Queen Victoria’s black silk bodices with 36-inch waists are set to fetch £9,000 at auction – 150 years after she wore them while mourning Albert’s death
- The three black bodices were worn by 4ft 8in monarch in the 1860s and ’70s
- The smallest garment for sale now has a bust of 40ins and waist of 36in
- They are smaller than outfits she wore later, when her waist ballooned to 48ins
- The bodices are expected to sell for £3,000 each at auction this week
Black mourning clothes worn by Queen Victoria following the death of her husband have been discovered 150 years later – by the family of one of her servants who ‘took them as mementos’.
The three black bodices, which formed the top half of her famous two-piece mourning dresses, were worn by the 4ft 8in monarch in the 1860s and ’70s after Prince Albert’s untimely death in 1861.
The auctioneers say it is uncommon to find items from earlier in the monarch’s life, with most of it coming from her last decade in the 1890s.
They are much smaller than outfits she wore later on in life, when her bust and waist had ballooned to 48ins.
The smallest garment for sale now has a bust of 40ins and waist of 36in, showing how much weight the Empress of India piled on in her old age.
Black mourning clothes worn by Queen Victoria (in her mourning garb with John Brown her loyal servant) following the death of her husband have been discovered 150 years later
One of three bodices once belonging to Queen Victoria. The auctioneers say it is uncommon to find items from earlier in the monarch’s life, with most of it coming from her last decade
After the Queen had finished with the garments they were kept by George Searle, who served the Royal Family his whole life.
The pieces were passed down through Mr Searle’s family and are now coming up for sale with Kerry Taylor Auctions of London.
They are all made from ‘the finest black silk’, and each carry an estimate of £3,000.
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It comes after pictures recently emerged of the mourning outfit worn by Victoria following the death of her grandson, which is set to go on display for the first time at the Museum of London.
Following the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, Victoria exclusively wore mourning dresses.
All three items are incredibly ‘low-key’ and feature very few signs of frivolity; they all feature a practical button-up arrangement and have tassels hanging from the bottom.
They are also all black, although there is some white colour around the sleeves and collars.
The bodices are thought to have been taken from Victoria’s private apartments by Mr Searle, who was at the time working in the role of ‘page of the backstairs’.
Blast from the past: This mourning outfit worn by Victoria following the death of her grandson, which is set to go on display for the first time at the Museum of London
The three bodices are expected to fetch £3,000 each. Following the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, Victoria exclusively wore mourning dresses
The job included working directly for the sovereign and her consort, with duties including serving meals and tidying personal apartments.
It is thought he took the dresses without his boss’s knowledge, as ‘she wouldn’t have noticed’.
Kerry Taylor, boss of the auction house, said: ‘After Albert died, Victoria spent the rest of her life in mourning but it’s quite rare to find pieces like this from the 1860s and 70s.
‘Most surviving garments date from much later in her life, but with these designs you can see that she did still have a little bit of a waistline.
‘George Searle would have been one of the very few servants with access to her private space so I think it’s unlikely she would have known he took the clothes.
One of the more elaborate bodices in the collection. It is thought a servant took the dresses without his boss’s knowledge, as ‘she wouldn’t have noticed’
‘I suppose when all your clothes are black dresses you’re not going to spot it when three disappear from the wardrobe.’
Despite the possible theft, it is thought Victoria was incredibly fond of her senior member of staff and she continued to write to him after his retirement.
His loyalty was also recognised in 1872 when he was awarded the Victoria Faithful Service medal at Balmoral Castle.
The bodices have remained in his family since the Victorian era, but after several years being passed around his descendants’ lofts, they have now decided to sell.
The period the items date back to was subject to the 1997 film Mr Brown which focused on the Queen’s relationship with a Scottish servant, John Brown, played by Billy Connolly.
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