashion designer Lady Duff-Gordon escaped the Titanic in Lifeboat No 1, but it was half empty. Though designed to hold 40 people, only 12 were on board, including seven crew members.

“As the Titanic sank, it was claimed Lucy Duff-Gordon said to her secretary, ‘There is your beautiful nightdress gone’. A fireman, allegedly annoyed by her comment, replied that while the couple could replace their property, he and the other crew members had lost everything. Sir Cosmo then offered each of the men £5 (equivalent to £454) to aid them.”

In the aftermath of the tragedy, the couple were accused of buying their way off the boat, a story inflamed by the press. But at a British Board of Trade inquiry into the disaster, where the couple testified, Sir Cosmo was adamant he’d given the money as a gesture of goodwill to help the men. However, mud sticks and they were tainted by the incident for the rest of their lives.

Hanson added: “Nevertheless, on board the Carpathia at least they were met with kindness by Ernest Brown – kindness they so valued they gave him an extravagant gift, the Asprey gold cigarette case.”

High society survivors

Lady Duff-Gordon (1863-1935) was the first British fashion designer to achieve international acclaim. She was widely acknowledged as an innovator in couture styles. She originated the ‘mannequin parade’, a precursor to the modern fashion show, launched liberating clothing and opened branches of her fashion house, Lucile Ltd, in London, Chicago, New York City and Paris.

Sir Cosmo (1862-1931), was the son of the Honourable Cosmo Lewis Duff-Gordon and Anna Maria Antrobus. He was the 5th Baronet of Halkin. In 1772 his family founded the Duff-Gordon sherry bodega in Spain.

In 2012 a box of documents concerning the Titanic sinking belonging to the Duff-Gordons was rediscovered at the London office of Veale Wasbrough Vizards, the legal firm that merged with Tweedies, which had represented the couple. In one letter Sir Cosmo complains: “There seems to be a feeling of resentment against any Englishman being saved … The whole pleasure of having been saved is quite spoilt by the venomous attacks they made at first in the papers. This, I suppose, was because I refused to see any reporter.”

Titanic watches

Heritage titanic watch 1.jpg

The waterlogged watch belonging to a Titanic victim which was sold at Heritage Auctions for a premium-inclusive $57,500.

Another Titanic relic with a remarkable story behind it, a watch owned by passenger Sinai Kantor, a Russian immigrant who got his wife to one of the liner’s few lifeboats before perishing in icy waters, sold for a premium-inclusive $57,500 (£44,900) – or a hammer price of $46,000 (£35,950) - at a US auction on August 25.

John Miottel, a collector of timepieces relating to the famous disaster, was the successful bidder at Heritage Auctions of Dallas.

Miottel operates the Miottel Museum and already owns timepieces from Titanic victims Col John Jacob Astor, the liner’s richest passenger and the era’s richest person in the world, as well as a watch formerly owned by Oscar Woody, the Titanic's US postal clerk. He also holds the timepiece once owned by the first person to receive the distress call from the doomed Titanic, Harold Thomas Cottam, who served as a wireless operator on the rescue ship RMS Carpathia – so would have known Ernest GF Brown.

See our ATG preview for the full story of Kantor and his watch.