Private letters written by the Queen to her late milliner Philip Somerville have been revealed for the first time. The insightful handwritten notes, in which the monarch discusses her great love of hats and of corgis, were penned over a 25-year period. Following Mr Somerville's sad passing last year at the age of 84, four of the letter are set to go under the hammer, alongside a set of invitations and signed cards.
Auctioneers have estimated that the letters themselves could fetch as much as £2,000 when they are sold later this month, the Mail reports.
Handwritten notes from the Queen to her late milliner are going up for auction
In one of the notes, dated January 5, 2009, the Queen thanks Mr Somerville for his Christmas gift of a china corgi. "Thank you so much for the charming china Corgi you gave me for Christmas," she writes. "I am so pleased to have it and it is a good portrayal of the breed. It will join my assorted collection of them!"
Another, written on February 25, 2007, reads, "Thank you for your letter telling me the outcomes of your business. I am very glad to hear you will still be able to work for me… I know how difficult business can be nowadays – specially with matching fabrics for someone like me, who must be almost the only person who wears hats constantly!"
Philip Somerville enjoyed a close relationship with the Queen
In a third thank you note, dated January 19, 2008, she writes, "Thank you so much for my Christmas present. It is sitting here on my desk and is very enjoyable. I fear this is very late – I seem to have been so busy even in the holidays.
"I am glad to hear your pacemaker is working well for you, it must be a great relief. I expect there will be a need for a few hats in the coming months!"
Mr Somerville started making hats for the Queen in the early 1980s, and continued to do so until his retirement in 2008. He also created hats for Princess Diana, Queen Silvia of Sweden, Joan Collins and Lady Thatcher.
His fitting sessions with the Queen were relatively relaxed and informal – thanks in part to his cheerful nature and sometimes disarming frankness. "Often I've put something on Her Majesty's head and said, 'Oops, I don't like that, that's not right," the acclaimed hat maker once said. "I don't think she's ever been used to that."
Princess Diana, pictured with Prince Harry, wearing one of Mr Somerville's hats
"The letters are fascinating because they give a very rare glimpse of the Queen's personal side, revealing her to be very sweet, humble and funny," said Lydia Wilkinson, co-ordinator of the auction, which will take place at Fraser's Autographs in London on 20 March.
"The majority of people only ever see the Queen in her official role where she is required to be formal and quite serious, but these letters show a completely different side to her.
"The Queen is a big fan of hats, and it’s quite clear from the correspondence that she and Mr Somerville, as her milliner, were very close."