Queen’s Unmentionables Up for Sale
“My dearest Albert put on my stockings for me. I went in and saw him shave; a great delight for me.”
[Queen Victoria as a bride of three days]
A pair of Queen Victoria’s stockings will be part of a fine antiques sale at Lyon and Turnbull in Edinburgh on March 31.
Collecting Victorian royal memorabilia has been an enthusiastic pursuit of collectors for over a hundred years. The sheer length of Queen Victoria’s reign means that there is an eclectic range of commemorative items sought for by collectors, especially those marking her marriage and two jubilees. Due to her overwhelming popularity as a monarch, her subjects found abundant approaches to commemorate her, and of course, to make money. These collectibles include plates, cups and saucers, teapots, medals and coins, handkerchiefs and textiles, as well as prints and photographs.
The most unusual and difficult to find royal souvenirs of this remarkable British monarch are her clothing items. At Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, there was a distribution of her huge wardrobe, including her underwear, to members of the Royal Household. These personal garments are now dispersed in both private and public collections.
So why the enthusiam for collecting Victoria’s undergarments? The Queen’s royal unmentionables, supplied by the Pryce Jones company, are easily identified by her royal cypher, which was always worked on each piece. Perhaps this “stamp” of authenticity draws the collectors and inflates the sale price. What could be more proof of provenance than the royal crown and Queen Victoria’s Imperial Cypher, “VR” (Victoria Regina)? Lee Young, a specialist collector from the auction house said, “Examples of the queen’s undergarments have long been considered the crowning glory for Victorian collectors around the world.”
Now a pair of her black and white silk stockings bearing the royal initials are being sold by a private collector. This particular pair features a design favored by the Queen during the 1870s which explains Lyon and Turnbull’s advertised date of 1874. The estimate sale price of £400 is historically low since another pair recently went for £8,000. Young said, “In the past few years several items have come up for auction and made excellent prices, with interest from around the world.”
Linen split drawers (c1890) embroidered with a crown and the initials VR, were sold at auction in June 2009 for 600 pounds ($993) to the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection to eventually be displayed at Kensington Palace. These drawers measured 56 inches in diameter, a girth not surprising considering the Queen had nine children!