450-year-old Royal letter sells for £5,000


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The Independent Online

A 450-year-old letter written by Mary Queen of Scots has sold at auction for £5,000.

The letter, which was unearthed at Blair Castle, Ayrshire, is said to have been written to the then Laird of Blair, relieving him of his duties at court due to gout.

Dated March 14 1554, it doubled its valuation in the sale and was one of more than 1,000 items from Blair Castle which went under the hammer at Lyon & Turnbull auctioneers in Edinburgh.

The entire Blair lot raised about £1.2 million, more than double the auctioneers' estimate of £500,000.

Gavin Strang, director of Lyon & Turnbull, said: “There has been great interest in the Blair lots auctioned over the last two days, and there was particular excitement over the letter today.

“There was lots of bidding for the lot and it eventually went to a private collector for £5,000, more than double our estimate.”

The most expensive single piece in the sale turned out to be a painting by James Howe named The Last Of The Leith Races.

The painting sold for £36,000 from an original estimate of £15,000. It depicts horse racing in Leith in the early 1800s before the event moved to Musselburgh racecourse.

Blair Castle is said to be the oldest continually inhabited mansion in Scotland and the home of the Barony of Blair, where the current family can trace their ancestry back to William the Lion (1165).

Some of the other items up for sale included a Zeigler carpet which sold for £28,000 and an 19th-century Italian marble table which fetched £13,000.

Ahead of the auction, it was described as the “sale of the century” as nothing had been sold by the family for more than 900 years.

Luke and Caroline Borwick, who have just sold the property after living there for 11 years, said: “It's a wonderful place, full of wonderful things, but, sadly, as we have sold the castle we cannot take them with us.

“We are merely custodians of these beautiful things and it is time, after 900 years, to pass the responsibility on to others.”