To be auctioned in London on March 24, the 350+ lots span jewellery, furniture, paintings, sculpture, books, silver, ceramics & objets d’art
(L) Patricia Mountbatten and John Knatchbull at their wedding | (R) The couple with friends and family at their wedding
January 26, 2021: The 2nd Countess Mountbatten of Burma, great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, great niece of Russia’s last Tsarina, first cousin to Prince Philip and the daughter of Britain’s last Viceroy of India, the late Patricia Edwina Victoria Mountbatten was born into a dazzling dynasty of royal and political relations. Over her eminent life at the very heart of Britain’s cultural establishment, she is known and remembered for her “unwavering perseverance and beguiling sense of humour”.
Her collection of curiosities and precious objects, amassed with her usual sense of keen, will now be going under the hammer by Sotheby’s on March 24, 2021.
A pair of jewelled gold and enamel elephants, Jaipur, 1946 (est. £2,000-3,000)
The eldest daughter of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979), and glamorous heiress turned philanthropist Edwina Ashley (1900-1960), Patricia had an unconventional upbringing. In 1943, at the age of 19, Patricia entered the Women's Royal Navy Service. It was there that she met, and fell in love with, John Knatchbull, 7th Lord Brabourne (1924-2005) – an encounter that sparked an enduring love affair and an almost 60-year marriage. As a Captain in the armed forces, Brabourne had worked for Patricia’s father in India, and later became an Academy-Award nominated film producer, behind titles such as A Passage to India and Agatha Christie adaptations Death on the Nile and Murder on the Orient Express. Their wedding at Romsey Abbey in 1946 was witnessed by thousands, with members of the public lining the streets. The Archbishop of Canterbury officiated over a ceremony which saw the King and Queen in attendance, the Royal princesses Elizabeth and Margaret among the bridesmaids and Prince Philip as an usher.
When Patricia inherited her father’s peerages, the pair became one of the very few married couples in England each of whom held a peerage in his or her own right and the custodians of two great inheritances. John’s included Mersham le Hatch, an elegant house by Robert Adam in the Kent countryside, where the Knatchbull family had settled in the 15th century. Furnished by the great Thomas Chippendale in the 1770s, it held within it objects with extraordinarily diverse provenances, including the explorer and botanist Sir Joseph Banks who travelled to Australia on Cook’s first expedition, Jane Austen’s beloved niece Fanny and the Marquesses of Sligo.
‘Tutti Frutti’ style Jewels: A gem set and diamond wreath of carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires (est. £40,000-60,000) together with other Tutti Frutti style pieces including, dress clips, earrings and a ring
Patricia inherited precious objects associated with her parents from their glamorous Art Deco penthouse on Park Lane – with treasures from Edwina’s maternal grandfather, the great Edwardian financier Sir Ernest Cassel – and their time in India.
The over 350 lots from Newhouse, Patricia and John’s charming 18th century home, will be offered for sale with estimates ranging from £80 – 100,000. Through each lot, viewers and visitors will have the opportunity to enter the world of an important family, crossing the paths of the 20th century’s leading figures along the way.
The Banks Diamond: A historic jewel passed down through the Knatchbull Baronets which commemorates Sir Joseph Banks (est. £40,000-60,000)
Harry Dalmeny, Sotheby’s Chairman, UK & Ireland, said “Lady Mountbatten’s residence, Newhouse was a private place for entertaining only the closest of family and friends, capturing all the magic of a stately home on an intimate scale. Through her belongings, many passed down from members of the extended family over the years, collectors have the chance to see the story of the twentieth century unfold and acquire evocative vestiges of a glittering way of life.”
The sale highlights include a pair of jewelled gold and enamel elephants (est. £2,000-3,000). Inscribed in Lord Mountbatten’s handwriting; ‘Edwina from Dickie’ and ‘18 July 1946’, these gold enamel elephants made in Jaipur were a gift from Lord Mountbatten to his wife Edwina commemorating their 24th wedding anniversary.
A rare TM (Masudaya) battery-operated Radicon Robot, 1957, in original box (est. £4,000-6,000)
A gem set and diamond wreath of carved rubies, emeralds and sapphires (est. £40,000-60,000) together with other Tutti Frutti style pieces including, dress clips, earrings and a ring are also a part of the collection. Patricia’s mother Edwina Mountbatten, who was one of the best dressed women in the world, was revered for her style, and owned a renowned collection of jewels, decorations and tiaras. Edwina had a particular penchant for Art Deco “Tutti Frutti” jewels, which took inspiration from Indian cut-coloured gems, and so held a special resonance for the Countess. In 1928, she purchased a Tutti Frutti tiara from Cartier, which until recently was on loan to the Victoria and Albert museum, immortalised in a photograph by Cecil Beaton. These exquisite pieces from Patricia’s collection, some of which were inherited from her mother, are the perfect pairing to the famous tiara.
The Banks Diamond is a historic jewel passed down through the Knatchbull Baronets, commemorating Sir Joseph Banks (est. £40,000-60,000). A scientist, explorer and botanist, Sir Joseph Banks joined Captain James Cook on his voyage to the Pacific as part of the Royal Society’s expedition, collecting thousands of plant specimens previously unknown in Europe. This late 18th century brooch incorporates a cushion-shaped yellow diamond given to Joseph Banks by his sister Sarah around the time of his marriage in 1779, the reverse of the stone featuring a glazed locket with woven hair and their initials JSB. Originally gifted to Sir Joseph Banks’ wife Dorothea, it passed to her sister Mary, Lady Knatchbull and thence by descent, until finally to Lord Brabourne and its last wearer, Patricia.
A silver, enamel and hardstone Fabergé timepiece, St Petersburg, 1896-1903 (est. £15,000-25,000)
A rare TM (Masudaya) battery-operated Radicon Robot, 1957, in original box (est.£4,000-6,000), which was given by Lord Mountbatten to his grandchildren, is also a part of the auction. He delighted in anything modern and mechanical, constructing a large train set in the cellar at Newhouse.
A silver, enamel and hardstone Fabergé timepiece, St Petersburg, 1896-1903 (est. £15,000-25,000) will also be under the hammer. Patricia’s father, Louis Mountbatten was closely related to the Russian Royal family through both his mother and father: the last Tsarina was his aunt, with whom he spent many summers. A number of lots in the sale hark back to the lost world of Imperial Russia, including the exquisite Fabergé timepiece which was used by Patricia in her bedroom.
The Imperial Order of the Crown of India, the decoration mounted with diamonds, pearls and turquoises (est. £15,000-20,000) | Below: A rare Anglo-Indian inlaid bureau mounted on a mahogany stand supplied by Thomas Chippendale to Sir Edward Knatchbull in 1767 (est. £40,000-60,000)
Perhaps the most exquisite, in terms of construction and political importance, is the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, the decoration mounted with diamonds, pearls and turquoises (est. £15,000-20,000). This rare Anglo-Indian order, still in its original case, was an award that could only be bestowed by the Monarch to a female recipient. The diamond, pearl and turquoise-set decoration would have been worn at State occasions by Doreen, Lady Brabourne, Patricia’s mother-in-law. The only person who still wears this Order today, and the last to hold it, is Her Majesty the Queen.
A rare Anglo-Indian inlaid bureau mounted on a mahogany stand supplied by Thomas Chippendale to Sir Edward Knatchbull in 1767 (est. £40,000-60,000) is a rare celebration of the link between England and India. The incredibly rare stand was made by Chippendale for the sum of £4 to house a Knatchbull heirloom, an Indian inlaid miniature bureau.