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Queen Victoria’s previously unseen mourning jewellery is up for auction in Mayfair

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Queen Victoria, 1897

Hulton-Deutsch Collection / Corbis via Getty Images

Queen Victoria is often seen as the monarch who was gripped by relentless grief. After Prince Albert’s unexpected death in 1861, she wrote that losing him was ‘like tearing the flesh from my bones’, adding, ‘There is no one to call me Victoria now.’ The Queen famously wore black every day for 40 years after he died, until her own death, covering herself with specially-commissioned jewels to remember him and other lost family members.

And some of those famous pieces of jewellery are going up for auction for the first time ever in London this month, after being passed down through generations. Patricia Knatchbull, 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma and Queen Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter, has chosen to auction off the pieces with Sotheby’s on March 24 after they sat idle in a drawer at her family home.

The jewels together

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The lots are part of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma’s collection auction which includes 385 items spanning jewellery, furniture, paintings and objects d’Art from the family’s estate.

The mourning jewels, including a button, a brooch and pendants, some containing locks of hair, helped bring the monarch some solace following the death of her mother and three of her nine children. The pieces have individual estimates ranging from £1,000 to £3,000.

Highlights of the auction include an enamel and diamond cross with an onyx heart with the words ‘Alice’ emblazoned under a coronet, and another onyx and seed pearl button holding a miniature portrait of the Princess. The Queen’s daughter died in 1878 aged 35, after catching diphtheria from her son and was the first child of Queen Victoria to pass away, with her mother outliving her by more than 20 years.

Hardstone, enamel and diamond memorial pendant, Robert Phillips, circa 1878 (est. £2,000-3,000)

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The reverse of the hardstone, enamel and diamond memorial pendant, Robert Phillips, circa 1878 (est. £2,000-3,000)

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Another object is an agate and diamond pendant, 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.

David Macdonald, Sotheby’s specialist and head of sale for the auction told Sky, ‘You think of Victoria and you think of the great jewels of state, the diamonds, the Koh-i-Noor. These jewels are much more intimate, their value isn’t through large diamonds.’

Banded agate and diamond locket, circa 1861 (est. £1,000-1,500)

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Inside the banded agate and diamond locket, circa 1861 (est. £1,000-1,500)

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He added, ‘Their value lies in the full expression, an emotional, deeply personal expression about loss and love.’

Macdonald revealed, ‘Their existence wasn’t known… we came across these whilst working on the auction. So they’re undocumented and a really interesting discovery.

‘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.’

For those wanting to own an incredible piece of British history, The Family Collection of the late Countess Mountbatten of Burma auction is taking place at Sotheby’s London on 24 March, and the lots will be exhibited in New Bond Street from 20 to 23 March.

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