Princess Diana estate raises 21 mln pounds in heirloom sale

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Princess Diana's family has sold off hundreds of heirlooms, from horse-drawn carriages to valuable art works, for a total price of 21.1 million pounds, auctioneers said Thursday.

A three-day sale of items from Althorp, the late princess's childhood home in central England, and the family's London residence raised the equivalent of 32 million dollars or 25.4 million euros, said auction house Christie's.

Diana, who died in a Paris car crash in 1997, is buried in the grounds of the estate. There is also an exhibition about her life at the house.

The high-profile London auctions attracted worldwide attention, with bids coming in via the Internet from as far afield as China, Australia, the Philippines and Morocco.

"These sales captured the imagination and interest of collectors and institutions from around the world," said Orlando Rock and Andrew Waters, from Christie's, in a joint statement.

"The results reflect the enduring appeal of the Spencer family, and their discerning taste through successive generations."

A major sale came Tuesday with the purchase of a Peter Paul Rubens work, "A Commander Being Armed for Battle", for nine million pounds (13.6 million dollars, 10.8 million euros).

The work by the Flemish master, completed between 1612-1614, is thought to depict the 16th-century Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.

A 19th-century horse-drawn carriage, the Spencer State Chariot, was another highlight, selling for 133,000 pounds, far above pre-sale estimates of between 50,000 and 80,000 pounds.

It was sold as part of a two-day auction of contents from Althorp's attics, stables and cellars, in which more than 750 lots were offered.

Also sold were a collection of World War I-era military uniforms, coronation chairs, butlers' trays and an array of textiles. More than 1,000 different people bid at the auction which fetched a total of two million pounds.

The final sale Thursday saw items from the family's historic London residence, Spencer House, go under the hammer. These included furniture, works of art and porcelain. Seventy lots were sold for 4.8 million pounds.

The trustees of the Althorp country estate said the windfall would provide them with money to invest in the property sector, which would support their aim of ensuring the estate "thrives for future generations".

It could also be used for work at Althorp. Part of a 14,000-acre country estate, the stately home is undergoing a massive re-roofing and restoration project.

© 2010 AFP

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