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Rare insight into Queen Mum's life as Backstairs Billy mementos sold

July 2, 2008
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Penning her note in elegant flowing letters the Queen Mother informed her loyal steward: "I think that I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed."

The hand-written memo to her page William Talon is just one of several personal items belonging to the faithful retainer which have gone under the hammer on Saturday. Following the death of the man fondly known as Backstairs Billy last year at the age of 72, mementos of life with the royal matriarch are to be auctioned in Colchester.

Described as one of the most remarkable collections of royal memorabilia ever to be sold, the collection - which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 - gives a fascinating glimpse of day-to-day life with the Queen Mum.

Among the items being auctioned are a series of intimate photos, including one featuring a pair the family's beloved corgis sitting on thrones, and another of the Queen Mother, aged 90, dancing at an informal staff party with Mr Talon.

Another lot comprises notes from Princess Diana after the birth of Prince William. "We are not sure at the moment what has hit us, except a very strong pair of lungs," she wrote. "Both parents are making little sense, we just seem to spend most of our time gazing at this tiny person."

Other royal treasures include invitations to Prince Charles and Diana's 1981 wedding, a rare Edward VIII coronation mug and Christmas cards signed by Wallis, Duchess of Windsor and her husband Prince Edward, who gave up his throne in order to marry the woman he loved.

Bidding for the near 700 lots on offer is expected to take all day.

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Photo: ©
A handwritten note in which the Queen Mother says she "will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed" is just one of the remarkable pieces from the collection. This weekend's sale has sparked interest around the world Photo: © Reeman Dansie Auctions
Photo: ©
Billy was the Queen Mother's favourite and longest-standing steward. He amassed a treasure trove of letters and gifts from the Windsors during more than 50 years in their service Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
Another of the royal treasures to go under the hammer is this image of two corgis sitting on thrones Photo: © Reeman Dansie Auctions

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