They once belonged to Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret who played with them as children. The Dean’s Rag Book toys were given to their nanny Clara Knight (1879-1946) and kept in her family for many years.
The two princesses nicknamed Knight (who was also nanny to the Queen Mother) ‘Allah’ because as infants they found ‘Clara’ too difficult to say.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse were loaned to Bexhill Museum for a long time before being sold at auction by the family as part of a large group of clothes and belongings bought by art dealer Daniel Hadden in 2017.
He has now loaned items to Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mother, the birthplace of Princess Margaret and where the sisters would often spend their holidays.
They are featured as part of the Children of Glamis Exhibition at the Scottish castle this summer which is celebrating its 650th anniversary.
Hadden said: “I happened to be watching Countryfile and I spotted a photo of the queen wearing a green daisy dress at Glamis that was part of the collection I had bought so it seemed fitting that they should return there.”
He took the collection by train from his home near Uckfield, East Sussex, to Scotland and stayed with his wife in the manor house in the grounds before helping with the exhibition earlier this spring.
Hadden said: “It was common for staff to keep things when the family had finished with them; it was during the make-do-and-mend era.”
Since purchasing the items he has been painstakingly researching them and trying to match each outfit with photographs in various archives.
He said: “I have so much respect for the queen since researching her. It is amazing the service she has given to the country.”
Hadden attended the 2017 auction with his then 10-year-old daughter Phoenix and he later wrote to the queen to tell her he had bought her clothes and toys. He also included a letter from his daughter with a photo of her with the toys.
“I received a lovely reply saying how wonderful it was that the toys had gone to a happy home. It has been wonderful being able to own and research this collection, this link to the past. I feel blessed to own it”, he added.
Following research, Hadden acquired letters of authenticity and sold part of the collection at two sales at London saleroom Kerry Taylor in 2018 and 2019.
Among the highlights of these auctions was a pink silk coat worn by the queen as a baby in 1927 which sold for £6000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium) in June 2018 and a pair of Smith & Co Liberty printed silk dresses which are among the most photographed of those worn by the princesses (including when they attended a pantomime performance accompanied by the Duke and Duchess of York at the Lyceum theatre in February 1935).
The dresses and matching knickers sold for £26,000 at the auction house in June 2019.
Hadden expects to sell more of his collection.