Queen Victoria’s mourning jewels go up for auction for first time

Queen Victoria’s mourning jewels which are said to reveal “the intimate side” of the late monarch will be sold for the first time after being passed down descendants for generations.

A button, a brooch and pendants, some containing locks of hair, are said to have brought the queen solace following the death of her mother and three of her nine children.

Throughout her reign, Queen Victoria was famously associated with mourning, as she wore black every day for 40 years after her husband Prince Albert died, until her own death.

The jewels, which have individual estimates ranging from £1,000 to £3,000, have been described by experts as “very biographical” and “almost another level” to her life.

“You think of Victoria and you think of the great jewels of state, the diamonds, the Koh-i-Noor,” said David Macdonald, Sotheby’s specialist and head of sale for the auction.

“These jewels are much more intimate, their value isn’t through large diamonds…

“Their value lies in the full expression, an emotional, deeply personal expression about loss and love.”

They will go under the hammer in an auction of the collection of Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, Patricia Knatchbull, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The items were kept in a drawer at a family home.

Mr Macdonald said: “Their existence wasn’t known… we came across these whilst working on the auction. So they’re undocumented and a really interesting discovery.”

One of the objects, an agate and diamond pendant, was commissioned by Prince Albert for his wife to mark the loss of her mother.

He died the same year he gifted the pendant, which contained a miniature photograph, a lock of her mother’s hair and a “touching inscription” from Albert.

Also included in the collection are other pendants and a button which commemorate the passing of her third daughter Alice, who died from diphtheria aged 35.

Mr Macdonald said he would love to see them go to a British institution, a museum or to someone who is “fascinated by British history, Queen Victoria, and particularly that personal side”.

He added of the objects: “You don’t look at them and think, ‘Ahhh’. It’s only when you handle them, you realise they really are treasure with descriptions and locks of hair…and moreover to have them directly from the hand of Victoria, all the way down.

“To me, they speak not so much of Victoria, Queen and Empress, but Victoria, mother and wife.”

Sotheby’s London will hold an auction of the collection on 24 March, and the lots will be exhibited in New Bond Street from 20 to 23 March.

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