An ecumenical matter: Pulpit, brass candlesticks and pipe organ

Contents of a former seminary reflect Irish culture in 19th and 20th centuries

Taking place this Tuesday, May 10th, more than 600 lots from the former seminary at Clonliffe College will be auctioned by Victor Mee in conjunction with Niall Mullen. The clearout, where Mullen has been cataloguing the ecclesiastical, mid-century and contemporary items on behalf of the Archdiocese of Dublin for the past three weeks, is to make room for a facility to shelter an estimated 620 refugees fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“The contents of this college are a window into a significant part of Irish culture in the 19th and 20th centuries, and it is amazing to see the variety of styles accumulated in this collection over the years,” says Mullen.

Music lovers have a couple of options including a Steinway ebonised grand piano (€2,000-€4,000). Furniture of note includes a super continental carved-oak bench (€1,200); a Strahan of Dublin-framed Irish throne chair (€1,500-€2,000) and a 19th-century oak pulpit with wrought-iron balustrade (€800-€1,200). Also listed is a Hicks of Dublin specimen cabinet with a glass display top, which includes the original receipt (€500-€700), and a 17th-century Italian side cabinet with gilded embellishment (€1,500-€3,000).

Interesting lots include an Edwardian oak revolving bookcase, a set of pine library steps and haberdashery-style shelving, along with practical items such as catering equipment, desks, chairs and a plethora of storage units.

Secretly married

Also on Tuesday is Damien Matthews' clearance of Rockfield House, the former home of the late Trevor Fitzherbert. A total of 928 lots feature in the sale, including antique furniture, silk curtains, silver, porcelain and collectibles. Fitzherbert, originally of the Blackcastle estate in Navan, was a descendant of Maria Anne Fitzherbert, the long-time companion to George, Prince of Wales, who later became King George IV. They secretly married in 1785 in a marriage that was later declared invalid, as the prince's father, King George III, had not given his consent. At the time, it was forbidden for a monarch or spouse to be Roman Catholic. But the twice-widowed Mrs Fitzherbert, through her nephew from her first marriage, Cardinal Weld, persuaded Pope Pius VII to declare the marriage sacramentally valid.

Died intestate

She had been left destitute after her first marriage, which only lasted three months, as her husband died intestate, so his estate went to his younger brother who had 15 children. The marriage to the prince was performed by the Rev Robert Burt, whose debts of £500 (or €77,200 in today's money) were paid by the prince to release the priest from Fleet Prison. Though the prince later married his first cousin, his last will and testament bequeathed all his "worldly property… to my Maria Fitzherbert, my wife, the wife of my heart and soul".

After his death it was discovered he retained all her letters, and she was offered the title of duchess for her silence, but refused. Her memorial monument, by noted Irish sculptor John Edward Carew at St John the Baptist Church in Brighton, shows her wearing three wedding rings. victormeeauctions.ie, matthewsauctionrooms.com

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