The sale of A Prime Minister’s Life: Sir Harold and Lady Mary Wilson Collection was described by Hansons’ book specialist Jim Spencer as “a 50,000-piece jigsaw puzzle”.
The sale at Bishton Hall, near Stafford, on May 10 encompassed letters, photos and memorabilia from Wilson’s time in office filled with reminders of his connections with the rich and famous of his day. The cache came for sale from the estate of Lady Wilson who died last year at the age of 102.
Spencer said: “I don’t think Harold and Mary ever threw anything away so it really was a time warp. From dinner place cards to letters, every piece had a story to tell.”
A watercolour painting by Prince Charles with letters gifting it to Mary was hammered down at £10,500 (plus 20% buyer’s premium) against an estimate of £2000-3000 to a buyer on thesaleroom.com. It is thought to be a record for art by the heir to the throne.
Bidders, largely private collectors, on the internet, phone and in the room helped the hammer total to £226,000. Every lot has now sold with post-sale bids coming in for a handful of remaining items.
Wilson, who famously said that “a week was a long time in politics”, also predicted early in his leadership that “the Tory Party will get rid of Mrs Thatcher in three years’ time”.
An online-only auction of 170 lots that coincided with the 40th anniversary of Thatcher’s historic election as the UK’s first female prime minister raised a premium-inclusive £1.08m at Christie’s.
The third and final part in a trilogy of auctions held as part of the arrangements following her death in 2013 attracted bidders from 36 countries.
The top lot of the white-glove sale, from May 2-8, was a multi-gem and diamond Van Cleef & Arpels brooch hammered down at £40,000.