Baroness Boothroyd’s ‘Royal Bag’ to sell

A ‘Royal Bag’ used by legendary politician Betty Boothroyd is set for auction – emblazoned with her name.

Baroness Boothroyd, who passed away aged 93 on February 23, 2023, used the bag during  her career at the heart of British politics. She overturned 700 years of parliamentary tradition in 1992 when she became the first woman to be elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Chris Kirkham, associate director of Hansons London, where the canvas bag will be offered on March 25, said: “Betty Boothroyd was a remarkable woman in every sense . In the wake of her passing, we feel privileged to offer this exceptional memento,  used by a former MP who, over time, became a national treasure.

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons London, with Baroness Betty Boothroyd's work bag
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons London, with Baroness Betty Boothroyd’s work bag – credit Mark Laban Hansons


“I had the privilege of liaising with the baroness when she auctioned around 70  personal treasures through Hansons London in 2021. She had to let go of mementos when she downsized from her London apartment to a cottage in Cambridgeshire.

“It was a wonderful experience. She was such a character. We were all deeply saddened to hear of her loss.

Betty Boothroyd, former speaker of the House of Commons
Betty Boothroyd standing by her Lawrence of Arabia figurine, which sold for £1,250 at Hansons London in 2021 – credit Hansons

“Now we have an opportunity to remind the nation of why she was so special. The briefcase-style item is a ‘Royal bag’, and rightly so considering her phenomenal career. It is labelled with her name and has a guide price of £70-£100. However, it should fly higher as she is held in such high esteem.

“We know this from the previous sale of her items. Her popularity blended with political provenance proved irresistible to bidders. For example, a 20th century Papier-mâché box given to her as a gift by Russian president Boris Yeltsin, soared to £2,400 – 48 times its £50 estimate.

“Another item to excel was a large limited-edition figure of Lawrence of Arabia. It made £1,250 from a guide price of £250-£350. It was given to the baroness when she was president of the All-Party Defence Group. Bidders were keen to own items connected to her, and she was thrilled by the results.

“She was a woman who mixed with the great and the good including royalty and political leaders such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandela and former American president Bill Clinton.”

Baroness Betty Boothroyd's work bag
Baroness Betty Boothroyd’s work bag – credit Mark Laban Hansons

Baroness Boothroyd was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, in 1929, the only child of Ben Archibald Boothroyd and wife Mary, both textile workers. She was educated at council schools and went on to study at Dewsbury College of Commerce and Art. From 1946 to 1952, she worked as a dancer and performed at the London Palladium. However, a foot infection, brought an end to her dancing career, and she entered politics.

Running for the Labour Party, she contested several seats before being elected MP for West Bromwich in 1973. In 1992 she was elected Speaker of the House of Commons.  She received numerous awards and accolades but was most proud of her Order of Merit, an honour bestowed as a personal gift by the Queen.

It’s restricted to a maximum of 24 living recipients from Commonwealth realms, plus limited honorary admissions.  The first woman to receive an Order of Merit was Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, in 1907.

Baroness Boothroyd’s work bag, Lot 339, will be offered in the Hansons London March 25 Fine Art and Antiques Auction.