The sale of the historic collection of paintings and objects from the collection of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe realised the outstanding total of £3,701,654, well above pre-sale expectations (est. £1.6–2.3 million). Of the 647 fascinating items offered, 87% found buyers and 76% of lots soared above their pre-sale high estimates. The top lot of the auction was the Duchess’ Cartier diamond engagement ring, which sold for 14 times its high estimate, bringing £167,000 (est. £8,000-12,000). A collection of Mary’s exquisite jewellery had been sold earlier in May at Sotheby’s in Geneva, bringing the overall total for this collection to £8,861,939 (est. £2.6-4 million).
Mary Evelyn Hungerford Crewe-Milnes (named after her godmother Queen Mary) was born into a world of tradition and high society. Her mother was the daughter of a British Prime Minister and a Rothschild heiress, and her father was the handsome Earl of Crewe. Their homes were frequented by bright young things, politicians and the grandees of society. Mary, their only surviving child, inherited West Horsley Place in Surrey from her mother. This beautiful estate, frozen in time, housed a collection from a vanished world inherited from the most illustrious families in Britain: from the footman’s gold and blue livery, furniture, ceramics, silver set picnic hampers through to a battered Louis Vuitton suitcase that opened to reveal a collection of exquisite 18th-century French fans and Mary’s Cartier engagement ring. Each piece gives us a glimpse into a world which we will never see again but lives forever in the extraordinary story of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe.