A charcoal portrait by John Singer Sargent of Freda Dudley Ward – £20,000 at Mellors & Kirk.

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So wrote Winston Churchill in 1927 in reference to Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, and the married socialite Freda Dudley Ward.

Ward, who became the prince’s mistress in 1918, was eventually supplanted in the future king’s affections by the American Thelma Furness (who in turn was superseded by Edward’s future wife Wallis Simpson).

A sketch of Ward by society portraitist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) from three years after the affair began emerged at Mellors & Kirk (24% buyer’s premium) of Nottingham on December 14.

It was believed to have provenance to the sitter’s daughter Angela, Lady Laycock, as it was sold in the early 1960s at an auction on the premises at Wiseton Hall, Nottinghamshire (the seat of Sir Robert and Lady Laycock).

The father of Mellors & Kirk’s vendor had purchased it at the sale but its existence came to light only in 2016 when it featured on an episode of the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow where it was valued at £30,000-50,000.

Foxing issues

Signed and dated 1921, the 2ft x 18½in (62 x 47cm) charcoal on paper dated from a year after Sargent executed an identically sized charcoal portrait of Edward which today remains in the Royal Collection.

The condition here, though, was far from perfect as the portrait of Ward was loosely laid down and had foxing across the entire image as well as two worm holes to the lower right.

In need of some attention, this may well have affected the interest as, estimated at £20,000-25,000, it sold on low estimate.