Keeping up the 189-room Dunrobin Castle is a daunting challenge — especially if you’ve been left out of your mother’s £18 million will, as happened to the Earl of Sutherland last year.
But, far from feeling sorry for himself, the 74-year-old Earl is taking what he describes as a ‘pragmatic approach’ to the Castle’s upkeep.
So today he bids farewell to a treasury of family heirlooms, most of which have never come on the market before — a duchess’s coronet among them — as they go under the hammer at auctioneers Bonhams in Edinburgh in what’s destined to be the ‘attic sale’ of the century.
Undated handout photo issued by Bonhams showing Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland
Collection of silver which is among the items found in the attics and cellars at Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, the family seat of the 25th Earl of Sutherland
‘It will, I hope, generate funds to ensure the castle’s preservation,’ says Alistair Sutherland, the 25th Earl, who, as I disclosed last September, went unmentioned in the will which his mother, Elizabeth, drew up three days before her death aged 98.
Instead, she bequeathed £3.5 million to her only daughter, Lady Annabel Bainton, and £250,000 to Alistair’s twin brother, Martin.
‘They are a very well advised family,’ a fellow aristocrat told me. ‘I’m sure that lots will have been handed over during her lifetime.’
Today’s auction, which is expected to yield up to £400,000 for Dunrobin’s coffers, includes a portrait of the Duke of Brunswick, estimated to sell for £12,000, as well as some of the family silver, including a pair of George III candlesticks, and dozens of tablespoons and forks.
A 27-piece Minton toilet set with a Sutherland interlaces ‘S’ cypher and pink borders, found in the attics and cellars at Dunrobin Castle
Collection of Victorian plaster busts found in the cellar. They will go on sale at Bonhams Edinburgh on April 20
Among the 416 lots — uncovered not only in Dunrobin’s attic but also in its cellars — are everything from tiger skins to elk antlers, from pewter ice cream moulds to chamber pots, one of which might have been used by a very eminent visitor — namely Queen Victoria
For those with slightly more modern tastes, there are a pair of Victorian ‘bomb’ silver cigar lighters, made by Garrard, with an estimate of £200-£300.
‘Much of it has not really seen the light of day for years,’ Dunrobin’s managing director, Scott Morrison, tells me. ‘We just don’t have the capacity to display everything.’
Among the 416 lots — uncovered not only in Dunrobin’s attic but also in its cellars — are everything from tiger skins to elk antlers, from pewter ice cream moulds to chamber pots, one of which might have been used by a very eminent visitor — namely Queen Victoria.
Pendleton falls for Louise like a shot…
Blind dates can lead to lasting love, after all. Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton was set up with former Special Boat Service hero, Louis Tinsley, by a friend last year after her divorce from sports scientist Scott Gardner.
Happily, I can reveal their romance is going from strength to strength — in part thanks to their mutual passion for the great outdoors.
Jockey and former track cyclist Victoria, 40, recently went clay-pigeon shooting with clothing brand owner Louis, 37, at the Purbeck Shooting School in Dorset where they posed together wielding guns.
Louis shared the snap with his pals and modestly said of their relationship: ‘I’m punchin’!’
Oscar winner Kate Winslet’s husband recently changed his name by deed poll — for the third time — from Ned RocknRoll to Edward Wolf Winslet Abel Smith, but he doesn’t only have a complicated relationship with names.
‘He has difficulty pronouncing certain words,’ says Winslet, 45, who married Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson’s nephew in 2012.
‘It’s absolutely adorable and slightly heart-breaking, but he’s so earnest and determined that he’s going to get the word right that it becomes some of the funniest things you will ever hear in your life.
‘He once spent ten minutes trying to say Dustin Hoffman. It came out as “Dustmin Hoffbin”.’
Samantha Cameron reveals she and former PM Dave are on full display while in their bedroom — as they’ve yet to install curtains at their countryside home.
‘We renovated our cottage in Oxfordshire nearly three years ago, yet we still have no bedroom curtains,’ admits the fashion designer. ‘I can’t wait [to visit] interior shops and showrooms so I can find the perfect fabric design — something I’ve tried, and failed, to do online.’
Abbott picks up a Penguin
She never made it into government with her old friend Jeremy Corbyn, but Labour veteran Diane Abbott hopes to make the bestseller lists.
The former shadow home secretary is writing her memoirs and has already received an advance of almost £20,000. It’s recorded in the the parliamentary Register Of Interests that she received a first payment of £18,450 from publishers Viking Penguin for the book, called A Woman Like Me, to be published next summer.
It will see her discuss her upbringing in North London and her election as the first black woman MP.
Emily’s dog turns up his nose in stile
Unflappable Newsnight host Emily Maitlis found herself in a spot of bother at the weekend on a day out with her husband, banker Mark Gwynne.
The couple took their whippet, Moody, for a hike, when they encountered a stile that proved too difficult for the dog to climb. Mother-of-two Emily, 50, tried passing him to Mark no fewer than seven times before they were successful.
‘I’m thinking there has to be an easier way to get an ageing whippet over a Derbyshire stile,’ she sighed.
No stranger to giving Moody a helping hand, Emily was criticised two years ago for allowing him to sleep next to her on the seat of a crowded train.
Emma and friends just wanna have fun
Strictly Come Dancing star Emma Weymouth is having a ball now that restaurants across the country can re-open their outdoor seating areas.
To celebrate the end of lockdown, the Marchioness of Bath met up with friends including actor Idris Elba’s wife, ex-model Sabrina, fashion designer Jade Holland Cooper and celebrity hair stylist Tara Mafi.
Joined by their husbands, the ladies could barely stop smiling as they dined at The Lucky Onion in the Cotswolds — one of several restaurants owned by Jade and her husband, Superdry clothing founder Julian Dunkerton — and drank gin cocktails.
‘So gorgeous to see our friends again, and even more gorgeous to re-open the doors to our restaurants,’ says Jade, who has had her hands full in the past year with her newborn baby.