COUNTESS Raine Spencer has stopped a Northamptonshire auction house from selling private letters written to her by Princess Diana more than 30 years ago.
The two letters and other memorabilia, including photos, were handed to JP Humbert Auctioneers, based in Towcester, for sale by a former employee of the Spencer family who claimed legitimate ownership of them.
But yesterday auctioneer Jonathon Humbert agreed to withdraw the items from auction after Countess Spencer, Lady Diana Spencer’s step-mother, become aware of the sale and contacted the business challenging the copyright of the items.
But Mr Humbert insists that no suggestion of theft was made, but that instead title of the letters was unclear and had been “clouded by the mists of time”.
He said: “I have spoken to both the vendor and Countess Spencer and by mutual consent by both parties I have withdrawn the items from sale.
“We have not been told to do this and there has been no legal involvement but following an honest and frank conversation it is my judgement not to put these items on the open market.”
Mr Humbert added that he understood the sensitive nature of the letters.
He added: “In business, integrity counts for a lot, especially in my business.
“Countess Spencer was not upset, this has not caused any offence. It was a well-meaning and very hearty conversation.
“It can be difficult where personal letters and artefacts are concerned, to know where the legal title lies. Two people both in good faith have claimed title to them, where actually only one of them does.”
Speaking on why he did not contact Countess Spencer prior to the sale’s announcement, he added: “We don’t just ring somebody because their name is on the letter, particularly when someone says ‘this is my property, I want to sell it’.”
The letters were originally valued at about £200, but following global interest over the weekend, Mr Humbert expected they could have attracted bids of up to £20,000.
They were due to be auctioned on February 22 and February 23.
The sale of cake decorations from the wedding of King George V will go ahead.