A travel trunk belonging to the ill-fated French queen Marie-Antoinette (1755-1793) sold for more than five times its estimate in an auction of royal memorabilia near her one-time home at the Palace of Versailles.
The travel accessory is made of wood, lined with leather and reinforced with studded wrought-iron bands. The trunk with the studded “Queen’s room number 10” inscription went for 43,750 euros (S$68,600), having had an estimate of between 8,000 and 10,000 euros.
The Osenat auction house said that there had been fierce bidding late Sunday “both in the room, over the telephone and on the Internet” for the relics of France’s most iconic queen.
A large embroidered serviette used during the coronation of the Austrian-born monarch – who lost her head during the French Revolution – also went for several times its estimate.
Marie-Antoinette had fond memories of the coronation ceremony in Reims cathedral in 1775, writing to her mother in Vienna that “it’s an amazing thing to be so well received two months after the revolt” over high bread prices.
The damask serviette embroidered with the royal fleurs-de-lis insignia and leaf crowns on the periphery, with a bouquet of roses at its centre, went for 14,500 euros. It is accompanied with an original note in pencil preserved under glass: “Napkin used by Marie-Antoinette during the coronation, and which has been preserved by Mgneur de Coussy who used it during his emigration and from whom we have it”.
Ironically, it was her supposed insistence that the starving peasants eat cake – “Let them eat brioche” – that would later help seal her fate and that of the French monarchy, although there is no evidence that Marie-Antoinette actually said that.
A lock of hair from her husband, Louis XVI, who also lost his head on the guillotine, went under the hammer for 4,000 euros. The couple are still regarded as martyr saints to French monarchists, with the king’s hair kept inside a medallion of rock crystal in the shape of a heart.