Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (1 & 2 March 2017)

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Date of Auction: 1st & 2nd March 2017

Sold for £10,000

Estimate: £10,000 - £12,000

An extremely rare 2nd Class badge of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert attributed to Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Queen Victoria’s last granddaughter, later married to King Alfonso XIII to become Queen Ena of Spain

The Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, 2nd Class badge, carved onyx cameo of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in a frame of 22 pearls (replacing original brilliants) surmounted by a jewelled crown and loop suspension, reverse of cameo signed and dated ‘J. Ronca 1881’, mounted on bow; together with Spain, Alphonso XIII, Ceremonial Key to the Bedchamber, silver-gilt and enamels, fitted with pin for wearing, good very fine and extremely rare (2) £10000-12000

Footnote

Sold with a letter of provenance from Patrick Esclafer de la Rode, General Secretary of the Household of H.R.H. the Infant Don Jamie de Bourbon, Duke of Segovia [2nd son of King Alfonso and Queen Ena], signed and dated [Chateau de] La Roche Pontissac, 20 December 1981, in which he testifies that ‘this miniature (sic) decoration of the Order of Victoria & Albert was handed to me at the house of Maitre Chopard, public notary in Lausanne, testamentary executor of H.R.H. the Duke of Segovia... This decoration was worn by H.M. Queen Victoria of Spain (born Princess of Battenburg, granddaughter of H.M. Queen Victoria of England) who wore it during her childhood in the English Court. It consists of a cameo surrounded by pearls and surmounted by an English Royal Crown and is set in precious stones.’

Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena (known to her family by her last name ‘Ena’, and subsequently as Queen Ena) was born at Balmoral on 24 October 1887, daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice, youngest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was raised in Queen Victoria’s household and, after her death in 1901, the Battenbergs moved to London and took up residence in Kensington Palace. After converting to the Catholic faith in March 1906, she was married King Alfonso XIII of Spain on 31 May 1906. After the wedding ceremony, the royal procession was heading back to the Royal Palace when an assassination attempt was made on the King and Queen, by a bomb thrown by an anarchist from a balcony at the royal carriage. They both escaped injury although the Queen’s dress was spotted with the blood of a guard who was riding beside the carriage. When the Spanish royal family went into exile in April 1931, they went to live in France and later Italy. Victoria Eugenie and Alfonso later separated, and she lived for a while in the U.K. and afterwards in Switzerland, where she purchased a chateau, La Vielle Fontaine, outside Lausanne. She died in Lausanne on 15 April 1969, aged 81.

The Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, instituted in 1862 by Queen Victoria, was a personal award from the Queen to female members of the British Royal Family and female courtiers. As her long reign progressed it became apparent that her many granddaughters, not being British princesses but those of foreign ruling heads of state, were not eligible to receive this award. The Queen, therefore, caused a new Class of the Order to be introduced in March 1880 for these junior members of the Royal Family. It was to be inserted after the First Class but before the old Second and Third Classes, thus demoting the latter to Third and Fourth Classes respectively. The new Second Class, however, was to be ‘smaller but of greater value than the [old] Second Class’. In the end it emerged as a small onyx cameo in a crowned frame of small brilliants. Hand carved by Signor J. Ronca, these onyx cameos, although smaller in size, were three times the cost of the shell cameos used in the old Second Class badges, and made a greater use of diamond embellishment. The new Second Class was was given to fifteen of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters, six British and nine foreign, the last of these appointments being to Princess Victoria Eugenie.