Philicia Antiques discovers statesman’s $75,000 Coronation suit
Australia’s leading ephemera and printed antiques expert Phil Sunman has discovered a unique piece of Australian political history, a superb gentleman’s outfit tailored for one of the fathers of Federation to attend the 1911 Coronation of King George V at Westminster Abbey.
A prominent political figure the Hon. Egerton Lee Batchelor served as Australia’s fifth Foreign Minister in the government of Andrew Fisher. Batchelor was a leader of the labour movement and after a stint in State Parliament became the first ever South Australian Federal Labor Member of Parliament serving in the First Labor Ministry under Chris Watson and alongside the controversial Billy Hughes.
A member of the First Parliament in 1901 his star rose quickly and he was touted by his peers as having the qualities to be Prime Minister. Sadly his life was cut short in his prime in 1911, dying suddenly from a heart attack while climbing in Victoria. He was only 46.
Philicia Antiques founder Phil Sunman uncovered the costume hand tailored by Ede & Ravenscroft, which is thought to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world known for creating the 1689 coronation robes of Their Majesties William and Mary. Ravenscroft soon became a recognised supplier to the royal family, going on to produce a large number of ceremonial robes for the coronation of His Majesty King George III.
Today Ede & Ravenscroft holds all three Royal Warrants and are currently appointed robe makers and tailors to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales.
“Immediately I knew this was a garment of high quality. Not many people would have had such elaborate attire made by one of the finest tailors in London.” Mr Sunman said,
“It is made for a royal occasion, navy blue velvet, fine lace cuffs, hand-stitched silk lining, it is highly likely that Mr Batchelor wore this suit to the Coronation of George V as an official representative of the Australian Government alongside the Prime Minister and other world leaders.”
“So many antique garments suffer silverfish damage. Thankfully this suit has been preserved for more than one hundred years in an air tight metal box keeping the hat, shoes, buckles and accessories together.”
“Historical discoveries like this make this such an exciting industry. It is like being a gatekeeper into nostalgia.”
With such provenance the question on everyone’s lips is value. So what is it worth?
“Well it is priceless. The shimmering cut steel buttons are worth several thousand dollars on their own.”
“Without the provenance a collector would pay at least $5,000.”
“Given it belonged to such a prominent Australian and was made for such a special event, at a top auction house this suit should fetch at least $75,000.”
“The market for historical garments is based in London. In 2015 a Ravenscroft Parliamentary robe made for British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sold at Christies for more than GBP80 000, which is over AUD$130,000, well above the GBP1800 guide price.”
“However, I would rather it remain in Australia perhaps on permanent public display at the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra.”
“The garment forms part of an estate including photos, historical documents and correspondence.”
“The garment is stunning, but I have a passion for printed collectables, the ephemeral pieces that were so often used and discarded. They make the story.”
“The jacket is made for a narrow shouldered man, so I asked my friend and politics enthusiast Mark Smith to model the costume. He is CEO of government relations disruptor Statesman Institute and can appreciate the political history.” Mr Smith said.
“It is a privilege to be invited to wear a regal garment of such historical significance.”
“Mr Batchelor was a visionary statesman and pioneer of bipartisanship.”
“To think that he genuflected before the new monarch wearing these clothes, shortly before his own tragic death sends a shudder down my spine.”
A number of enticing offers to purchase the suit are under consideration.
In the meantime the suit will remain on display at Philicia Antiques 317 Goodwood Road Kings Park while Mr Sunman consults with his personal network of museum curators and private collectors.