Princess Diana's great-great-grandmother's diary sold
20th October 2023

Charming debutante’s diary of Princess Diana’s great-great-grandmother sells at auction as part of £250,000 clear-out

  • Adelaide Horatia Elizabeth Seymour was 19-year-old society girl
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A hand-stitched booklet, in which Princess Diana’s great-great grandmother Adelaide Seymour listed the names of all her dance partners during the London season, has sold at auction for £500.

The Victorian diary, entitled Balls & My Partners by Miss AHE Seymour, which dates from 1844-1845, was one of 343 lots sold last week at Lay’s Auctioneers, in Penzance,, raising more than £250,000 for renowned antiques collector Peter Hone.

A fascinating diary kept by Princess Diana ‘s great-great-grandmother in which she listed  the balls she attended and the men she danced with has sold at auction for £500

Adelaide Horatia Elizabeth Seymour (pictured) was a member of Victorian Britain’s social elite She was invited to countless balls, banquets and gatherings during the London Season

To judge by her ‘charming aide memoir’, there was no shortage of potential suitor to walt with her in the springs of 1844 and 1845

Born on January 27, 1825, Adelaide was the daughter of the MP Colonel Sir Horace Beauchamp Seymour, a hero of Waterloo and aide-to-camp to the cavalry commander Lord Uxbridge, and his first wife Elizabeth Malet Palk.

READ MORE: The items once owned by Princess Diana which have come up for auction over the years


He was a direct descendant of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, who was the brother of Henry III’s third wife Jane Seymour, and Protector of the Realm from 1547 to 1549, during the minority of his nephew King Edward VI.

She began the diary when she was a 19-year-old debutante, listing the names and dates of each ball she attended and her dance partners, which included Prince Edward, Lord Worcester, Lord Northland, and Lord Curzon.

She went to 32 balls in 1844, dancing a total of 291 times, and 44 balls, four breakfasts and three teas in 1845, dancing 373 times, including 134 waltzes and 118 polkas.

The ‘charming aide memoir’ also includes her notes on each event. ‘Dreadfully crowded & could not get into the Ball Room till very late,’ she wrote on one occasion. ‘A charming ball,’ she praised Duke of Devonshire’s Ball on May 17.

It was not until 1854, a decade after she wrote the diary, that Adelaide, then 29, married Vice-Admiral Frederick Spencer, 4th Earl Spencer, making her Countess Spencer.

The couple had two children. Charles Robert Spencer, 6th Earl Spencer was Diana’s great grand father and the great-great grandfather of Prince William. The other child was Victoria Alexandrina.

Mimi Connell Lay, of Lay’s Auctioneers said: ‘I have never seen anything like it before. It is a lovely and fascinating record of all the balls she attended, the dances and danced and, of course, the partners she danced with.

Princess Diana bore a striking resemblance to her great-great-grandmother (pictured during her visit to Zenica in 1990)

The booklet, which Adelaide titled ‘Balls and My Partners 1844-45’ fell out of another book bought as a job lot by antiques collector Peter Hone about 40 years ago

‘This was all during the ‘London Season’ in Victorian Britain when the great and the good held swanky balls almost every night. It is like something out of Sense and Sensibility only this was real life.

‘Adelaide Seymour was obviously very well connected because she got invited to so many of these events. She also must have been very attractive judging by all of the distinguished men who asked her to dance.’

Mr Hone, who grew up in an orphanage, trained as a pastry chef, landing his first job at British Railways, where he won a silver medal in 1957 for his Eccles cakes, Chelsea buns and Sacker-Torte.

His interest in antiques began when he rented a shop in Camden Passage, Islington, next to Robert Carrier’s famous restaurant, selling antique four-poster beds to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, author Barbara Cartland and the late Defence Minister Lord Lambton.

‘Lord Lambton used to buy one for each of his mistresses and fly them around the world,’ he quipped. ‘The cheque would come from the House of Lords.’

He went onto work for the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission before opening a garden antiques’ shop at Clifton Nurseries, in London’s Maida Vale, for the investment banker Jacob Rothschild, now the 4th Baron Rothschild.

‘It was the first real garden antiques shop in the country and one of the most successful shops of its period,’ he says proudly. ‘We flew all sorts of things all over the world. It was marvellous.’

For 1845 she attended 44 balls, four breakfasts and three teas and danced 373 times, including 134 waltzes and 118 polkas

On the final page of the booklet, Adelaide tallied up all the balls she went to. For 1844 she went to 32 balls and danced 291 times

Seven years ago, he auctioned some of his collection at Christie’s, pocketing £1.2 million and buying himself a bolthole in Cornwall – it took two cranes a total of five days to remove the 143 artefacts.

Last night Mr Hone, 82, who lives with his Parson Russell Terrier Bude, in London’s Maida Vale, said: ‘I’m absolutely elated. I’m sitting here overjoyed. It’s been the highlight of my life.

‘The viewings were magnificent. More than 1,000 people came to viewings at this little flat and now people are coming to collect everything. They’ve all gone to new lovers.

‘I’m absolutely exhausted. This is the time to slow down and reap the reward. You have to slow down sometime in life. It’s no use selling once you’re dead.’

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