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How historic royals became big money spinners in the auction rooms

At the end of this month, a lock of hair snipped from the head of a woman who died almost 500 years ago will be sold at auction. The estimate on this tiny lot is up to £500. The sale will take place just days after a pair of 100 year old bloomers sold for over £12,000. And what do both these unusual objects have in common? They both belonged to long dead queens. Royal memorabilia is booming.

Queen Victoria’s bloomers reached a record price at auction recently

The hair that will go on sale once belonged to Catherine Parr, last consort of the much married Henry VIII. It was snipped from her head in 1783, a full 235 years after her death, after her lost tomb was found near her final home, Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. It is being sold at Lawrences Auctioneers at Crewkerne in Somerset and experts expect it to have raised between £300 and £500 when the gavel comes down on July 31st.

The lock of hair will be sold just weeks after a pair of bloomers once worn by Queen Victoria sold for £12,090. The new owner, thought to be a lady from England, got value for money because there’s plenty of cotton in these bloomers – they boast a 45.5 inch waist with equally large legs attached.

They came up for sale at Chippenham Auction Rooms in Wiltshire where auctioneer, Richard Edmonds, pointed out that the amount they went for was a ‘record breaking price for an item of Victoria’s intimate apparel’. Last year a pair of silk bloomers belonging to the monarch sold for £6,200.

The white cotton bloomers bore the monogram ‘VR’ and were sold at the same time as other lots that included nightdresses worn by the queen and clothes belonging to her second daughter, Princess Alice. Mr Edmonds put the price down partly to the fact that they were well preserved and said ”Victorian royal clothing comes up for sale occasionally but rarely in this excellent condition”.

The condition might have something to do with it but both the 2014 and 2015 prices represent big sales for items whose real value lies in who once owned them. And that huge value as well as a seemingly growing number of royal items hitting the catalogues shows that regal memorabilia is big business right now.

Even more modern items are in much demand – recently slices of cake from five famous royal weddings went under the hammer including a chunk from the nuptials of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In December 2014, another slice of the same cake went at auction for around £4,000.

It seems that when it comes to modern collectables, anything with a royal link is proving big business right now.

Photo credit: Alexander Bassano [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons