The Raleigh Traveller bicycle once owned by the late Diana, Princess of Wales and nicknamed the ‘shame bike’ by the tabloid press after she was forced by Buckingham Palace officials to sell it prior to her 1981 wedding to Prince Charles has this morning sold for £44,000 at auction – more than double its top-end estimate of £20,000.
That also represents a near-fivefold increase on the £9,200 it went for when it was last auctioned in 2018, representing an impressive return on the previous purchaser’s investment, assuming it hasn’t changed hands in the meantime.
Burstow & Hewett Auctioneers of Battle, East Sussex had expected the bike to go for between £15,000 and £20,000 when it went under the hammer this morning, based not only on greater interest nowadays in royal memorabilia but also because it represented “a famous symbol of Diana’s oppression,” drawing parallels with the more recent experience of the Duchess of Suffolk.
As Lady Diana Spencer, the future Princess of Wales rode the bike daily from her flat in Coleherne Court, near Earl’s Court to the nursery in Pimlico nursery where she worked until her engagement to Prince Charles was announced.
However, royal household staff did not consider a bike to be a suitable form of transport for a future member of the Royal Family and she was ordered to stop riding it.
She sold the bike to Gerald Stonehill, the father of one of her friends, who kept it in his garage in Buckinghamshire for 27 years before selling it at auction in 2008 for £211.
In a framed letter that was part of the lot auctioned today, he wrote that “Diana had hoped the [original] sale would be concealed” since she was afraid that the bicycle being thought “inconsistent with her future status” would become public knowledge.
In its catalogue description, Burstow & Hewett said: “This item is a famous symbol of Diana’s oppression. Something she loved being taken away; and control over her public appearance for the reputation of what is deemed acceptable for a lady of the British Royal Family.
“With most recent headline news surrounding Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex and her treatment by the press and Royal Institution; comparisons have been made between her experience and that of The People’s Princess Diana,” the auctioneers added.
“There is no doubt that this, in conjunction with the popularity of ‘The Crown’ series, could see the bike selling well above estimate” – a prediction that had been more than amply fulfilled by the time the hammer fell today.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.