Derbyshire auction house sells off Queen Victoria's bloomers in sale of clothing

Queen Victoria’s clothing and boots are set to join a world-famous collection of royal dress after coming up for auction in Derbyshire.

Sunday, 26th January 2020, 10:00 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 8:24 am

The historical treasures – kept in a Norfolk wardrobe – went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers and sold for more than £17,000.

Bids came flooding in from around the globe for Queen Victoria’s boots, bodices, skirt, chemise, stockings, parasol and bloomers.

Although some international buyers were successful in obtaining items, two pairs of leather boots by J Sparks-Hall of London, a black taffeta skirt and two bodices were secured for a total of £14,000 by Historic Royal Palaces.

Queen Victoria's bloomers, sold for £650, modelled by Emma Carberry of auctioneers Hansons

The independent charity looks after London’s Kensington Palace, Victoria’s place of birth, and five other former royal residences.

Claudia Williams, collections curator at the charity, said: “These acquisitions are an incredibly exciting addition to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection, an internationally-significant collection of over 10,000 items of royal and court dress cared for by Historic Royal Palaces.

“As the definitive collection of clothing relating to Queen Victoria’s long widowhood, these objects will make an important contribution to our understanding of both the public image and private life of one of Britain’s most instantly recognisable monarchs.

“As well as being included in future displays, these items reveal that, contrary to popular belief, Queen Victoria did not abandon all interest in her appearance after the death of her beloved Prince Albert , and highlight how – in an era of black and white photography - she exploited clothing’s capacity to communicate, using it as a potent visual symbol of her undying love for her husband.”

A beautiful pair of Queen Victoria's leather boots, sold by auctioneers Hansons. Pictures courtesy of Hansons

Auction house owner Charles Hanson said: “I’m delighted Hansons has been able to play its part in helping these important historical treasures find a new home. In fact, some of them are going home.

“Queen Victoria was born in Kensington Palace in 1819. Her clothing and boots have been saved for posterity for all to see and enjoy for years to come.”

The remarkable collection, treasured through generations of the same family for more than 100 years, belonged to 63-year-old electrical engineer Roderick Williams from Coltishall, near Norwich.

He was in the saleroom to watch lot after lot sell to both international and UK bidders via telephone and internet bids.

The highest individual prices achieved were for a pair of brown kid leather boots, two Victorian bodices, from 1880-90, and a black taffeta skirt from the same period embellished in lace and jet. Each of these three lots sold for £4,000.

A second pair of Queen Victoria’s leather boots, circa 1880, sold for £2,000 and a pair of large silk bloomers bearing a crown stitched into the fabric made £650.

Mr Williams said: “I was pleased with the result. Some items sold for more than I expected, others for less. I thought Queen Victoria’s bloomers may have sold for more but most of the items did very well.

“They are all family heirlooms which were originally given to my great-great grandfather, Alexander Lamont Henderson. He worked as a royal photographer for Queen Victoria up to her death in 1901.

“We think the clothes were probably given to him by servants in the royal household, perhaps in return for taking photographs of them.”

He continued: “We think Alexander caught Queen Victoria’s attention thanks to his experimental colour work with glass plate lantern slides and enamels.

“She commissioned several coloured enamel pictures. These included portraits of her husband Prince Albert and her Scottish attendant John Brown plus views of the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore.

“It’s also thought some tiny miniatures were donated for display in Queen Mary’s dolls house at Windsor.

“In 1884 Alexander received a royal warrant and moved to London. The warrant allowed him to capture everyday royal life and he was also responsible for processing royal portraits on to enamel for use in jewellery.

“He took photos of Queen Victoria and also worked with glass plate negatives taken by other photographers but, sadly, much of his work has been lost or destroyed.

“When my great-great grandfather died in 1907, the clothing was passed down through the generations. It’s been kept in a wardrobe. The time came for me to sell as I needed to make some space.”

Mr Hanson added: “As an auctioneer it’s always wonderful to handle living history. In a turbulent world, we can look back at one of our greatest monarchs.

“Famously, after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, she wore black for the rest of her life and the bodices and skirt we sold were black.

“Her leather ankle boots show how dainty and narrow her feet were. They are around a size four and the design paved the way to the Chelsea boot. The makers, J Sparks-Hall of London, claimed she wore their boots daily.

“Though she was only 4ft 11ins and petite when she became queen at 18, she liked her food and her waist expanded to 50 inches over the decades – a fact demonstrated by the ample size of the bloomers.”