Wednesday, 09 May, 2012 - Modified on Wednesday, 09 May, 2012 at 1:51 pm
A gold brooch alleged to have Royal provenance is set to come under the hammer at West Midlands auction house Cuttlestones’ Friday, 25th May 2012 Fine Art Sale – a date which just happens to coincide with the birthday of the Royal with whom the brooch purportedly has links.
The charming high-carat gold brooch, set with a cabochon stone, has a locket to the reverse which, in typical Victorian style, contains a lock of hair. What makes this piece all the more interesting, however, is the inscription “PRINCESS HELENA APRIL 23RD 1847”. Could this be a lock of hair have belonged to the Princess herself? This is all part of a fascinating tale handed down generations of the vendors’ family.
The story goes that the brooch was presented to the vendor’s great-great grandmother by the Royal Household, in recognition of her services as wet nurse. Whilst the date and quality of the piece certainly seem to support such a glamorous history, along with the fact that Queen Victoria was known to have employed wet nurses to breastfeed her children, it is impossible to substantiate – as auctioneer Dave Eglington explains:
“This is a wonderful story and, whilst our research has shown no firm record that this was a gift from Queen Victoria, due to its quality and the fact that the dates corroborate with the princess’ infancy, there is a good chance that this could, indeed, be a Royal gift to her wet nurse to mark her weaning. When you add this romantic history to the fact that this is a very attractive, high quality piece of Victorian jewellery in its own right, we anticipate significant interest from both those interested in its purported Royal connections and those interested purely in its aesthetic value.
“What makes this even more interesting is that the lot is due to be auctioned on the 166th anniversary of Princess Helena’s date of birth .”
Born on 25th May 1846, the 5th child of Victoria and Albert, Princess Helena went on to marry the impoverished German Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein. She became an active member of the Royal family; carrying out an extensive programme of royal engagements at a time when royalty was not expected to appear often in public, was an active patron of many charities and one of the founding members of the Red Cross. She died aged 77 on 19 June 1923.
The brooch, which carries a guide price of between £3,000-£5,000, will sell on Friday, 25th May at Cuttlestones’ Penkridge sale room. The Fine Art Sale catalogue will be available online from Friday, 18th May and viewing will be from 10am ‘til 7pm and on Thursday, 24th May. Commission, telephone and live internet bidding options are available for those unable to attend on sale day – for more information call 01785 714905 or visit www.cuttlestones.co.uk.