The group was consigned by descendants of Walter Ralph Durie Beckett, a British diplomat who served in Siam (as the country was then called) from 1886 and spent his whole career there. Rising to become first secretary in the diplomatic service in Bangkok in 1904, Beckett acted as Charge d'Affaires on several occasions and for a short period was in charge of the legation.
Offered as nine separate lots in the auction that closed on August 19, the collection drew bidders from UK and overseas and raised a hammer total of £19,875 with all of the lots selling.
The highlight was a photograph album from 1905 containing 72 black and white images relating to an important and dazzling ritual: the Sokan Ceremony where a young Royal would have their top-knot cut.
Given to Beckett as a keepsake from Siam’s King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), it included photographs of the Siamese Royal Family, including the King and Queen themselves, as well as views of the ceremony taking place and general shots of the Royal palaces and residences including Dusit Prasad Palace, Chakrkri Palace and Udayan Pavillion.
All the photographs were neatly listed in an a typed 'Explanatory Note' and the album’s pages were decorated with scrollwork pencil drawings by an unknown hand including some depicting insects, spiders and lizards.
The album itself, which featured brocaded silk covers with a gilt tooled leather spine, came in a wooden case which was lined with red silk and had its hinged top applied with Siam’s royal arms.
With the estimate set at £1200, the album was subject to 68 separate bids from seven different parties before it sold at £12,000 to an overseas-based buyer.
Another of the highlights was a signed photograph of Chulalongkorn’s son, Vajiradvudh (Rama VI) who succeeded his father 1910. It dated from 1913 and had a typed letter of presentation. Estimated at £120, it drew eight different bidders and sold at £2670 again to an overseas buyer.
Elsewhere, a set of nine black and white photographs documenting the travels of the Siamese Royal Family in Europe, sold for £890 against the same £120 estimate, also to an overseas buyer.
Among the objects on offer, Beckett’s medal from 1909 denoting his appointment to the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) sold for £550.