A Collection of Princess Diana’s Handwritten Letters Are Going Up for Auction

Princess Diana wearing what she called her "Elvis dress" on a visit to Hong Kong in 1989.
Princess Diana wearing what she called her "Elvis dress" on a visit to Hong Kong in 1989.
Georges De Keerle/Getty Images

On June 25, 1997, just months before Princess Diana’s death in August, dozens of her dresses were auctioned off at Christie’s in New York. Now, some of her handwritten letters regarding that event are hitting the auction block.

Princess Diana wrote the letters to her friend Elizabeth Tilberis, editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar at the time, both leading up to and after the auction.

“The news of the auction came out far too early & it’s due to be announced next week from Christies! [sic],” she penned on February 25, 1997. “It’s been quite an event sorting out the frocks—memories flooding back & some excellent ones too!”

Princess Diana's letter to Elizabeth Tilberis from February 25, 1997.Swann Auction Galleries

She ended up choosing a total of 79 garments, including several of her most memorable ones. According to The New York Times, the slinky velvet gown she wore while dancing with John Travolta at a White House dinner in 1985 fetched an impressive $222,500, and what she called her “Elvis dress”—a pearl-encrusted white number with a matching, high-necked bolero jacket—sold for $151,000. Overall, the auction raised a staggering $3.25 million, which was donated to the Royal Marsden Hospital Cancer Fund and the AIDS Crisis Trust.

“It was stunning the amount made by the auction last week,” she wrote to Tilberis on July 1. “How typical of the Americans to be so totally generous. I can always rely on them!”

The personal letters are estimated to sell somewhere in the region of $6000 to $9000, but they’re not the only Princess Diana items in the auction. Swann Auction Galleries is also offering an auction catalog signed by Princess Diana, Tilberis’s paddle registration card, Princess Diana’s signed menu from a 1990 benefit dinner held by the British Deaf Association, and a 1996 Christmas card with a photograph of Princes William and Harry with their cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.

A Christmas card from 1996 featuring the young Princes William and Harry with their cousins, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie.Swann Auction Galleries

In addition to the royal family memorabilia, the auction—which takes place on Thursday, February 20—will include rare first editions of several Jane Austen novels, too.

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

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Prices subject to change.

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The Queen’s Guard May Have to Give Up Their Iconic Bearskin Hats

Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Can you tell that this is real bear fur?
Defence Images, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The UK’s departure from the European Union (EU) has given its leaders the chance to negotiate new trade deals and maybe even ban the sale of certain products—like fur. It’s something animal rights activists have long been pushing for, and a recently publicized letter from UK environment secretary George Eustice suggests that the government will indeed investigate the possibility.

As The Independent reports, Eustice wrote to the chief executive of the British Fur Trade Association that “once the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU has been established, there will be an opportunity to consider further steps it could take in relation to fur sales.” It’s far from a definitive proclamation, but since Eustice has seemed open to banning fur in the past, the letter has been taken as a positive sign for the anti-fur movement.

If the UK does eventually prohibit the sale of fur, this could mean the end of the authentic bearskin hats worn by the Queen’s Guard, who are most often seen stationed outside Buckingham Palace. According to Londonist, the 18-inch hats are created with fur from black bears killed during Canada’s annual black bear cull—a large-scale hunt that helps keep the population under control—and the UK Ministry of Defence purchases up to 100 new hats for the famously unflappable infantrymen each year.

The tradition of donning such eccentric headgear dates back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, when Napoleon’s Imperial Guard wore similar hats to make them seem taller and more intimidating. After the French were defeated by the Duke of Wellington and his British army, Britain adopted the hats as a symbol of victory.

But even if the UK does prohibit fur in the future, the Queen’s Guard could still keep the custom going. After all, there are plenty of convincing kinds of fake fur on the market these days. And as for what Queen Elizabeth II might think about the shift, we’re guessing she’d condone it; she herself gave up wearing fur products in 2019.

[h/t The Independent]