An aristocrat who donated 50 oak trees towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame cathedral to make amends for his ancestors’ hatred of the French has acquired a permanent reminder of his family’s history in a Salisbury auction.
Sir Benjamin Slade is descended from Sir Thomas Slade, the naval architect who designed Nelson’s flagship, HMS Victory, and bought the cross-section model of the famous ship from Woolley and Wallis’s Furniture and Works of Art auction on 8th January.
“I already have two models of the Victory on display at Maunsel House [his ancestral home since 1772], but I’m looking forward to finding a space for this,” he said as he collected his purchase from the saleroom. “When I saw it, I just had to have it.”
Sir Benjamin had found himself in the national press last year after making his generous donation, saying that it was driven by guilt over how his ancestors had treated the French during the 19th century. “I thought this gesture might help to make amends,” he was quoted as saying at the time.
The 2 ½ foot high detailed model will now feature in the collection at Maunsel House in Somerset, which has regular use as a wedding venue, where guests pose for photographs with Sir Benjamin’s extensive collection of deactivated guns. “I don’t think we’ll use this as a wedding prop as it’s quite fragile,” explained the somewhat eccentric aristocrat. “People tend to get rather over-enthusiastic when they’ve had a few drinks and we’ve had a few expensive incidents over the years. This will make an interesting addition to the collection, but we won’t let it be handled.”