Halfway through the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s funeral, the sound of Elvis Presley singing 'How Great Thou Art' filled the small St Peter's Church in the village of Edensor on the Chatsworth estate. Although Elvis was one of the few famous people the Duchess never met, she referred to the King of rock 'n' roll as “the greatest entertainer ever to walk on a stage.” She visited Graceland twice and amassed a collection of Elvis souvenirs and artifacts, which were described by a friend as “a purely fun collection of memorabilia that made her laugh.”
In her autobiography Wait for Me (2010), the Duchess explains, “I became an Elvis fan by chance. In 1977 I was looking for a television programme on a different subject when I pressed the wrong button and there was the phenomenon. I was riveted by what I saw and heard.” Upon discovering the King, the Duchess began collecting items relating to him, many of which will be offered in Sotheby's sale of her collection on 2 March in London. Below are a few highlights.
HER GRACE’S COLLECTION OF ELVIS PRESLEY EPHEMERA. ESTIMATE £500–1,000.
The pride of the Duchess of Devonshire’s Elvis collection is a novelty “Singing and Dancing Telephone.” The Duchess wrote, “A friend in New York gave me the Elvis telephone. 'Jail House Rock' comes over loud and clear instead of a bell or the more modern noise that announces a call.” Other items in the collection include a BMG records presentation disc set and a vintage Elvis Presley pocket knife.
ELVIS PRESLEY, SIGNED POSTCARD, CIRCA 1957. ESTIMATE £500–700.
The photograph on this postcard of Elvis with a wallaby was taken while he was filming Jailhouse Rock, his first film for MGM. Elvis was given a wallaby as a gift from Hollywood booking agent Lee Gordon. Although Presley at first tried to train the animal, eventually it was given to the Memphis Zoo. Signed by The King circa 1957 in blue ballpoint pen, it was given to the Duchess of Devonshire by the playwright and screenwriter Sir Tom Stoppard.
DOHNN JAMISON, TWO STUDIES OF ELVIS PRESLEY. ESTIMATE £1,000–1,500.
These signed pen and watercolours on paper are presented with certificates of authenticity, signed by Jimmy Velvet, President and Chairman of the Elvis Presley Museum Inc.
Lead Image: © Keystone Pictures USA / Alamy Stock Photo