Bonhams was a hit with objects from “The Crown”


Even if some see it as martingales like in a casino, the life of auctions does not in reality obey any logic. Quite the contrary. This is the world where desire meets the unconscious. This is evident in the double sale that Bonhams held in London on January 7 live and from January 11 to February 8 online. This involved dispersing 473 costumes, sets and accessories from the series “The Crown” designed for Netflix. I suppose you see what it is, even if the last season, broadcast after the death of Elizabeth II, did not have the same impact as the others. It was as if nothing held together (starting with the storyline) once the protagonist disappeared from the scene.


So Bonhams, the auction house which is gradually nibbling away at the ground that has always been occupied by Christie’s and Sotheby’s, achieved a triumph a few days ago. All the lots sold, often well above a reasonable estimate. It was as if buyers were acquiring relics when in fact they were simulacra. As Charlie Thomas, director of the Inventories and Collections Department in the United Kingdom, says, these are objects “so close to reality”. A truth on which the authors of “The Crown” have, however, embroidered a lot in order to create fiction. These nevertheless remain copies, which could be described as “certified”. Artifacts which certainly required a lot of work, and therefore expense. But still copies of originals by definition inaccessible.

The detailed results raise questions. Still, the 1987 Jaguar XJ-SC 3.6-liter Convertible supposedly used by Lady Di comes in at 70,350 pounds. The most expensive lot. This is a real car of the supposed brand. I suppose in fact that the producers of “The Crown” did not go so far as to build a fake Jaguar from scratch. But would you, I ask you, have spent 12,800 pounds for the reproduction of the famous gates of Buckingham Palace and 10,880 for the replica of the facade of 10 Downing Street? What to do with it, I ask you? Ditto with the “only reproduction in the world” of the Gold State Coach, the uncomfortable royal carriage, which sold for 56,280 pounds. Difficult to ride with it, even if you buy the necessary horses.

A madness for corgis

The dresses were of course easily found buyers. We can still admit that the new version of Lady Di’s “revenge dress” could have obtained 12,800 pounds. It can be worn sometimes, as long as you fit a size 38. But the ceremonial clothes from the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953! Impossible to wear in public, it seems to me, even if the figure of 19,200 pounds probably does not correspond to the price of their manufacture. However, it is in favor of supposedly cheap accessories that Internet users have gone wild. Two small Beswick porcelain corgis and a silver frame containing a black and white photo of the same type of dog, together priced at between 200 and 300 pounds, peaked at 3,328 pounds. And the theoretically cheapest lot went from 60-80 pounds to 1664. It was a Swizzle stick for stirring drinks that the imitation queen mother used in the series. Champagne!

The total of the two sales reached 1,674,000 pounds, which is nothing extraordinary today. Nonetheless, supporters of the monarchy can rest assured. The “firm” is still successful. Blessed bread, as they turn white hair because of Charles III’s cancer and Kate’s fatally mysterious illness. Although finished on the small screens, the royal soap opera continues. It is even in the process of merging with the legendary “Emergency” which launched George Clooney. Fifteen seasons between 1994 and 2009…

N.B. This is the perfect opportunity to inform you that Bonhams Switzerland is now headed by Stéphanie Schleining, who will share her time between Geneva and Zurich. She already had a career at Phillips, Sotheby’s and worked at the now defunct Daniel Varenne gallery in Geneva.

This article is originally published on


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