Bonhams is to sell an extremely rare and fine Royal .450 (Black Powder Express) double-barrelled hammer rifle presented by Queen Victoria to John Brown, Christmas 1873 at its Modern Sporting Guns sale in London on 12 May. It is enticingly estimated at £30,000-40,000.
The close relationship between Queen Victoria and her attendant John Brown has long been the stuff of speculation and was the subject of the much-loved 1997 film Mrs Brown starring Judi Dench and Billy Connolly.
John Brown entered royal service at Balmoral in 1848 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert leased the castle as a summer holiday retreat. When the royal couple bought the estate outright in 1851, Brown became ghillie to the Prince and general factotum to the Queen. On Albert's death in 1861, Brown assumed a more central role in Victoria's life much to the ill-disguised disgust of her eldest son Edward, Prince of Wales and in 1865 she appointed him as her personal servant.
Despite widespread criticism of the Queen's reliance upon Brown's advice, he was to go on to achieve the status of a national hero. In 1863 he rescued the Queen from a carriage accident, and in February 1872 he foiled an assassination attempt on her life outside Buckingham Palace.
Following Brown's death in 1883 Queen Victoria commissioned Edgar Boehm to produce a life-size bronze statue of him bearing the inscription: 'Friend more than Servant. Loyal. Truthful. Brave. Self-less than Duty, even to the Grave'.
Bonhams Head of Sporting Guns Patrick Hawes, said, "Queen Victoria gave Brown many gifts during the long years of their relationship but none perhaps more magnificent than this sporting rifle. It is a remarkably fine piece in its own right and the association with such a well-known – and intriguing - story makes it even more attractive."
Technical note
An extremely rare and fine Royal .450 (Black Powder Express) double-barrelled hammer rifle presented by Queen Victoria to John Brown, Christmas 1873, by Alexr. Henry, no. 3210 for 1873 In original fitted pig-skinned lined brass-mounted oak and leather case with nearly all the accessories including W. Bartram powder-flask with black leather-covered body, bullet mold and case-trimmer serial numbered to the rifle, capping/decapping tool, oil bottle and other items, the interior of the lid with makers trade label, the exterior stamped in gilt letters 'J. Brown Esq. H.M.P. Attendant, Balmoral'


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to https://www.bonhams.com

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