Romantic gifts from a king to the ancestress of a future queen consort have been stolen from the stately home where they were on show. Rare keepsakes made from gold and precious stones and presented by King Edward VII to his last mistress, Alice Keppel, have been taken from Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire by thieves.
The items, which include a golden Faberge cigarette case, a blue enamel presentation box decorated with a diamond studded representation of the Prince of Wales’ feathers and a Cartier watch engraved with Alice Keppel’s initials, were taken in a robbery on September 8th 2019. They were part of an exhibition at Sudeley marking the relationship between the king and the woman he called ‘La Favorita’. Edward’s great, great grandson, Prince Charles, would go on to marry Alice’s great granddaughter, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.
The items which have been taken once belonged to Lord Ashcombe, a grandson of Alice Keppel, who brought them to Sudeley when he married Elizabeth, now Lady Ashcombe, who owns the famous castle. They were displayed alongside portraits of the king and his mistress in a display looking at their relationship which ran from 1898 until Edward’s death in 1910.
Four people were seen on the castle’s CCTV approaching the castle in the early hours of September 8th carrying a chair, a sledgehammer and a large bag. Police are appealing for information. Detective Superintendent Steve Bean said: “Clearly the stolen items are very distinctive and have a great deal of historical, as well as financial, value. They should be easy to identify and if anyone is aware of them being offered for sale I would urge them to report it to police as soon as possible”.
Sudeley was a famous royal residence for centuries. It was once the home of King Richard III and in the time of the Tudors it became the possession of King Henry VIII who stayed at the castle with his second queen, Anne Boleyn, in the autumn of 1535. His minister, Thomas Cromwell, stayed at nearby Winchcombe Abbey and the three were involved in deep discussions during this period over the future of the monasteries in England.
Following Henry’s death, Sudeley became the home of his last queen, Katherine Parr, following her speedy remarriage to the dashing but unscrupulous Thomas Seymour. The pair lived here while waiting for the arrival of their first child and it was within its honey coloured walls that Katherine gave birth to a daughter before dying of childbed fever just days later. She is buried in St. Mary’s Church in the castle’s grounds.
In the late 16th century, Elizabeth I visited and was treated to a three day celebration that cost so much money her host, Lord Chandos, was almost bankrupted while during the English Civil War, the castle welcomed Charles I and was used as a base by Prince Rupert of the Rhine.
Modern royalty is no stranger to Sudeley Castle and in recent years the Duchess of Cornwall has visited.