A stroll through Bonhams’ sale of costumes and props from The Crown is like entering a surreal world where Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace have somehow come together, and where the lines between what’s real and what’s royal are bizarrely blurred .
Could this really be a life-size replica of the impossibly decorated Golden State Coach I see before me? Did anyone really go to the trouble of recreating Sir William Chambers’ 1760 rococo design, all for a few flashy television moments? It turns out they did so, “with some artistic license,” according to the auction house’s listing.
From the sublime to… countless cocktail bowls, complete with bottles of Tanqueray gin, silver-plated ice tongs and retro soft drink siphons (yours for an estimated £60-80), a set of new nodding figures in the guise of Imelda Staunton as Elizabeth II ( £80-120) and a £2,000-3,000 replica of the famous sapphire and diamond Garrard engagement ring that Charles gave to Diana in 1981. Even the gates of Buckingham Palace go to the highest bidder.
If there’s sometimes an uneasy feeling that this feels like a final sell-out of the British monarchy, that’s because it is, but not – as we’ve always had to remind ourselves with The Crown – for the actual monarchy, of course. . No, we’ll never be able to peek into Diana’s makeup bag, brush our hair with Princess Margaret’s silver brushes or admire the model ships in Prince Philip’s real-life study, but we can with the items created for the Netflix show are made. during its six seasons, which ended in December.
“I’m so proud of it, it’s real museum quality,” says Meg Randell, head of designer handbags and fashion at Bonhams. She had “the most fun ever” visiting the vast warehouses of Elstree Studios to sort through countless items which have now been divided into two auctions – one live, one online – totaling more than 450 lots. The live auction of the top 150 lots will take place on February 7 at 12pm, while the online auction is live now, with 300 items ending on February 8. All lots can be viewed at the Bonhams salesroom in New Bond Street until 4pm on Monday. .
And what a spectacle the exhibition is to behold, with each character’s belongings arranged in such a way that it feels like you’re walking through their bedroom or dressing room. For a certain type of person, £5,000-8,000 for the French king-size gilt metal bed that Claire Foy, Olivia Colman and Imelda Staunton sleep in, as she plays the role of Elizabeth II, will be money well spent.
The huge variety of items on sale means Bonhams expects an eclectic mix of buyers. “The majority of people will bid at the last minute, so we don’t really know who they are exactly, but it’s been so interesting to see where the interest is coming from so far,” says Randell. “There are a lot of people in Britain, a lot of interest from America, France, Spain and Asia. It seems to have captured the imagination worldwide.
“At the top end you have real collectors who buy because they are royal or film collectors. Some may buy because of the actors who wore the costumes,” she continues. “We have some very affordable pieces, such as haute couture suits with an estimated value of £300-400, so I hope some of it can be bought by people who would like to wear it. Imagine if someone said, ‘I love what you’re wearing’ and you could say, ‘Oh thanks, it was made for Olivia Colman as the Queen’.
I feel the pang of my own credit card when I see some of the costume items available. There are real wow numbers, such as the replica of the revenge dress worn by Elizabeth Debicki as Diana in season five (est. £8,000-12,000). It’s the closest anyone will ever come to owning the iconic cocktail dress, as the original is still believed to belong to Princes William and Harry. A new version of Elizabeth II’s stunning Hartnell formal dresses (all as beautifully crafted as the originals) and Princess Margaret’s sublimely simple wedding dress (est. £6,000-8,000) could also be at the top of any fashion lover’s shopping list.
There are also unexpected touches, like a Harvard sweater identical to the one Diana wore to the gym (the university provided the show with the long-out-of-sale funnel neck), a gold-embroidered vest that Debicki wore in was wearing shorts. scene in season six (est. £500-700) and – my personal highlight – a 10-piece set of powder blue leather suitcases reading “HRH The Princess of Wales” (est. £2,000-3,000), which would cost a one-way ticket are to guarantee preferential treatment on a Ryanair flight.
“The amount of work that goes into making every little thing is breathtaking,” says Randell. “It’s such a small moment on screen, or sometimes you don’t even see it, but The Crown has created a very believable world in which the characters live.” Even drawers that were closed during filming were filled with a suitable book or prop, such as watercolor paints for Charles (and yes, you can buy those too, for £150-200).
“One of my favorite dresses is a gold column dress worn by Wallis Simpson. It’s so beautifully draped, just like a Schiaparelli, it’s a real haute couture dress made by the atelier, but in the show you only see her in it for a moment when they’re at Villa Windsor.
In an act that feels quite regal, proceeds from the live sales will go towards establishing the Left Bank Pictures – The Crown Scholarship program at the National Film and Television School. It’s a fitting ending for a show that, Randell points out, “raised the bar for what a TV series could look like, with so much passion, money and time put into it.” It has been reported that $13 million (£10.2 million) was spent on each episode.
Could the royals make a purchase themselves? It is reported that Boris Johnson has made a £30,000 bid for the life-size facade of No 10, which is up for grabs. I could definitely see Princess Anne wearing the vintage Missoni vest that her character was seen wearing in the early seasons of the show. Meanwhile, Randell says she would “love to wear the revenge dress that a celebrity would wear to the Met Gala” so they could “use that to create a cultural moment.” I wonder if there are any registered bidders in Montecito?