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Bonhams to Sell Royal Memorabilia from Queen Victoria’s Coachman

An intriguing collection of Royal Memorabilia from two generations of the same family who worked for the British Royal family from 1843 to the early 1900’s will be sold by Bonhams in Knowle on 17th November.

The Southgate Sands family connection with the Royal family begins with Thomas (1829-1906). He had entered the service of the Queen in 1843, was state postillion in the time of the Prince Consort and was her majesty’s personal coachman for over a decade before retiring in 1896 after fifty three years service.

Whilst coachman Thomas would travel with the Queen wherever she went, whether it was Windsor Castle, Holyrood, Balmoral, Osborne House, or to the continent. It is doubtful whether anyone has driven so many Kings, Queens, Emperors, Empresses, Czars, Czarinas as Thomas. Upon his retirement the Queen told him that he would be welcome at the castle whenever he liked to come, and it is a sign of the Queen’s regard for her coachman that it was reported in newspapers of the time that she had travelled to Slough some years later, accompanied by Princess Henry of Battenberg and Princess Louis of Battenberg to visit Thomas.

With such close proximity to the Royal family it seems little surprise that his four sons secured careers within the palaces. Thomas jnr (b. 1852) was dry store keeper at Windsor Castle, William (b. 1853) was inspector of furniture at Buckingham Palace, Henry (b. 1862) was dry store keeper at Buckingham Palace and was married to the nursemaid of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren, while Arthur (b. 1865) was wheel postillion.

Of the four sons it was William that seems to have risen the highest. He was born in the Royal mews at Windsor Castle and followed his father into service upon his marriage in 1884 as a clerk at Buckingham Palace. In 1893 he was promoted to Tarpesier at Holyrood House, rising to Inspector of furniture at Holyrood in 1901. In 1906 he was further promoted to inspector of furniture at Buckingham Palace, a position which gave him responsibility for all of the pictures, antiques and furniture of the palace and a position which brought him into constant personal touch with the King and Queen. This position also meant that, when the court was away, he had charge of the building.

When William Southgate Sands M.V.O. died in 1924 he requested in his will that his executors offer to Queen Mary his William and Mary chest of drawers, a small French bureau, and a Louis XVIII settee “which I would like her to accept”.

Bonhams are selling a range of items belonging to the Southgate Sands family on 17 November in Knowle. These items include photographs, silver cigarette cases; cufflinks; brooches; buttons; a hunting knife; stick pins, including a rare John Brown memoriam. Most items are expected to sell for £80 to £600.

Peter Parker of Bonhams Knowle, says: “This is a rather special collection of objects from valued royal retainers who served three monarchs for eight decades. The come bearing an amazing provenance and offer material mementos of a fascinating period of British history.”