Royal relics

18 May 2010

Miniature portrait of Madame Royale and Louis XVII painted by Pulchérie, the daughter of Madame de Genlis.

On the 14th October 2008, Christies in Paris held an auction of various items belonging to the Comte and Comtesse de Paris, who are claimants to the throne of France. Amongst the canes, family photographs and dozens of seals, there were a couple of lots that would excite anyone interested in Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

A razor used by Louis XVI in the Temple prison, still with the signature of his faithful valet, Clery, inscribed on the side. This item was expected to sell for €3,000- €4,000 but actually went for €20,900.

A 9k gold ring with the hair of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, which was given by the Queen to the Dauphin’s governess, Madame de Tourzel. This was expected to sell for €1,500-€2,000 but actually went for €25,700.

A fragment of puce silk and lace from a gown worn by Marie Antoinette while imprisoned in the Temple. This was once owned by Madame de Tourzel as well. This item was expected to sell for €4,000 – €5,000 but actually went for an astounding €55,700.

A silk purse embroidered by Marie Antoinette while imprisoned in the Temple. This too was formerly owned by Madame de Tourzel and as a nice touch, it was listed with a replica of Marie Antoinette’s final letter, sent to her sister in law Madame Élisabeth on the 16th October 1793. This purse was expected to sell for €12,000 – €15,000 but went for €97,700.

These are amazing artifacts, but what interests me is the big difference between the expected price and the amount that they eventually sold for. It looks like Christies seriously underestimated the amount of interest and reverence that relics of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette can still inspire, even today.