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Princess Margaret photographed by Cecil Beaton wearing the Art Deco cultured pearl and diamond bracelet estimated at £30,000-40,000 in the Dix Noonan Webb auction on September 14.

Image copyright: Bettmann Collection via Getty Images

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London firm Dix Noonan Webb is holding a sale of Jewellery, Watches and Objects of Vertu on September 14 at its Mayfair saleroom, where the bracelet is estimated at £30,000-40,000.

Last week the same auction house sold the group of Second World War medals awarded to Princess Margaret’s one-time lover, flying ace Group Captain Peter Townsend.

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Art Deco cultured pearl and diamond bracelet owned by Princess Margaret – estimate £30,000-40,000 at Dix Noonan Webb on September 14 (photo: Dix Noonan Webb).

'Catlike and fierce'

According to Beaton’s diary, this was the first of six portraits that he took of her before her marriage in 1960. Taken on July 8, 1949, it was published on her birthday, August 21.

He recalled: “She was at Lords for the Eton and Harrow match, and got back a bit late but she is such a quick dresser that a few moments after her return she appeared changed into the new evening dress Hartnell had supplied her that morning – a dull dress of white tulle embroidered with sequin butterflies and a rainbow tulle scarf around the waist. She looked very pretty and wore quite a lot of make-up – and the eyes are of a piercing blue – catlike and fierce and so very pristine and youthful….”

Beaton went on to say that he recalls: “This is very exciting she said as she walked up the long red carpeted arcade towards the Chinese drawing room in which we had placed all our complicated apparatus. I trust I haven’t dragged you away from Lords – Oh it wasn’t a drag, she said…"

He finished by mentioning: “She had been up till 5.30 the night before (she likes the peace and anonymity of the 400 nightclub) and towards the end of the two hour sitting, started to wilt and became very tired….”


Art Deco cultured pearl and diamond bracelet owned by Princess Margaret – estimate £30,000-40,000 at Dix Noonan Webb on September 14 (photo: Dix Noonan Webb).

Comprising a double row of cultured pearls bordering a millegrain-set line of circular-cut diamonds to a diamond and pearl openwork geometric clasp, the bracelet dates from c.1925. It is presented in a later fitted red leather Cartier case. It was previously sold at Christie’s in 2006 in the auction of Jewellery and Fabergé from the Collection of HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon.

Lover and a fighter

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Group Captain Peter Townsend.

On July 22 DNW offered Townsend’s medals – a Battle of Britain group of 11 – with an estimate of £160,000-200,000 but they went for £260,000 to one of several phone bidders competing. It was bought by a UK collector.

Although best known to the general public for his controversial romance with Princess Margaret, Townsend epitomised ‘The Few’, completing over 300 operational sorties while commanding No 85 Squadron from May 1940 until June 1941.

His medals were sold with his original Flying Log Books, bound in one volume – with later annotation in his own hand – covering the entirety of his operational career.

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Peter Townsend's Battle of Britain medal group and flying logbooks – £260,000 at Dix Noonan Webb.

Townsend’s first success was also the first German bomber shot down on English soil in the Second World War. Fragments from that Heinkel HE-111 bomber and a Luftwaffe lifejacket were sold by Maidenhead auction house Dawson’s in December last year.

Townsend claimed 11 kills in total and was a squadron leader in the Battle of Britain. On one occasion he had to be rescued by a trawler after ditching his damaged Hurricane in the sea and on another he was shot down while taking on a Messerschmidt.