Heads of state

After a lunch at Quaglino’s, I viewed the belongings of various potentates at our March sale.
Frederick C Selous is the great African hunting name, friend of Cecil Rhodes. This cane, Lot 1080, was given to him by Rhodes, perhaps in celebration of the First Matabele War 1893-4, when Rhodes asked him to serve with the British South Africa Company. Selous recalled, “The bullets whistling around me made my horse nervous and presently one of them hit me. The wound is not dangerous, the bullet struck me three inches below my right breast, went around my chest and exited eight inches from where it entered!” ‘Provenance is all,’ we thought, £1,000–£1,500, with commission it made £20,150 (it was not bought by Oriel College).

Live pigeon guns are very rare; those made by Purdey, owned by royalty and being hammer-ejectors are exceptional. The Sultan of Morocco, Mulai Abdelhafid, rose up against his brother in 1907 and ruled until 1912 when he abdicated at the Treaty of Fez. Live pigeon shooting was at its zenith when he commissioned these hammer ejectors, engraved probably by Harry Kell and took delivery in 1922. They contain a hidden third bite, side clips, articulated front triggers with 32” barrels choked extra full, and a central depiction of the ‘Green Man’. Down at £30–40,000, with commission they achieve £54,600.

King Leopold II of Belgium, 1835–1909, second king of the Belgians, founder of the Congo Free State shot with a gold encrusted 12 bore hammer gun by Jansen, of exceptional quality, early Damascus barrels with Jones under lever.
The back action lock plates contain fine vignettes of game scenes showing pheasant, roebuck, stag and partridge, down at £3–5,000 it made £4,100 before commission.

Leopold extracted a fortune from the Congo, initially through ivory but then by forcing natives to harvest and press rubber. Under his regime some 10 million people died for his personal enrichment. Aged 75 he died, his funeral cavalcade was booed.

Call Simon Grantham on 07860 300055 to consign or discuss.

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