Page last updated at 20:12 GMT, Saturday, 5 July 2008 21:12 UK

Queen Mother 'pack gin' note sold

The Queen Mother with William Tallon (behind left)

A note in which the Queen Mother asked her aide to pack gin and Dubonnet has sold for 16,000 - well over the expected 3,000.

It was among the sought-after items in the collection of royal letters, photographs and artefacts auctioned on Saturday for a total of 444,634.

The items were discovered after the death of former royal servant William Tallon, known as Backstairs Billy.

He was in service for 52 years, and was a favourite of the Queen Mother.

The hand-written note, which sparked a telephone bidding war, asked for an outdoor lunch, with the added request: "I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed."

Backstairs Billy's cousin talks about the 'lovely man'

It took auctioneer James Grinter, of Reeman Dansie in Colchester, Essex, 10 and a half hours to sell the 700 lots.

About 400 people packed into the auction room, with another 1,000 placing bids by telephone and the internet.

It was thought that the collection could fetch at least 250,000. But with many items fetching higher prices than expected, the final total was almost double that.

A portrait of the Queen Mother, a miniature of a painting owned by the royal family, fetched the highest price of 30,000.

Solicitor Stephen Lansley, the executor of the will, said the beneficiaries, including a charity, would be announced in a fortnight.

Insider's view

Also popular was a letter to Mr Tallon from Princess Diana after the birth of Prince William.

Mr Tallon kept all the correspondence he received from the royals

She wrote: "We are not sure at the moment what has hit us, except a very strong pair of lungs."

That sold for 5,000 to a telephone bidder. Another seven letters she penned made a combined 15,000.

The collection paints a vivid picture of Mr Tallon's life as a royal insider. He joined the household aged 15, and kept every thank-you letter, Christmas card and invitation he received.

He never spoke publicly about the royals, and turned down requests to write a book or be interviewed. He died last November aged 72.

Janet Canon, of Reeman Dansie, said bidders had flown in from overseas, particularly from the United States and Canada.

A Buckingham Palace spokesman would not comment on the sale.

A life of loyal and royal service
04 Dec 07 |  Magazine
In pictures: Royal items auction
03 Jul 08 |  In Pictures
Thousands honour Queen Mother
06 Apr 02 |  UK News
More crowds for Queen Mother
06 Apr 02 |  Breakfast

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Hindustan Times UK queen relics fetch fortune - 10 hrs ago
Glasgow Sunday Mail £450k for Queen Mother's treasures - 23 hrs ago
Sunday People ROYAL GIN NOTE 60K - 24 hrs ago
Denver Post Queen mother's letter nets $32,000 at auction - 25 hrs ago
Los Angeles Daily News Servant's letters from royalty fetch thousands in auction - 26 hrs ago

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific