Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fancy owning a bit of the Iron Lady? Margaret Thatcher's personal collection to be sold off

Mrs Thatcher's personal collection, including her clothes and jewels, to be sold off by her family

The former Conservative leader reading documents from her dispatch box at 10 Downing Street
The former Conservative leader reading documents from her dispatch box at 10 Downing Street
Thatcher was famouly photographed driving a tank wearing a pale raincoat by Aquascutum during a visit to British Forces at a NATO training ground in Germany
A prime ministerial dispatch box, expected to sell for up to £5,000
Margaret Thatcher's wedding outfit (estimate: £10,000-15,000)
Thatcher's wedding outfit is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000

Hannah Furness

Margaret Thatcher's personal collection of clothes, jewellery and political mementoes is to be sold off by her family after the Victoria & Albert museum turned down the opportunity to display her wardrobe for Britain.

More than 300 items from Margaret Thatcher's political and personal life are to be sold one-by-one at auction next month, from her red dispatch box to her wedding dress.

Thatcher's wedding outfit is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000
Thatcher's wedding outfit is expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000

The sale is being carried out by Christie's on behalf of Margaret Thatcher's children Mark and Carol and could see the collection scattered among admirers around the world, rather than be kept by a national institution.

The V&A has already declined an offer to own an archive of Margaret Thatcher's clothing, it has emerged.

Margaret Thatcher's wedding outfit (estimate: £10,000-15,000)
Margaret Thatcher's wedding outfit (estimate: £10,000-15,000)

The museum said it refused the collection on the basis that they collect only items of "outstanding aesthetic or technical quality" rather than those with "intrinsic social historical value".

Instead, items of the late British Prime Minister's wardrobe, including her famous power suits, handbags and jewellery, are to be sold at auction, with the proceeds to be split among her children.

A prime ministerial dispatch box, expected to sell for up to £5,000
A prime ministerial dispatch box, expected to sell for up to £5,000

 A spokesman for the auction house said: "The property is being sold on behalf of beneficiaries of Margaret Thatcher’s estate as part of the arrangements following her death in 2013.

 "These auctions present unique opportunities, across price levels, for collectors around the world to acquire property from the longest serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the 20th century and the only woman to have held Office to date."

The items had been left as part of Thatcher's estate, which bequeathed a third of her inheritance to each of her children, Sir Mark and Carol, and the remaining third in trust for her grandchildren.

It is unclear how much overlap there is between the collection of clothing previously offered to the V&A and items to be sold in the wider collection by Christie's.

Earlier this year, a treasure trove of papers belonging to Thatcher, valued at £1million, were saved for the nation, after her family donated them in lieu of inheritance tax.

 They are now with the majority of Lady Thatcher's papers in the public archive in Churchill College, Cambridge.

A similarly personal collection of items once belonging to Sir Winston Churchill is held at Chartwell, Kent, his former home now run by the National Trust. While items belonging to former US presidents would be expected to be preserved in the presidential library.

Public institutions will be able to bid on items individually if they choose, but the sale is designed to be "accessible" to members of the public, with lots ranging from £200 to £180,000. The complete collection is estimated to be worth up to £500,000.

 Christie's is to offer 350 of Lady Thatcher's belongings to the public, working closely with her daughter Carol Thatcher and personal assistant Cynthia Crawford to catalogue them.

They are due to be sold in two batches: one traditional sale at Christie's on December 15, and one online sale running from December 3 to 16.

Cynthia Crawford, Lady Thatcher's personal assistant of 36 years, said seeing items together again "brought a tear to her eye".

It ranges from heavyweight political tomes to Lady Thatcher's famous handbags, and gives an insight into both her impressive political life, and her days behind closed doors.

Not only does it feature signed copies of her best speeches and red dispatch box she carried them in, it also stars pieces of art, furniture and porcelain from Lady Thatcher's own home.

Key items from her wardrobe include her famous blue suit, the epitome of political power dressing, the pale coat she wore while memorably driving a tank in a 1986 photocall, and the cloak she wore to meet Ronald Reagan.

One outfit, a stylish black suit-dress, was created especially for her 70th birthday party, attended by the Queen.

The sale will also include her famous pearls and a selection of handbags that have gone down in political history.

Yesterday, it emerged the V&A has already turned down the opportunity to take on part of a collection of Thatcher's clothes, offered to allow members of the public to enjoy her legacy.

 A spokesman said: "The V&A politely declined the offer of Baroness Thatcher’s clothes, feeling that these records of Britain’s political history were best suited to another collection which would focus on their intrinsic social historical value.

"The Museum is responsible for chronicling fashionable dress and its collecting policy tends to focus on acquiring examples of outstanding aesthetic or technical quality."

The V&As permanent collection of fashion currently houses items spanning four centuries, with key pieces from designers across the years.

It has recently hosted temporary exhibitions devoted to Alexander McQueen, famous wedding dresses and the David Bowie archive.

Last year, items of Thatcher's clothing were included in a temporary exhibition at the Design Museum, entitled "Women, Fashion, Power".

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