Gun given to John Brown by Queen Victoria goes up for auction

Guide price of £40,000

The gun in its case.

A rifle given by Queen Victoria to the servant rumoured to have been her lover is to be sold at auction next month.

The .450 double-barrelled hammer rifle was given to John Brown at Christmas 1873, and is engraved with his name.

Following the death of her husband Prince Albert in 1861, Victoria developed a close relationship with Brown, a servant at Balmoral Castle.

"Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant," she wrote after his death, describing him as 'one of the most remarkable men'.

Queen Victoria with John Brown.

After Brown died in 1883, the gun was bought by the late American industrialist Clay Bedford and has remained in the same collection ever since.

The rifle was made by royal gunmaker Alexander Henry of Edinburgh, and is still in its original brass-mounted oak-and-leather case, lined with pig-skin and with nearly all the accessories still intact.

The lid is stamped in gilt: 'J. Brown Esq. H.M.P. Attendant, Balmoral'

Designed for deer-stalking, the rifle is going under the hammer on May 12 with a guide price of £40,000.

"The rifle is unique in many ways and has a direct association with Queen Victoria which makes it a very desirable item. There is no doubt that it was the best quality and the best rifle that money could buy at the time," Patrick Hawes, a rifle specialist at auctioneers Bonhams, tells the Daily Mail.

"We believe this is the first time it is being sold at auction. It is in a very good condition and is usable. It doesn't appear to have had a lot of use."

Royal memorabilia of all kinds tends to make very good price at auction, and the rifle has the advantage of being ideal for display. The same can't really be said of the last major item known to have belonged to Queen Victoria - a pair of enormous bloomers, complete with stains.

The bloomers sold in October 2014 for £6,200, with a pair of silk stockings making £1,100.

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