Princess Margaret auction: For sale - The Crown Jewels

They said they were selling family heirlooms. (But some seem to be official gifts.) They said the money would go to the Stroke Association. (That's news to the charity.) Jonathan Brown reports on the Linleys' controversial sell-off

The items in the Princess Margaret sale at Christie's this week were the crown jewels of a glamorous royal life defined by privilege and wealth. In death, however, their lustre has been tarnished by accusations of greed and vulgarity. Everything from Princess Margaret's diamond-studded wedding tiara to the neo-classical pelmets from her bedroom were up for grabs in a two-day sell-off of her worldly goods which sparked a bidding frenzy among royal souvenir hunters across the world.

But yesterday, the auction - which reportedly left the Princess's son, Viscount Linley, and his sister, Lady Sarah Chatto, "hoarse" with disbelief at the staggering prices achieved - was mired in controversy after her family were forced to withdraw two of the items from sale.

As proceeds reached five times the initial estimate, Christie's announced that a 1930s cast-iron balustrade, purchased from Ascot racecourse and installed in the late Princess's rose garden at Kensington Palace, would not now be sold. It had been expected to fetch up to £15,000.

The decision to withdraw the ornate railing was made after it emerged that fixtures and fittings from the royal residence were protected under strict heritage laws. Unlawful removal from a historic site is punishable by a prison sentence of up to seven years. A Christie's spokeswoman said: "The client has decided to give it to the nation. After the success of yesterday, we were told to withdraw the lot so that it could remain in situ at Kensington Palace."

The auction house also revealed that another, all together more personal item from the Princess's private estate, a Lalique crucifix and wooden stand that once belonged to the Queen Mother, had also been withdrawn. The announcement prompted speculation that the Queen had intervened to demand the object be removed from the sale. It had been valued at £800 and the lot included a handwritten note from the Queen Mother stating: "This crucifix by Lalique was given to me in my early days of marriage by Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria."

Buckingham Palace insisted yesterday that the auction was a "private" matter for Margaret's children. But Lord Linley and his sister have come under mounting criticism from friends and family - even their own father Lord Snowdon who was said to be "seething". Jewellery, paintings, furniture and trinkets presented to the Princess while on official royal business as well as wedding gifts from around the Commonwealth all went under the hammer as buyers clamoured to snap up relics from Margaret's life. The highlight was a 1957 portrait by Pietro Annigoni, which once hung in the National Museum of Wales.

It is a companion portrait to Annigoni's painting of the young Queen Elizabeth II, a commission from the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers, which is probably one of the best-known images of the Queen. Earlier, a 9ct gold Cartier cigarette case with a sapphire clasp sold for £102,000, way above the estimate of £3,000 to £5,000. Other items included pieces of furniture made by Lord Linley himself.

Proceeds from the 780-lot auction, which topped £10m soon after bidding started yesterday, will go towards paying off the £3m in death duties liable on Princess Margaret's £7.6m will.

The Queen has insisted that items given to her sister while officially representing the Royal Family must be sold for charity. As a result, Christie's declared that 47 lots - ranging from a silver water jug donated by Bolton Borough Council to a cigar box from the King of Cambodia - would be sold to raise money for the Stroke Association.

The charity said yesterday that it had had no contact with the Queen's nephew or niece about the proposed donation, but its chief executive, Jon Barrick, was at pains to say: "The possible donation from this week's auction is a very kind and appreciated gesture."

A spokeswoman for Lord Linley declined to comment on how much the charity could expect, and Christie's said it hoped other charities might also benefit.

The removal of items from the Princess's former residence at 1A Kensington Palace, which charges the public £11.50 to view the Princess and Lord Snowdon's former home, sparked controversy soon after Margaret's death in 2002. English Heritage said yesterday that there were "well-established legal tests" for items falling under the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003. These would include a fixture "not easily removable". A spokeswoman said it was incumbent on the vendor to decide whether items such as mirrors, bookcases and fire grates - which made up many of the lots - fell into this category.

Lord Snowdon is now said to be happier about the sale after receiving reassurances from his son. But others are concerned the sell-off will inflict lasting damage on the Royal Family.

Princess Margaret's biographer Kenneth Rose commented: "What of the feelings of those who dutifully forked out to give birthday and wedding presents, and now see them go under the hammer to the highest bidder - all ranks of her regiments, the crew of the Royal Yacht Britannia, staff and pensioners at Balmoral, Birkhall and Sandringham? On future royal occasions, surely they will know what to do with their money."

Lot 468

ASCOT RACECOURSE BALUSTRADING

Guide price: £8,000-15,000

Provenance

As a member of a family that is passionately enthusiastic about horseracing, Princess Margaret obviously regarded this section of railing from the Duke of Norfolk's 1953 stand at Ascot racecourse as a suitable souvenir - a bit of upscale recycling, perhaps. The old balustrade was given to the Princess and re-assembled as a gazebo in the rose garden at Kensington Palace. The distinctive cast-iron work was probably made at the Lion Foundry in Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow. This lot has now been withdrawn from the auction.

Lot 414

SET OF FOUR EDWARDIAN GILT AND EBONISED TWIN-LIGHT WALL APPLIQUES

Guide price: £1,500-2,000

Provenance

Manufactured around 1910, these ornate light fittings were fashioned in the George III style. Each of the four wall-mounted candleholders measures nearly two feet tall and is surmounted by a gilt eagle. They were removed from the walls of the dining room in Princess Margaret's apartment in Kensington Palace. However, as electrical fittings, they are highly unlikely to fall foul of any regulations regarding original fittings or architectural details.

Lot 60

GREY CULTURED PEARL BERMUDA CEDAR BROOCH

Guide price: £50-100

Provenance

The Princess visited Bermuda on seven occasions. On her final visit in 1990, one of her official engagements was to cut the ribbon at the opening of the cruise ship terminal on the north arm of the dockyard of Ireland Island. This part of Bermuda is known as the "jungle island of cedar". The gold brooch is designed as a sprig of Bermuda Cedar, a species of juniper (Juniperus bermudiana) that is indigenous to the islands but which has been under threat since the 1970s. The brooch is set with cultured pearl berries.

Lot 855

A SET OF THREE WHITE AND GILT-PAINTED PELMETS

Guide price: £300-500

Provenance

These three wooden pelmets once masked the tops of the curtains at the windows of Princess Margaret's own bedroom in her apartment at Kensington Palace. Neo-classical in design and decorated with intricate acanthus-leaf mouldings, they measure just over six feet long and a foot deep (so not really suitable for your average bay window). The apartment is now open to the public - at an admission cost of £11.50. Described in the catalogue as mid-20th century, they may have been part of a refurbishment in the 1960s.

Lot 793

PORTRAIT OF PRINCESS MARGARET BY PIETRO ANNIGONI

Guide price: The only item in the sale without an estimate.

Provenance

Born in Italy, Pietro Annigoni came to the attention of the British public in 1954 following a commission from the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers to paint the young Queen Elizabeth II. The painting became his most recognised and celebrated work and was followed by a portrait of the Duke of Edinburgh (also at Fishmongers Hall) and this portrait of Princess Margaret, which once hung in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff. More recently, its home was the entrance hall of her apartment at Kensington Palace where a copy can be seen by members of the public touring the palace. Prior to this sale, the highest price paid for an Annigoni at auction was £33,000.

Lot 15

A PAIR OF CULTURED PEARL AND DIAMOND EARCLIPS BY THE CANADIAN JEWELLER BIRKS

Guide price: £500-700

Provenance

Acquired by Princess Margaret during her first and most extensive official tour of Canada in 1958. Made by the foremost Canadian jeweller, Birks, whose flagship store is in Toronto, each pearl is set above a trefoil of brilliant-cut diamonds. A diamond-set brooch in the shape of a maple leaf, again by Birks, was presented to the princess by the city of Montreal during the same visit. It was also sold in the auction but with proceeds going to charity.

Lot 440

SET OF FOUR GOLD CANDLESTICKS

Guide price: £10,000-15,000

Provenance

The apartheid government of South Africa gave these candlesticks as a wedding present when Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones in May 1960. Each is engraved with an inscription, two in English and two in Afrikaans. They were used regularly, along with other gold tableware, in the dining room of the Princess's accommodation in Kensington Palace. Ironically, in October of that year, the white population of South Africa voted to sever all links with the British monarchy and become a republic.

Lot 681

A PAIR OF GEORGE II GILTWOOD MIRRORS

Guide price: £30,000-50,000

Provenance

Pair of carved mirrors dating from between 1755 and 1760. Embellished in the French "picturesque" style, with a rustic arbour of entwined branches and foliage and surmounted by a ho-ho bird, the frames were thought to be originally painted but later gilded. They took pride of place in the drawing room of the late princess's Kensington Palace apartment. They measure nearly five feet high and nearly three feet across. A photograph in the catalogue shows the princess seated at her desk beneath one of the mirrors.

Lots 584 and 585

TWO PAIRS OF REGENCY OAK LIBRARY BOOKCASES

Guide price: £6,000-10,000

Provenance

Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex and the fourth son of George III, lived at Kensington Palace from 1806 until 1843 and almost certainly commissioned these bookcases. They were originally fitted to house some of his collection of 50,000 books - at that time regarded as one of the most important private libraries in England. They were later dismantled and reconstructed as free-standing bookcases by Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria, who lived in Kensington Palace until 1940.

Lot 650

FOLDING SCREEN BY DAVID LINLEY

Guide price: £400-600

Provenance

This folding screen is a design by Princess Margaret's son David Linley, who trained as a cabinet-maker. His furniture business, started in 1985, specialises in bespoke items for clients such as Sir Elton John and Lord Archer. He has two shops in Belgravia and Mayfair selling his own designs. The business is currently valued at £7.5m, £4.5m of which is held by Linley himself. The folding screen is made in his trademark marquetry style, using sycamore and magnolia, and it once had pride of place in his mother's library.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea