As a proud Anglo-Russian who counted the Imperial Royal Family and celebrated author Alexander Pushkin as her ancestors, it is is unsurprising that Alexandra Anastasia, Duchess of Abercorn, cultivated an impeccable collection of artworks and jewellery from her grandparents’ homeland. Yet aside from her numerous pieces from the celebrated Russian jeweller Fabergé, the Duchess also had a penchant for pearls, with three of her necklaces making up Christie’s next Handbags and Jewellery auction.
With an estimated value of between £175,000 – £200,000, the three natural pearl necklaces were inherited by the Duchess via her maternal great grandmother, Alice Sedgwick Mankiewicz. Alice had married Julius Charles Werner, who had worked in the diamond trade in South Africa before acquiring a controlling interest De Beers Consolidated Mines. He was made a baronet in 1905 and amassed an impressive art collection with his wealth.
Alexandra was known throughout her life as a keen philanthropist with an interest in literature, founding the Pushkin prize and the Pushkin Trust after her famous ancestor. Pushkin was her great-great grandfather via her maternal grandmother Countess Anastasia de Torby.
She was also related to Grand Duke Mikhailovich of Russia and Countess Sophie Merenberg, who were her great-grandparents on her mother’s side. The Grand Duke had been stripped of his titles and banished from Russia after eloping with Countess Sophie, with the couple settling in London. They resided at Kenwood House and became friends of the King and Queen. Most of the couple’s collection of art and jewellery was passed on to the Duchess of Abercorn via her mother, Lady Zia Wernher, who was their eldest daughter.
‘Sacha’, as she was known to her friends, married James Hamilton, Marquess of Hamilton, in 1966, with the couple going on to have three children. In 1979, her husband inherited the title of Duke of Abercorn following the death of his father. She was a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh, with her younger sister, Natalia, Duchess of Westminster, being the godmother of the Duke of Cambridge.
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