The act of sending and receiving holiday cards is a long-standing tradition celebrated around the world — and it was a pastime that Queen Victoria appeared to partake in during her reign.
On January 5, Hansons Auctioneers announced that a 140-year-old table letter box belonging to Queen Victoria was discovered in a Surrey cottage. The antique, curved wooden box features her royal cypher, “VR” (for Victoria Regina), and contained a “festive” Christmas card inside. It’s set to go to auction on January 28 and is estimated to fetch upward of $7,200.
“It’s a first class find fit for a queen dating back to circa 1880. We can only imagine the tone and content of the notes the queen must have placed inside but one thing we can be certain of is that she enjoyed sending letters and cards,” Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said in a statement.
Hanson added that “sadly, postal strikes, high stamp prices and the cost-of-living crisis have curbed that simple pleasure. I wonder what Queen Victoria would have thought about postal costs rising from a penny in the 1800s to 95p for a first class stamp today. Her profile featured on the Penny Black, the world’s first adhesive postage stamp issued in 1840.”
The box was used at Osborne House, the queen’s holiday home on the Isle of Wight that was “built for her and her husband Prince Albert as a rural retreat,” per Hansons. It’s no secret that the royal, who was queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1837 until her death in 1901, was a fan of writing, as further evidenced by the recent discovery.
According to Chris Kirkham, associate director of Hansons London, the box was purchased decades back by the anonymous seller’s grandfather, who lived on the Isle of Wight and acquired it at a Carisbrooke sale that “offered items relating to Osborne House in 1944 or 1945.”
“My grandfather collected amazing objects over the course of his life. He was fascinated by antiques and collectables. We think the post box may have been given as a festive gift as we found a Christmas card inside,” the seller said. “It’s hard to part with family heirlooms but this royal item deserves to be seen and enjoyed.”