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£1.6 million mistress earrings

The pearl earrings that sold for £1.6 million Photo: Wooley and Wallis Salerooms

Pearl earrings once owned by the mistress of a Romanian king have sold for £1.6 million at auction in Salisbury.

The earrings, which date from the early 20th century, were bought by King Carol II of Romania for his mistress Elena Lupescu. Carol, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, was king of Romania for a decade from 1930. His accession to the throne had been far from conventional however. When his father, King Ferdinand died in 1927, the country was left in the care of his grandson Prince Michael, rather than his son Carol II, of whom he disapproved. Twice-married Carol preferred to explore Europe with his mistress Elena, rather than attend to the duties of state. Becoming known more for his romantic misadventures than for his royal leadership, he was dubbed The Playboy King.

Having renounced the throne, Carol unexpectedly returned to Romania in 1930 and was proclaimed king. He was king for a turbulent decade until his growing unpopularity led to his abdication in 1940. After relinquishing the throne for a second time, Carol II opted for a quieter life, settling in Portugal and marrying his mistress, who became Princess Elena von Hohenzollern, in 1947. He remained in exile for the rest of his life and died in Estoril in 1953.

The earrings were bequeathed to the current owner’s family by Elena when she died in 1977. Unloved and thought to be of little value by their new owner, the earrings have been lying in a desk drawer ever since.

Jonathan Edwards, Head of Jewellery at Woolley and Wallis says “We believe they were acquired on one of the famous European tours with King Carol. The vendor brought them to us for valuation out of curiosity and was astonished to discover their value. They have been generating a lot of interest from buyers and are likely to sell well over their estimate of £120,000 in the sale on 26th April.”

They went to auction in Woolley and Wallis’s Jewellery sale from 11am today.

Elena Lupescu - royal mistress and owner of the pearl earrings Credit: Woolley and Wallis Salerooms

Going...going....gone!

Jonathan Edwards from Woolley and Wallis Salerooms in Salisbury talks about interest building up ahead of the auction.