She was great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, great-niece of Russia’s last tsarina, first cousin to Prince Philip and the daughter of Britain’s last Viceroy of India, Louis Mountbatten.
In short, her possessions, offered in close to 400 lots, were full of the blue-blood stories that are a magnet to buyers.
An example was a gold and enamel bracelet given to the countess by her father on her 21st birthday in 1945.
Each of the medallions carried the Girl Guides insignia including one for Kingfisher Patrol, 1st Buckingham Palace Company. This was the unit formed in 1937 to allow the then Princess Elizabeth to become a Girl Guide.
It was composed of around 20 members, made up of children from the royal household as well as palace employees, and during the first meeting Princess Elizabeth was elected second of the Kingfisher Patrol, with Patricia Mountbatten acting as her patrol leader.
The ‘badges’ on the present lot include the cyclist badge, the horsewoman badge, the interpreter badge and the lifesaving badge. It is only an auction that can decide what something of this ilk is worth: the hammer price was £12,000.
The Banks brooch
According to family tradition, the cushion-shaped yellow diamond to the centre of an 18th century (and later) pendant brooch was acquired by Sarah Sophia Banks (1744-1818).
An avid collector, she focused on coins, medals, curious and printed ephemera, creating a vast and historically important collection, of which more than 30,000 objects were donated to the British Museum after her death.
She and her brother, the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks (1743-1820), were very close and it is assumed that the engraved initials JSB represent the entwined initials of Joseph and Sarah.
The brooch (pictured in Diana Scarisbrick’s Ancestral Jewels, 1989), was bequeathed by Sarah to her sister-in-law Dorothea Hugessen (1758- 1828) and later passed to her nephew Sir Edward Knatchbull, 9th Bart (1781-1849). Estimated at £40,000-60,000 at the auction on March 24, it sold at £110,000.
Victoria in mourning
Four mourning brooches that had brought solace to Queen Victoria performed well against estimates of between £1000-3000 each. Three of the brooches marked the death of Victoria’s third child Alice, who died of diphtheria at the age of 35 on December 14, 1878.
They are an onyx and seed pearl button with the initial A and the inscription From Mama VRI 7th April 1879 commissioned in 1879 with a portrait miniature of Princess Alice (£15,000), an agate and pearl pendant with a lock of hair inscribed from Grandmama VR as a gift from the queen to Alice’s daughter, Princess Victoria (£19,000), and a hardstone, enamel and diamond cross centring on an onyx heart with Alice beneath a coronet by Robert Phillips of Cockspur (£20,000).
An agate and diamond pendant, opening to reveal a miniature photograph of the queen’s mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg- Saalfeld, later Duchess of Kent, was commissioned by Prince Albert c.1861 for Queen Victoria to mark the death of her mother. Including a touching inscription by the Prince Consort, Dear Mama b. Aug 17, 1786 from Albert in remembrance of March 16 1861 Du warst uns Freud und Glück [You were our joy and happiness], it sold at £26,000.
Estimates were set deliberately low to attract some of the 1400 participants from 55 countries who contributed to a gross of £5.6m.
Back in 2013, Sotheby’s New York had sold a rare Lacloche Frères ‘cochon’ evening bag by Paul Frey for $55,000.
The example here with marks for Julien Duval was arguably better, including eyes set with cabochon rubies and the tail and trotters set with rose-cut diamonds, but was pitched at just £2000- 3000. It found its way to £87,000.
Lacloche Frères, established in 1901 on the Rue de la Paix, collaborated with some of the best Parisian manufacturers of the Belle Époque era, such as Duval and Frey who created a collection of animal-themed accessories. This included bags in the form of spiders, owls, bats and pigs, a trend commented on by the Dundee Evening Telegraph in 1904: ‘gold pig purses are a novelty, the head of the grunter in solid gold, the body forming the popular chain purse’.
Another is pictured in Laurence Mouillefarine’s Lacloche Joailliers (2019).
Sotheby’s fees are 25/20/13.9% buyer’s premium plus 1% overhead premium.