Queen Victoria’s skirt and bodice, bloomers, stockings and leather boots – almost a complete royal outfit - have been unearthed from a wardrobe after more than 100 years.
The remarkable array of clothing, treasured for generations by the same family, belongs to 63-year-old electrical engineer Roderick Williams.
He’s now decided to sell the collection and it could potentially make more than £15,000 when it goes under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers in January. In 2008, Hansons sold a pair of Queen Victoria’s bloomers for £4,500, a chemise for £3,800 and a nightdress for £5,200.
They sparked an international buying battle with bids coming in from Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong and New York, such is the fascination with the British monarch who reigned for 63 years.
Mr Williams, from Coltishall, near Norwich, said: “Queen Victoria’s clothing and boots are family heirlooms which were originally given to my great-great grandfather, Alexander Lamont Henderson.
“He worked as a royal photographer for Queen Victoria up to her death in 1901 and we think the clothes were probably given to him by servants in the royal household, perhaps in return for taking photographs of them.”
The items include cream and red stockings, a chemise, black skirt, bodice, bloomers and two pairs of handmade leather ankle boots by J Sparks-Hall of London – a shoemaker credited with the design of the Chelsea boot. The items are due to be sold at Hansons’ Derbyshire’s saleroom on January 21 with guide prices ranging from £800 for the red stockings to £1,500-£2,000 for a pair of boots.
Mr Williams said: “We think Alexander caught Queen Victoria’s attention thanks to his experimental colour work with glass plate lantern slides and enamels.
“She commissioned several coloured enamel pictures. These included portraits of her husband Prince Albert and her Scottish attendant John Brown plus views of the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore. It’s also thought some tiny miniatures were donated for display in Queen Mary’s dolls house at Windsor.
“In 1884 Alexander received a Royal Warrant and moved to London. The warrant allowed him to capture everyday royal life and he was also responsible for processing royal portraits on to enamel for use in jewellery.
“He took photos of Queen Victoria and also worked with glass plate negatives taken by other photographers but, sadly, much of his work has been lost or destroyed.
“When my great-great grandfather died in 1907, the clothing was passed down through the generations. It’s been kept in a wardrobe. I’m selling it now as I need to make some space. However, I’m not parting with Alexander’s glass plate negatives and enamel pictures which are of a very high quality. He was an extremely talented photographer.”
Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons, said: “As an auctioneer it’s always wonderful to handle living history. In a turbulent world, we can look back at one of our greatest monarchs. Victoria was queen from 1837 to 1901 and had a deep impact on her country.
“Famously, after the death of her beloved husband Prince Albert in 1861, she wore black for the rest of her life and the bodice and skirt we’re selling are black.
“Her leather ankle boots show how dainty and narrow her feet were. They are around a size four and the design paved the way to the Chelsea boot. The makers, J Sparks-Hall of London, claimed she wore their boots daily.
“Though she was only 4ft 11ins and petite when she became queen at 18, she liked her food and her waist expanded to 50 inches over the decades – a fact demonstrated by the ample size of the bloomers.
“Throughout her life she was a leader in every sense and swift to pick up on new ideas, so we shouldn’t be surprised that she spotted the talents of a ground-breaking photographer.”
Edinburgh-born Alexander Lamont Henderson, who lived from 1837-1907, created a stir thanks to his experimental photography, enamel and colour work. His aim was to produce a photographic equivalent to the hand-painted miniatures commonly used in jewellery.
His skills led to him being awarded medals for his photographic work, which is still winning plaudits today. In 2019, ground-breaking images he took in Greece in 1904 were exhibited in Athens. Instead of the usual shots of ancient monuments, he recorded everyday life.
After his death, his photographic work was donated to the London Guildhall Museum, which unfortunately was destroyed during the Second World War.
Queen Victoria’s clothing and boots will be sold at Hansons, Heage Lane, Etwall, Derbyshire, DE65 6LS, on January 21. To find out more, email: [email protected].
To browse the January Antiques & Collectors catalogue CLICK HERE.
Hansons holds regular vintage textiles and costume auctions and its consultant valuer, Notty Hornblower, owner of Derbyshire's Hope House Costume Museum, offers free valuations. To find out about her valuation events, please email [email protected]