I think that lifejacket may be more valuable than Christie’s knows. I’m going to contact Meredith Etherington-Smith there and let her know of some documentation I have and some images that should be able to prove the lifejacket being sold is actually Lucile’s. She, Cosmo and “Franks” all saved their lifebelts as mementos but only Lucile’s was signed by the crewmen. Her family never knew what happened to her lifebelt, pictures of which were featured in the London press at the time her autobiography was published. Suffice to say, I have traced several items that Lucile gave Franks and her sister Phyllis over the years, and now feel sure her lifejacket was one of them.
It might well be worth getting in touch with Maritime specialist Charles Miller too, who is based at Christie's South Kensington. The lifejacket would most probably come up in one of his department sales - unless it were offered in New York, of course (it all depends on where the market would be strongest). Charles is delightful, I've dealt with him on numerous occasions and he was never less than very helpful.
As you say, the lifejacket could fetch an awful lot of money, given the 'Titanic' and Duff Gordon connections. Meredith E-S, with her own interest in Lucile AND her status within the company, would be an awfully good person to have behind you!
I feel CONVINCED that Christie's would be interested to know what they potentially have on their hands and, Randy, your input would be invaluable to them.
why doesn't somebody post the newspaper picture of Lucile's life jacket, and then someone can just go to Christies and check. I guess that as Lucile and Lucy were such close friends it is very likely that they both had them signed and Cosmo, and the American man too.
I’m working with Martin about this now and as we both are in contact with people at Christie’s, we should hear something soon and will share what we find out. I have received several emails about this, asking what I know about the documents being auctioned with the lifejacket, and I’m sorry to say I am not aware of the contents of the letter or the affidavit. Along with several researchers, I have a full copy of a long letter Laura Mabel Francatelli/”Franks” sent to Marion “Mary Ann” Taylor (a Lucile model and later sales manager) but this isn’t the same one being sold. The one at Christies is only addressed to “my own dear darling,” or something like that. It’s likely the recipient was Franks’ future husband Max Haering, whom she was beginning to see at the time of the sinking (he is mentioned in the Francatelli-Taylor letter).
I was told a few years back by a noted Titanic researcher that the Duff Gordons and Francatelli probably submitted affidavits to the American Titanic Inquiry before returning home but I’ve never located them. I do know that Franks signed a statement to be read at the British Inquiry that was never used. It might be this affidavit that’s up for auction.
The nephew who found these mementoes, by the way, is the son of Dorothy Francatelli, Franks’ younger sister, better known as “Phyllis,” one of Lucile’s top models who retired and married in the 1920s. His name isn’t being released by Christies, and I don’t think it would be right to do so here.
Below is a photo of Lucile’s lifebelt, taken in the early 1930s and published in the London Daily Sketch, for which Lucile was a fashion correspondent at the time. Also, here’s a photo of the Duff Gordons exiting a rear door at Scottish Hall following their testimony at the Inquiry on May 20, 1912. The center figure is Franks. It’s the only picture I know of showing her with Lucile.
Isn't there a picture of Lucile and Miss Francatelli on the carpathia too? She is wearing the lifebelt that is being auctioned and all the rag-bag of clothes she threw on at the last minute before escaping.
Good and bad news, I guess, on the Francatelli lifebelt question. I was hopeful that the lifebelt Christie’s is auctioning would turn out to be Lucile’s long-lost lifebelt but after examination by Charles Miller it appears it is not one and the same. It’s disappointing that Lucile’s famous lifebelt is still missing but it’s also great to be able to record that Franks’ lifebelt was also signed and preserved all these years. The published and unpublished references to Lucile’s signed lifebelt that I’ve found don’t mention that her secretary got hers signed also. It has also hopefully opened up an avenue of communication with members of the Francatelli family for future research. Thanks to Martin Williams for his help in contacting Miller and his staff, who have been very helpful. There are often dead-ends to research but most leads are fruitful in some way —— they may not always lead you to the facts you are hoping to find, but they still lead to facts, and sometimes, as in this case, to even more opportunities for study.
Last week I received a letter from Croatia, Alen Reljic who is a long time correspondent told me that:
‘’There is a Titanic lifebelt in the Maritime museum in Rejic (FIUME) - Croatia. He saw it on TV. It is now completely restored. This is one of the five Titanic lifebelts in all the world, and that one is the only one in Europe. It was a gift from a Carpathia’s sailor’’.
I have not changed his wording.
I just wonder in the light of the Francatelli jacket above if the museum realise just what a valuable item they have got. Hows their security?
Anyone going to Croatia for a holiday?
If you do please try and get a photograph for us all.
I received today my copy of the Christie’s catalogue (thank you, Charles Miller) and the Francatelli lots are of course the feature. The frontispiece shows a page of her affidavit and there is a great full-page image of her lifebelt —— the old thing’s in quite good shape. The most interesting article to me is a postcard signed by Lucile. The item entry doesn’t identify it as having been inscribed by her but I recognized her handwriting at once. As collectors may want proof, I have attached examples of her writing and signature. Note: Lucile often spelled her Christian name “Lucy” as “Lucie.”