Top 10: Romantic Royal Memorabilia
Few occasions stop the world like a royal wedding. And few love affairs get journalists’ typewriters clacking like a royal one. It helps explain why memorabilia from royal love stories is so collectible. And here’s the proof.
Because these are 10 of the best pieces of romantic royal memorabilia ever auctioned:
1) Wallis Simpson’s jewellery collection - £31 million
A member of the British royal family marrying a divorcee? And an American at that? Outrage. Scandal. Shame.
Prince Harry's great uncle Edward VIII chose love over royal duty when he married socialite Wallis Simpson in 1937, having abdicated the throne to do so just six months earlier - after less than a year in the top job.
In 1987, Sotheby’s made £31 million at a sale of Simpson’s jewellery. Edward had bought many of the pieces for her.
The top lot was Simpson’s Mclean diamond ring which sold for £1.8 million to a Japanese collector.
Actress Elizabeth Taylor bought a diamond brooch for £400,000. It's thought Taylor outbid Prince Charles who was hoping to buy the piece for Princess Diana.
2) The ‘Poltimore’ tiara - £926,400
The diamond studded tiara was made in 1870 by Garrard for Lady Poltimore, the wife of the second Baron Poltimore and treasurer to Queen Victoria's household. The tiara's intial light brush with royalty would be surpassed decades later when Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, bought it in 1959 for £5,500.
Margaret wore it for her wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The pair would conduct a string of affairs during their 18 year marriage. But not before Margaret donned the tiara for a wedding day photo shoot with Antony in the bath.
The tiara sold for £926,400 at a Christie’s auction of Margaret's effects in 2006.
3) Princess Diana’s first official appearance dress - £192,000
A black taffeta dress worn by Diana on her first official appearance with Prince Charles sold at Kerry Taylor Auctions in 2010 for £192,000. Charles and Diana attended a music recital at London's Goldsmiths’ Hall in March 1981, just weeks before they became engaged.
The dress' low neckline created a sensation, with the Sun newspaper declaring: "Daring Di sets fashion as she takes the plunge". Prince Charles commented that only people in mourning wore black.
Auctioneer Kerry Taylor explained that Diana lost so much weight in the run up to her wedding that she returned the dress to designers David and Elizabeth Emanuel to have it altered. The alterations needed were so drastic that the Emanuels made a new dress for Diana and kept the original until its 2010 sale.
4) Replica of Princess Diana’s wedding dress - £100,000
An exact replica of Princess Diana’s 1981 wedding dress sold at auction house Cooper Owen in 2005. David and Elizabeth Emanuel made the ivory silk dress for Diana in case of a last minute disaster with the main one. It eventually ended up on a Princess Diana waxwork at Madame Tussauds.
The dress, which had a reserve price of £50,000, sold for £100,000 to a mystery telephone bidder.
5) Kate Middleton’s fashion show dress - £78,000
Kate Middleton wore this see-through dress in a fashion show in 2002, while studying at St Andrews University. In the audience that night was her friend (and just a friend at that time) Prince William.
So it's no surprise that some in the media have dubbed it “the dress that started it all”. Its designer, fashion student Charlotte Todd, explained she had created the piece as a skirt but that the event's organisers thought Kate should wear it as dress.
It sold at Kerry Taylor Auctions in 2011 for £78,000. The dress was bought by Nick Roberts, nephew of David Gainsborough Roberts who owns many famous items of entertainment memorabilia, particularly pieces linked with Marilyn Monroe.
6) Letters from Edward VIII to his first love, Freda Dudley-Ward - £35,000
Long before Wallis Simpson came on the scene, Edward VIII was involved with married mother of two Freda Dudley-Ward. They had met during an air raid in the first world war and enjoyed a 16-year affair.
A collection of over 260 letters from Edward VIII to his first love sold at Bonhams & Brooks in London for £35,000 in 2001.
In one letter, dated April 18 1920, Edward tells Dudley-Ward: “Mon amour, I swear I’ll never marry any other woman but you”.
7) Love letter from Prince Charles to Janet Jenkins - £20,744
Diana was not Prince Charles' first love. Far from it.
A series of love letters from the Prince of Wales to Montreal-based British Consulate receptionist Janet Jenkins sold for £20,744 on eBay in 2009. The pair met in 1975 and continued a relationship for the next five years. All the letters were dated prior to Charles’ marriage to Diana.
"I would have thought your apartment is the quietest place," Charles writes in June 1980, just a year before he marries Diana. "If we went out the press would be on to it in a flash and that would be misery."
8) Princess Diana & Prince Charles’ wedding cake - £17,000
You can't move today without another slice of royal wedding cake coming up for auction. But it wasn't always so. They were rare things indeed in the 1990s.
Which is why, in 1998, a slice of Charles and Diana’s five foot tall wedding cake (fruit with cream cheese frosting) sold at auction for £17,000. Their relative availability on the market today means you can pick one up for around £2,000.
Here is JustCollecting's guide to current auction prices for royal wedding cake slices:
Charles and Diana: £2,000
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert: £1,500
William and Kate: £1,250
The Queen and Prince Philip: £550
Charles and Camilla: £500
Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson: £300
Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips: £300
9) The Queen’s account of falling in love - £14,400
A letter the Queen wrote describing how she fell in love with Prince Philip sold for £14,400 in 2016.
The then Princess Elizabeth wrote the two page letter in 1947 to author Betty Shew, who was creating a book about the couple’s forthcoming wedding that year.
"We first started seeing more of each other when Philip went for a two-year job to the R.N Petty Officers School at Corsham - before that we hardly knew each other," writes the Queen.
"He'd spend weekends with us, and when the school was closed he spent six weeks at Balmoral."
The letter also describes how the 21-year-old Elizabeth would go dancing at London nightspots Ciro’s and Quaglino’s.
10) Queen Mother’s prototype wedding dress - £3,500
A prototype of the dress the Queen Mother wore for her 1923 wedding to the future King George VI sold for £3,500 at a Dreweatts auction in 2011.
The dress was expected to make just £500-£700. Malcolm Claridge from Dreweatts said the dress probably sold for more than expected due to an increased interest in the royal family in the run up to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
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