A violin that is supposed to have been played while the Titanic sank has been sold at auction for £900,000.
The instrument was played by Wallace Hartley, the ship’s bandleader, who died when the ship sank. The band famously played the hymn ‘Nearer my God to Thee’ in an attempt to keep passengers calm.
The guide price for the violin was £300,000, but the auctioneer started the bidding at £50 so two of his friends could join in. The price quickly rose, however, and was eventually sold for £900,000 to a telephone bidder who is believed to be British.
There has been some debate as to the authenticity of the violin, which it is claimed was in a leather case strapped to Wallace Hartley’s body. But the wood of the violin has also been found to contain salt deposits from the sea water and the auction house has spent seven years authenticating the instrument.
The violin was owned by Mr Hartley’s fiancée, Maria Robinson, who had originally given the instrument to Mr Hartley as an engagment present (the violin bears the inscription ‘To Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria’).
She left it to her local Salvation Army in 1939 and it was passed on to the current (anonymous) owner’s mother in the 1940s.
The violin fetched the highest amount ever paid for a piece of Titanic memorabilia.
Reporting from the auction house, the BBC’s Duncan Kennedy said: ‘Played by a man who personifies a bygone era of high morals and values, it’s more than just a violin, it’s an instrument of history.’