No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis
Anne, Duchess of Westminster, (known to all her friends as Nancy), was the widow of 'Bendor', the second Duke of Westminster. They met in Ireland in December 1945 when Nancy had recently returned to her parents' home in Glanmire, Co. Cork, after a successful wartime service in the FANY during which she was awarded a commission. The Duke was touring Southern Ireland with an old friend 'Ikey' Bell looking for a house to buy, and, their car having broken down, they invited themselves to stay with General and Mrs Sullivan. Nancy spent the next day house hunting with them, and despite the considerable difference in age (she was thirty and the Duke sixty-five) they were immediately attracted to each other. They were married in Chester in January 1947.
The Duke died at his Scottish home on the Reay Forest Estate in the summer of 1953. After six years of happy marriage Nancy had come to share his knowledge and love of fishing and stalking, and of the art of effortless hospitality. For fifty years she maintained the best traditions of both the management of a Highland estate and the provision, for her fortunate guests, of the best of sporting activities and of luxurious comfort. She herself died on the Reay Forest Estate in August 2003, half a century after her husband.
However, it was as a racehorse owner (and especially as owner of 'Arkle') that Anne, Duchess became best known to the public. Horses had always been part of her life in the early 1930s. She had sailed from Ireland to school at Westonbrit accompanied by her pony and she hunted and went to race meetings (always point-to-points or steeplechases) through the winter months. Even during the war years, she and another spirited girlfriend made expeditions across country by motorbike to invest a part of their service pay at the races from her diary entries, usually without much financial success.
The Grosvenor Family's connection with racing is long and distinguished, and is most notable for success on the flat in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After Nancy's marriage to Bendor, the Stud at Eaton in Cheshire was revived. However, the former blood lines had been sold many years previously and Nancy's interest remained firmly with racing 'over the sticks'. Arkle (named after one of the mountains on the Reay Forest Estate) was bought at auction in Ireland. Many stories are associated with how the purchase was made: perhaps the most likely is that Nancy, having asked her trainer Tom Dreaper to mark down a few possibles for purchase at a reasonable price, went round herself and asked why he had not included Arkle. He had some misgivings about the breeding. (What Tom Dreaper may not have realised when he expressed these reservations was that, on both his dam and his sire's side, Arkle was descended from Bendor. It was from the former Grosvenor Derby winner that Nancy's husband had derived his sobriquet in early childhood.) Nancy asked Tom to bid for the horse nevertheless, and her judgement could not have been better vindicated.
Arkle's twenty-seven victories included three Cheltenham Gold Cups in succession (1964/5/6), the Irish Grand National, the Hennessey Gold Cup (three times), the Whitbread and Gallaher Gold Cups, and the King George VI Chase. It was while running in the latter at Kempton in 1967 that Arkle sustained the injury that brought a premature end to his career.
There was always a particularly close rapport between owner and horse, and Nancy used to ride Arkle round her farm in Ireland during his summer holidays. She always said that he took good care of her, and in her private photograph albums there are some remarkable shots of the most famous racehorse of his day and his owner taking a nap in a field together.
Nancy won a fourth Cheltenham Gold Cup with Ten Up, and won the Grand National in 1985 with the appropriately named 'Last Suspect'. Although these were the major races to her credit as an owner, she had many other successes. The number in training diminished considerably in the last three or four years but her love of the sport remained as strong as ever. She was noted as an owner who always placed the well-being of the horse above considerations of ambition or success, and she derived as much pleasure from the company of those who shared her interest -from stable boy to Royalty- as she did from the sport itself.
After her husband's death, Nancy moved to a charming smaller house in the park at Eaton in Cheshire that had been built as a gamekeeper's lodge in the style of a 'cottage orné', with a luncheon room for shooting parties. It was enlarged to accommodate her own guests and her ceaseless entertaining. This hospitality embraced everyone in the local community as well as distinguished visitors from further afield. She would divide her year between Eaton Lodge from November to June and the Reay Forest (latterly also in a converted cottage known as The Old Laundry) for the summer and early autumn. She maintained her links with Ireland until twenty years ago, when she sold her remaining farm and house there.
Whether in Scotland or in Cheshire, Nancy always involved herself in the life of the local community, faithfully attending village events and lending her name to good causes. Her vivacious personality and quick sense of humour completely dispelled any impression of 'noblesse oblige'. She was a faithful member of the congregation of St. Mary's, Eccleston for fifty years; she was a kind and generous employer who engendered a family feeling among her staff, and although a close friend of members of the Royal Family she made no distinction between entertaining them and her numerous friends in the village.
Anne, Duchess did not have any children. (The present Duke of Westminster is descended from the second marriage of 'Bendor' Duke's grandfather). Her husband's last surviving daughter, The Lady Mary Grosvenor, predeceased her. Of her own family, one brother was killed in the war and was unmarried, and her surviving brother is childless. Her will provides that, after generous bequests to family, staff and friends, the remainder of her estate shall go to the charitable fund which she herself set up many years ago. While there are no fixed purposes binding the Trustees, the causes likely to benefit are those that Nancy herself favoured: those associated with the communities in which she lived; assistance for disabled riders and for those whose livelihoods in racing have been curtailed by accident or other misfortune.
The items in this sale include pictures and possessions from the Duchess's houses in Scotland and England, and a few items of racing memorabilia that are evocative of her ownership of Arkle. The core of the latter collection is being retained for future public display.
While it is sad that so many personal possessions are to be sold, the money raised is for a good cause which will preserve their owner's memory.
Executors of Her Grace, Anne, Duchess of Westminster