Titanic survivor letter sells for nearly $16,000

WASHINGTON (AFP) - An indignant letter from a British aristocrat who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 has sold for US$11,875 (S$15,962), an auction house in New England said Friday.

Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon, a target of public outrage after she fled the doomed ocean liner on a near-empty lifeboat, penned the two-page letter in London a month after the disaster.

"How kind of you to send me a cable of sympathy from New York on our safety," the fashion designer wrote to a stateside friend.

"According to the way we've been treated by England on our return we didn't seem to have done the right thing in being saved at all!!!! Isn't it disgraceful."

RR Auction, which regularly handles Titanic memorabilia, had expected the letter to fetch as much as US$6,000 at Thursday's live auction in Boston, which followed a week of online bidding.

"We remain fascinated by the Titanic tragedy and will for years to come," the firm's executive vice-president Bobby Livingston said in a statement on Friday.

Duff-Gordon, 48, and her husband Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon, 49, were travelling first class on the Titanic on its ill-starred maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York.

They became the subjects of derision when it emerged that their lifeboat carried only 12 people, including seven crew members, despite having room for 40 souls.

Some 1,500 died when the Titanic went down off Newfoundland on April 15, 1912 after hitting an iceberg, in what remains the most storied maritime tragedy of all time.

The couple were alleged to have bribed the crew in order not to go back to rescue other survivors - a claim that a British inquiry concluded was unfounded.

They were the only passengers called to testify before the inquiry, conducted by the British Wreck Commissioner in London from May through mid-July 1912.

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