The bidding for memoribilia related to Britain's Queen Mother surpassed all expectations on Sunday, fetching the heirs of her faithful servant William Tallon who had decided to auction off the gifts, notes and trinkets he had in his possession, a sizeable fortune.
Tallon died last year, aged 72.
“Make mine a stiff one,” a simple instruction in writing, asking Billy to mix her two strong measures of gin and Dubonnet sold for £16,000, amid audible gasps.
Such notes were among nearly the 700 lots of royal memorabilia collected over five decades by Tallon. The bouffant-haired aide, resplendent in medals and tails - nicknamed Backstairs Billy - was ever-present at virtually every public appearance by the Queen Mother for 52 years, till he died.
Another note asks Tallon “to push some of the snow off the balustrade on the balcony, as the birds have nowhere to perch”.
A portrait of the Queen Mother by the artist Sir James Gunn was the highest selling item at £30,000. Painted in 1945, it shows the her seated on a gold chair wearing an all-black evening dress and a pearl necklace.
Over 400 buyers and spectators crowded into the Reeman Dansie House auction room in Colchester, Essex. But there were also other bidders from around the world, bidding by telephone and internet.
Eight letters from Diana, Princess of Wales, were also up for sale. These included her thanking Tallon for putting flowers in Clarence House on the eve of her wedding in July 1981, replying to his congratulatory notes following the birth of her sons, William and Harry. Diana's notes went under the hammer for a total of £18,740.