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Almost trebling the high estimate at £55,000 in this sale that ran online from April 13-27 was a letter in which Churchill, writing in 1927 to TE Lawrence about his specially inscribed subscription copy, praises Seven Pillars of Wisdom and contrasts it with The World Crisis, his own ongoing history of the First World War, which he likens to a potboiler.

He tells Lawrence that on a threeday visit to Paris he had never left his apartment except for meals, and “…lay all day cuddling your bulky tome… I marched with you on those endless journeys by camel, with never a cool drink, a hot bath, or a square meal except under revolting conditions. What a tale!”.

First seen at auction at Sotheby’s in 1981, it was offered at Christie’s New York in 2004, where as part of the extensive Spiro family collections it had made $50,000 (then around £27,000).

A thoughtful, sympathetic but sometimes stirringly worded letter of condolence that Churchill wrote in 1942 to Pamela, Countess of Lytton, on learning of her son’s death in battle during the Second World War doubled its high estimate to sell at £60,000.

As a young woman Pamela had been his first love, and was to remain one of his closest friends. Pamela’s eldest son had died in an air crash in 1933 and her younger son’s death in the first Battle of El Alamein, while serving as a tank commander, would have been devastating.

Churchill nevertheless wrote “..Let us thank God that after its fearful peril England – for whom all may be offered – stands safe and glorious, & that its heroes have not given their lives without a purpose being fulfilled…”

In a Christie’s sale of 2003 the letter had sold for £52,000.


Thatcher shock

One of the truly surprise results in this Sotheby’s sale was provided by a 15in (38cm) wide group portrait of Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet, taken in December 1981. Signed on the mount by all those present, it was sold for £20,000 against an estimate of just £200-300.

* The first part of this collection was sold in July of last year and reported in ATG No 2459.