Auction of Thatcher possessions raises $7m

The late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's famous red ministerial box sold for $514,100.
The late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's famous red ministerial box sold for $514,100.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

LONDON • The sale of the late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher's possessions has raised £3.3 million (S$7 million), auction house Christie's said on Tuesday.

A figure of an American bald eagle given to her by her close ally, former United States president Ronald Reagan, fetched the highest price for an individual item at £266,500 after a flurry of bidding in person, online and by phone.

The figure, with the message "with best wishes from Ronald Reagan", was sold to an online buyer. It had a top estimated sale price of £8,000.

Thatcher's famous red ministerial box was the next most expensive item. It sold for £242,500, above an initial estimate of £3,000 to £5,000.

Auctioneer Jussi Pykkanen finalised the sale to an unidentified buyer with a bang of his hammer, to applause from the audience.

The box, in which the late Conservative leader would carry confidential documents, is one of the most iconic of about 200 of Thatcher's personal belongings offered for sale by Christie's.

Many have been advertised online since Dec 3, with the sale due to end yesterday. Some 200 buyers followed the sale online and many others by telephone, including prospective bidders from Austria, South Korea, Australia and the US.

A sheet featuring a typed prayer attributed to St Francis of Assisi and signed by Thatcher, which she quoted upon first arriving in Downing Street in 1979, sold for £37,500, above an initial estimate of between £600 and £900.

Her blue velvet wedding dress, valued at between £10,000 and £15,000, went for £25,000 to a buyer in Oman.

Known as the "Iron Lady", Thatcher was Britain's longestserving prime minister of the 20th century. She led the country from 1979 to 1990. She died in 2013 at the age of 87.

She favoured well-cut suits in strong colours, smart handbags and silk scarves, which became synonymous with the term "power dressing".

Her handbags were an essential part of her ensemble and even entered the political vocabulary of the time as figurative accessories to her uncompromising approach, especially where European leaders were concerned.

The term "handbagging" was coined by fellow Conservative Member of Parliament Julian Critchley to describe her style in cabinet meetings. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as an action by a woman to "verbally attack or crush (a person or idea) ruthlessly and forcefully".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2015, with the headline 'Auction of Thatcher possessions raises $7m'. Print Edition | Subscribe