With popular interest in Queen Victoria being reignited this year through the film Victoria and Abdul, now is probably the perfect time for the owners of a piano which had originally belonged the queen to put the instrument on the market. Up for auction early next year is the Broadwood and Sons grand piano which Victoria played regularly from the day it was delivered to Buckingham Palace – 11 November 1887 – until the early 1890s when she gave it to her former lady-in-waiting, Laura Annie Boston, as a wedding gift.
At some point the piano was loaned to Marie Fullinger, an Austrian singer who was engaged in writing a book about Clara and Robert Schumann. It was while writing this book that Marie, also known as Fillu, met Eugenie Schumann (1851-1938), the Schumann’s seventh child, and they became lovers. Eugenie was a fine pianist who moved to Engand in 1891. As well as teaching the piano she also wrote a fascinating book called Memories of Eugenie Schumann (1925). In this book she gives a sense of the reputation of Broadwood pianos - something which comes across if you read between the lines of this statement: 'With a wish to help Erards, who had been very hard hit by the war, my mother [Clara Schumann] had consented to play their instruments alternately with Broadwood's. Only those who know the enormous different in touch which these two makes of pianos require can fully realise what this meant.' The book is particularly fascinating and valuable in that it details what Eugenie learnt from studying the piano with Brahms. She played the Broadwood grand at the London home she shared with Marie and it was also used for their joint recitals in the capital during 1892. Very romantically, when Marie and Eugenie died they were buried next to each other at the foot of the Eiger mountain in Switzerland.
Laura Boston’s family kept the piano until Laura died in 1950 and at that point it was moved to St. Mary’s Church in Henley-on-Thames. The current owners bought it from the church eight years ago. About five years ago they had it restored and now, after over 130 years since it was made, they have decided to auction.i Prior to that they have put it on public display at Sherwood Phoenix Piano’s showroom in Nottingham.
The piano is a typical late nineteenth-century Broadwood boudoir grand, with a rosewood veneered case on turned legs. It is an example of their Model 13B and has the serial number of 22204. It has a decorated lyre and an attractive scrolled music desk. So overall it is a nice piano for its time, but not an instrument for a serious pianist today - although I’m sure it sounds great when late Romantic repertoire is played on it.
If you’d like to buy this piece of history you will need to register your interest with Sherwood Phoenix as the piano will be sold through a concealed bid auction over a month from January to February. It is not often that a piano with such an extraordinary provenance comes on to the market, so I expect it will reach a sum well into five figures, if not more!
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