Fascinating insights into the history of the British Royal Family in a sale of objects belonging to two of the children of King George V and Queen Mary
On 13 December, a special auction in London offers fascinating insights into the private worlds of Her Royal Highness The Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood (1897-1965), and her younger brother His Royal Highness The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (1900-1974).
Property from Descendants of Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary comprises 317 lots overall, with estimates ranging from £300 to £100,000. Of these lots, 237 come from the collection of the Dukes of Gloucester; a further 80 come from The Collection of The Earls of Harewood.
Harewood House in Yorkshire is the seat of the Lascelles family and one of Britain’s grandest stately homes. As well as items from Princess Mary, Countess of Harewood, the sale includes items amassed by generations of the family, from the builder of Harewood, Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood (1713-95), through to George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (1923-2011), Princess Mary’s eldest son. Here, we present selected highlights.
Royal standards belonging to a princess
These six royal standards belonged to Princess Mary, Princess Royal and Countess of Harewood. Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary was born at York Cottage, Sandringham on 25 April 1897, the third child and only daughter of The Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). She was married to Lord Lascelles (1882-1947) at Westminster Abbey on 28 February 1922 — the first Royal wedding to be covered by Pathé news.
A carving of the Hanoverian coat of arms
According to its label, this pearwood carving of the royal Hanoverian coat of arms was created for King George III and possibly later acquired by Queen Mary (1867-1953) and given to her only daughter, Princess Mary, The Princes Royal, Countess of Harewood. The carving is attributed to Thomas and George Seddon, who had held the royal warrant as Cabinet Makers and Upholsterers since 1832.
A curiosity from Harewood’s magnificent collection
Following the death of the 5th Earl of Harewood in October 1929, Princess Mary and her husband moved into Harewood House, the Lascelles’ Yorkshire seat, which was built by Edwin Lascelles (1712-1795).
The house is famed for the splendid furniture supplied by Thomas Chippendale, who was born in nearby Otley. Harewood’s collections, which included this taxidermy cassowary, had been significantly enriched in 1916 when Hubert de Burgh-Canning, 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde (1832-1916), left his superb collection and considerable fortune to Viscount Lascelles, his great-nephew.
The bequest that led to a collection
As well as being Henry Lascelles’ great-uncle, Hubert de Burgh-Canning was also the grandson of George Canning (1770-1827), who had briefly served as British Prime Minister in the early 19th century. His bequest not only enabled his great-nephew to buy the palatial Chesterfield House as his London home, but to become one of the most significant collectors of Old Masters of his generation.
It is also, perhaps, what sparked Lord Harewood’s interest in the career of George Canning, as he is known to have acquired a number of Canning items on the art market in the first part of the 20th century, including this study by Thomas Lawrence.
A Prime Minister’s dispatch boxes
George Canning (1770-1827) was a Tory statesman who twice served as British Foreign Secretary before becoming Prime Minister for the final four months of his life. The Clanricarde bequest included many objects which had passed from the Cannings via a female line, including these three black and two red leather dispatch boxes owned by the former politician.
A jewelled coronation snuff-box
Prince Henry William Frederick Albert was born on 31 March 1900, and was the last royal prince to be photographed on the knee of his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. This magnificent snuff-box is the work of the Royal Jeweller Garrard and Company and commemorates the coronation of his father, King George V, in 1911. the snuffbox was possibly given to him by his parents on the occasion of their coronation.
A gift between two royal families
After studying at Eton and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, Prince Henry later joined the 10th Royal Hussars. In 1925, he was made a Privy Councillor and over the coming years went on to represent four monarchs at numerous state occasions.
In May 1929, shortly after being made Duke of Gloucester, he visited Japan as the representative of his father King George V (1865-1936), in order to invest Emperor Hirohito of Japan (1901-1989) with the Order of the Garter. This cigarette case (above left) was presented to Prince Henry by a member of the Japanese Royal Family. It is likely that he acquired this Japanese lacquer accessories box (above right) during the same trip.
The Duke of Gloucester’s cartridge case
Prince Henry was, like his father, a superb shot; the King, who was not noted for giving praise, once noted that he had shot a woodcock to the right and to the left, a feat ‘not often done’. The hinged lid on this Purdey & Sons cartridge case is embossed with ‘H.R.H. THE DUKE OF GLOUCESTER / X.R.H.’ The X.R.H. monogram is for his regiment, The 10th Royal Hussars.
On 12 February 1868, the Prince of Wales, who later became King Edward VII, granted gun- and rifle-maker James Purdey his Royal Warrant of Appointment. A decade later, Queen Victoria assigned a Royal Warrant to Purdey, as has every British monarch since.
Seats embroidered by a princess
This pair of George III mahogany armchairs is originally from a set of eight given as a wedding present from the City of Glasgow to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, and his bride, Lady Alice Montagu-Douglas-Scott, in 1935.
Lady Alice was the daughter of the King’s longstanding friend, the 7th Duke of Buccleuch, and sister of the Prince’s closest friend, Lord William Scott. The needlework on their embroidered seats, which depict creatures and foliage, was done by The Duchess of Gloucester (1901-2004), who became known as Princess Alice after the Duke’s death in 1974. One of the chairs has been signed and dated in the stitching ‘Alice 1937’.
A doll’s house fit for royalty
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester had two children: Prince William of Gloucester (1941-1972) and Prince Richard (b. 1944). The latter, who succeeded his father as Duke of Gloucester, hung the wallpaper in this doll's house for his daughters, Lady Davinia and Lady Rose.
Portrait miniatures of royal sitters
The royal sitters depicted in these seven portrait miniatures include Edward VII (lower right); Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holsten (1831-1917) (top left); Queen Mary (1867-1953) (middle); and Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), dressed for the Connaught-Fife wedding (lower middle), which took place in 1913. The plated silver frame (top right), meanwhile, contains four locks of hair.
Sign up today
Christie’s Online Magazine delivers our best features, videos, and auction news to your inbox every week
Australia’s first federal parliament was opened by Prince George, Duke of Cornwall and York, who later became King George V, at the Melbourne Exhibition Building on 9 May 1901. This gold commemorative medal was presented to his younger sister, Princess Victoria Alexandra (1868-1935), the fourth child of King Edward VII (1841-1910) and Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), and then by gift or descent to her niece, Princess Mary, Princess Royal, Countess of Harewood.