Princess Diana’s family gun for sale

Do you want to buy Princess Diana’s shotgun? It’s a good quality .410 by Curry of Birmingham and it is up for auction on 8 December 2020. Her family won’t confirm that she used this gun, but the evidence points that way.

Boys and girls usually start shooting with a small-calibre .410, 28-bore or 20-bore shotgun, and this is the smallest of them, a .410. Plus the man selling it is her brother, Earl Spencer.

The .410 Joseph Curry shotgun, owned by the Spencer family at Althorp

The new series of The Crown on Netflix shows the future Princess of Wales taking part in country sports. Now Charles Spencer is selling three guns in a two-day auction on 7-8 December 2020, a 28-bore, a .410 and a wildfowling gun. Speculation is that, as children, Charles started shooting with the 28-bore and Diana with the .410. There were four Spencer children at the family’s country seat, Althorp, in the 1960s and 1970s: three sisters and a brother. All the children were encouraged to shoot and Charles was expected to shoot. If Charles Spencer had the 28-bore, perhaps Diana shared the .410 with her sisters, or perhaps they had .410s, too, and took them for their own children.

Lady Diana Spencer on South Uist in the 1970s, at around the time she would have used the .410

Althorp in Northamptonshire is a renowned shooting estate and offers mixed pheasant and partridge shooting both inside and outside the Park. You can follow the Althorp Estate’s shoot on GunsOnPegs.

A shooting party at Althorp, where Diana learned to shoot game

Guide price for the boys’ gun, the 28-bore, is £300-£500. Made by AYA, it is a Model No 3 boxlock non-ejector, so Charles would have stood in the shooting line fumbling to get his empty cartridges out while his sister would have broken her gun and the spent cartridges would have ejected smoothly and stylishly behind her.

Among families who host shooting parties, a child’s first gun would normally be a non-ejector. Not in this case. “The father,” says the auctioneer in a video on YouTube, “was quite generous, spent a little bit more money and had an ejector made.”

The 28-bore has 27in nitro barrels, 2¾in chambers and is bored approximately true cylinder in both barrels. With a 13in stock, it weighs 5lb 3oz.

Earl Spencer’s less good-quality 28-bore AYA

The .410 is considerably more expensive, guided at £1,500-£2,000. It is a Joseph Curry .410 boxlock ejector with 2½ chambers. Built around 1937, possibly for Princess Diana’s aunt, Lady Anne Wake-Walker, who died earlier this year aged 99, it has 26in nitro barrels, bored approximately true cylinder and half choke, with engraving of partridge and pheasant, the floorplate with a lone rabbit. The 14¼ figured stock and weight of 4lb 2oz would have suited Princess Diana, who grew to 5ft 8in (1.78 metres).

“Sweet. Absolutely sweet,” is what the auctioneer calls the .410. “A little, pretty thing” – though he refuses to comment on speculation that the gun belonged to Princess Diana.

The auction house, Holts, is based near the Queen’s home Sandringham in Norfolk, and is renowned for selling ‘royal’ guns. Likely to come to auction in 2021, it is selling the pistol carried by Lord Louis Mountbatten when he accepted the formal surrender of the Japanese in Singapore on 12 September 1945.

Lord Mountbatten’s pistol and, below, detail

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