Churchill and Lord Nelson autographs command high prices at Sotheby's

Last Thursday's auction of English Literature, History, Children's Books and Illustrations at Sotheby's offered up some particular highlights for collectors and fans of British history alike.

Amongst the 215 lots on sale, autographed documents from two key figures, Winston Churchill and Lord Horatio Nelson were particular highlights.

Collectible documents related to the late Sir Winston Churchill, Britain's leader during the darkest days of the Second World War, were sold in eight different lots.

Winston Churchill
Autographed Photos of Churchill
are available even today

The highlights included a collection of letters and documents belong to Mr Nigel Patrickson, who worked for Churchill, framing and restoring various pieces of artwork.

The collection included four typed letters signed by Churchill, as well as a framed and autographed picture of the then elderly leader alongside his wife Clementine.

In addition to this, were letters from Patrickson himself, including one account to future Prime Minister Edward Heath on how Churchill had over painted a mouse on Ruben and Snyder's "The Lion and the Mouse."

The collection also featured two booklets relating to Churchill's 1965 funeral. The entire collection came with an auction estimate of £2,500, which it promptly doubled, bringing in £5,000.

Additionally a rare signed, first edition copy of Winston Churchill's 1900 book "Ian Hamilton's March" proved a highlight.

The book was inscribed "to Samuel Smethurst Esq from Winston S. Churchill."

Smethurst was a Methodist lay preacher and close confidant of Churchill, with letters sent between the two currently residing in the British archives. With an auction estimate of £4,000 attached, the signed book sold for £8,750.

Six lots relating to the life of Lord Horatio Nelson also came up for sale at the auction.

Of the eight lots available at the auction, highlights included a previously unpublished letter written to his assistant John Udney expressing his desire to attack a key stronghold of the French.  The autographed letter had an estimated auction price of £4,000 but sold for £6,875 to one lucky bidder.

Elsewhere, collectors were treated to a more personal signed document, as a letter to Lord Nelson's famous mistress Emma Hamilton, came up for sale with an estimated auction price of £2,000.

George Romney's 1782-84 Portrait of Lord Nelson's Mistress Emma Hamilton
The letter offered collectors an insight into a more poetic side of Nelson, who recalled the visit of Lord Mecklerburg Strelitz to his mistress with lines like:

"...he admired your picture most exceedingly but who does not, for where can your resemblance be, not in the world and may heavens keep you a Non Pareil..."

It proved hugely popular, selling for over four times the estimate at £8,750.

Yet it was to be another signed document which garnered the most at auction, with the sale of a two page letter sent to Rear Admiral John Knight.

The document gave key insights into the campaign endured by Lord Nelson and his crew. 

Dated the 17th of October 1805, Nelson explains how they are running out of drinking water but to"keep this news to yourself or we shall see it in an English newspaper..." He also explains that he is "anxious for an Easterly Wind", which would encourage the enemy to leave port and engage with them.

Undoubtedly though, the letter is most evocative because, within days of writing it, Lord Nelson's body would be received by Admiral Knight, making it one of the last written communications signed by the great leader.

It was given further prominence by the fact that Nelson signed it "Nelson & Bronte" with Bronte being the new title he had been given. Sotheby's placed an auction estimate of £12,000 on the truly unique autographed letter though this figure was nearly trebled with the letter reaching £32,450 in what proved to be one of the highlights of the sale.


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