Royal Hair Makes Regal Price at Bonhams

As the only wife to survive Henry VIII, Catherine Parr (1512-1548) has always had a lucky streak. This good fortune continued today as a lock of her hair sold for £2,160 – over ten times its pre-sale estimate- in the Gentleman’s Library sale at Bonhams, New Bond Street, London.

After much bidding in the room the blond lock of hair eventually sold to a gentleman with a special connection to the royal lady. The buyer, Charles Hudson lives on an estate in Worcestershire that was once given to Catherine Parr as a present by her husband King Henry VIII. Mr Hudson said that he was delighted to be able to bring the lock of hair back to its rightful home.

Mr Hudson explained that on the death of Catherine Parr in 1548, the Wick Estate, near Pershore, was given to Anthony Babington a young Catholic nobleman. Babington was executed in 1586 when he was found guilty of conspiring with Mary Queen of Scots to overthrow Elizabeth I. Elizabeth then bestowed the property on her favourite, Sir Walter Raleigh.

The last of King Henry VIII’s six wives, Catherine Parr led an extraordinary life, marrying a total of four times. She married Henry, her third husband, in 1543, at Hampton Court Palace and is given credit for reconciling the King with his two daughters Mary and Elizabeth. After the King’s death Catherine married her true love, Thomas Seymour – brother to the late Jane Seymour and on discovering that she was pregnant moved to Sudeley Castle in Gloucestershire. She died six days after giving birth to a daughter, Mary and is buried at Sudeley Castle.

A collection of eight oil paintings of prize-winning pigeons also soared above estimate today at the Bonhams sale. Each of the paintings, which recall the heroic efforts made by these birds in World War II, sold for considerably more than its estimate and the entire collection, which was expected to make in the region of £3,000-4,000, sold for an incredible £10,616. The vendor of the paintings, Jack Lovell, who played an extraordinary role in the Second World War in putting together an elite “fighting force” of pigeons, was delighted with the result.

Mr Lovell was approached by the Secret Services at the beginning of the War and asked to build four lofts, called the “XX” lofts at Dover. The birds, which became known as MI14, were dropped into enemy lines from bomber planes, suspended by parachutes. Some of the birds acted as double agents and posed as German pigeons. Examination of two captured Nazi birds meant that copies of the specific German leg tags could be fitted to Jack Lovell’s birds. This allowed them to infiltrate Nazi lofts and then fly back to their lofts in England carrying with them German intelligence. Other birds, which were used by the French Resistance, would fly back to Bletchley Park so that their messages could be de-coded. In this way vital intelligence, which saved the lives of thousands, reached the shores of England.