Queen Mother bust heads royal-related sale

A selection of royal-related items will be going under the hammer at London auctioneers Dreweatts on May 16, with highlights including the last sculpture of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother before her death, which was created by the renowned sculptor Martin Jennings (b.1957).

The bust was one of two that Jennings created of the Queen Mother in 1998, one of them was commissioned by the Friends of St. Paul’s Cathedral on the occasion of her upcoming 100th birthday and was unveiled by the Princess Royal in 2000. It now sits on permanent display in the OBE chapel at St Paul’s Cathedral. The other is the example being sold at Dreweatts.

Jennings’ creation of the busts involved a total of seven sittings with the Queen Mother at Clarence House and they were initially modelled in plaster for ease of transport, before being later cast in bronze. Commenting on the work, Ashley Matthews, Furniture, Clocks & Decorative Arts & Modern Design Specialist at Dreweatts, said: “As we mark the King’s Coronation, Dreweatts is pleased to offer this selection of lots of Royal interest in our May Interiors Sale. Starting with a fabulous bust from Martin Jennings of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother. The portrait artist has a long-standing Royal pedigree and who has recently been commissioned for the portrait of HM King Charles III on the newly released 50 pence pieces and stamps.”

HM the Queen Mother is naturalistically modelled wearing her favourite Greville tiara (created in 1921 for British society hostess and philanthropist Margaret Greville (DBE) by jeweller Lucien Hirtz, at Boucheron and bequeathed to HM the Queen Mother on her death in 1942. It is now often worn by HM the Queen Consort). In the portrait bust it was worn alongside a matching necklace and earrings above flowing robes, which were held in place by a brooch. It is estimated to fetch £25,000-£30,000.

Other works include a red painted armchair from the investiture of Charles, Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in July 1969. The ceremony officially bestowed the title of the Prince of Wales to a 20 year old Charles. Designed by the Rt Hon. 1st Earl of Snowdon, Carl Toms and John Pound, the chairs are stained red and indented with the Prince of Wales’s feather motif in gilt. The seats are upholstered in red Welsh tweed and each is officially stamped underneath. Following the investiture ceremony, the chairs were dismantled and offered for sale, with guests being offered first refusal on their purchase and the remainder being offered to the public. Antony Armstrong-Jones, 1st Lord Snowdon, who orchestrated the ceremony, purchased six for himself. The chair carries an estimate of £700-£1,000.

Continuing on the seating theme is a set of four coronation stools. One is from the Coronation of George VI at Westminster Abbey in 1937. George VI was appointed King following the abdication of his brother Edward VIII (who gave up the throne to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson and became known as the Duke of Windsor). The procession to and from the Abbey was the longest of its kind at the time, stretching to nearly 10 kilometres in length and the ceremony was one of the most lavish. The three other chairs in this group are from the coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II in 1953, which was also at Westminster Abbey, following a 900-year tradition. This was the first coronation to be televised and was watched by 27 million people in the UK, plus millions more around the globe. The Queen ascended to the throne at the age of 25, on the death of her father King George VI in 1952 – she would become the longest reigning-monarch of the UK. The coronation service, which was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, lasted three hours and guests were seated on chairs in blue velvet, above limed oak supports to ensure comfort for the duration. The group of chairs carry an estimate of £1,000-£1,500.

A collection of commemorative clear press-moulded glass created for the Coronation of HM King George VI in circa 1937 includes a set of six bon-bon dishes and 26 various plates and bowls, estimated to fetch £150-£250. Another set of three bon-bon dishes and twelve various plates and bowls, alongside a small collection of earlier commemorative glassware carry an estimate of £100-£200.

A signed and dated commemorative photograph of his Royal Highness, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (1921- 2021) in a Smythson of Bond Street blue leather frame, is signed and dated 1992. The gilt frame features the Duke’s monogram and carries an estimate £150-£250.