Elizabeth, Mary and Mendel

Elizabeth I’s demand that Mary Queen of Scots give up her plan to marry Lord Darnley. Sold at Christie’s for £42,000.

A recently released new film about the relationship between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots, one in which certain historical liberties appear to have been taken concerning the generally accepted belief that the two women never actually met, brings a topicality to a letter offered last month in London.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

Elizabeth I’s demand that Mary Queen of Scots give up her plan to marry Lord Darnley. Sold at Christie’s for £42,000.

Seen at Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on December 12, it relates to Elizabeth’s attempts to prevent the marriage of “our deerest sister and Cousyn the Queene of Scotts” to Lord Darnley and, boldly signed, it was addressed to the governor of Berwick-upon-Tweed and other officials. It also served as a passport for Sir Nicholas Throckmorton, her newly appointed ambassador to Mary.

Elizabeth makes her position very clear: “Our will and straight commaundement is that youe … do not only soe him furnyshe for himself and his s[e]rvaunts of hable post horses from place to place between this and Barwyk at our price but also suffre him and his sayd s[e]rvaunts with his money Jewels baggs bagguage and all other his and their utensiles and necessarys quietly to pass by youe … as ye tendre our pleas[u]r and will answer for the contrary at your perills.”

At Sotheby’s in 1980, as part of the Spiro family autograph and letters collection, it sold at £4600, and on a previous outing at Christie’s, in 2008, made £16,000. On this occasion bidding reached £42,000.

Founder of modern genetics

One of the stronger results for a single letter recorded in recent weeks came in the December 2-17 online auction held by Sotheby’s New York (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) .

A single, folded sheet of paper bearing greetings that Gregor Mendel sent to his parents in March 1845 sold for $240,000 (£190,475) rather than the suggested $10,000-15,000.

In essence it was a simple, dutiful letter in which a son apologises for not having managed to travel from Brno to visit his mother and father, but assures them that he is healthy, content and happy. He also reports that his former professor of physics and applied mathematics, Friedrich Franz from Olmütz, “my great benefactor”, was visiting the monastery that was now his home.

However, no other autograph letter in the hand of the Augustinian friar now celebrated as the founder of the modern science of genetics is recorded at auction. At the time of his death in 1884 he was simply an obscure priest in Moravia and manuscript material relating to his life and work is of exceptional rarity.