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Handbagged! Thatcher Auction Fetches £3m

The Prime Ministerial Dispatch Box, part of the collection of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher during an auction preview at Christie's in London
The Prime Ministerial Dispatch Box, part of the collection of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher during an auction preview at Christie's in London

Power tussle: Prime Ministerial Dispatch Box belonging to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher at an auction at Christie’s in London

How much would you pay for a raincoat, a well-worn red briefcase, an American bald eagle and an old wedding dress? Perhaps  you wouldn’t even give them a second glance. But not when they belonged to the Iron Lady. Her eclectic cast-offs  had been well-marketed before the Christie’s auction, even sparking a heated war of words between her estate and the venerable Victoria and Albert Museum accused of snubbing Mrs Thatcher by rejecting some of the items.

Her red prime-ministerial dispatch box fetched the highest bid of £242,000 surpassing a pre-auction estimate of between £3,000 and £5,000. The total sales figure stood at £3, 280, 475 excluding online bids that is still active. With bids pouring in from as far afield as US, South Korea and Australia it would have to be an iron-willed admirer willing to spend above the odds who had any chance of bagging any of the items that also included brooches, jewellery, dresses, and correspondence. Britain’s only female prime minister from 1979 to 1990, Baroness Thatcher died at the Ritz Hotel on 8 April 2013 at the age of 87.

A signed typescript of her famous speech outside 10 Downing Street after her election reciting the words of St Francis of Assisi, “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony,” sold for £37,500. Some of the more eclectic items included a Kaiser bisque model of an American bald eagle, a gift from US president Ronald Reagan to the former prime minister. It was bought for £266,500 exceeding its estimate of £8,000.

Other items that went under the hammer included personal letters from Mr Reagan to Mrs Thatcher, such as one to congratulate her on 11 years in power which sold for £25,000, and one wishing a belated birthday to her husband Sir Denis, sold for £32,500. Her wedding dress and matching muff also exceeded its estimate set at between £10,000 and £15,000. She wore them to marry Denis Thatcher on 13 December 1951 at Wesley’s Chapel in London. An online auction of another 200 items closes on Wednesday.

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