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Billy's amazing royal treasures under the hammer; AUCTION: Huge interest in Cov Kid's remarkable souvenirs.

Byline: By Warren Manger

A ROYAL treasure trove collected by a Coventry-kid during his lifetime of service to the Queen Mother is to go under the hammer.

The remarkable collection of royal memorabilia was assembled by William Tallon - better known as Backstairs Billy - during 51 years as the Queen Mum's closest confidant.

It is expected to fetch more than pounds 500,000 when it goes to auction tomorrow.

Shopkeeper's son Billy grew up in Norman Place, Coundon, and went to Barkers Butts Secondary Modern School before starting work at Buckingham Palace when he was 16.

After his national service he was posted to work for the Queen Mother and rose to become her steward and page of the backstairs.

His duty was to attend to the Queen Mum's personal needs, including serving at table, booking medical appointments, tending the Faberge collection and buying and wrapping presents.

In 2001 he was named in the Queen's birthday honours and awarded a gold Royal Victoria Medal for exceptional service to the royal household.

He retired following the Queen Mother's death in 2002 and died of a heart attack at his home in South London, in November last year, aged 72.

Billy's grace-of-favour apartment, provided by the Duchy of Cornwall, was full of souvenirs from his life of service.

They ranged from handwritten notes and unseen or autographed photographs of senior royals to personal gifts, which will now be auctioned off.

Backstairs Billy built up an impressive collection of antiques and artwork which will also be sold at the weekend by Colchester auctioneer Reeman Dansie.

But it is his unique royal memorabilia which is expected to attract the greatest interest, with some personal letters expected to fetch as much as pounds 1,500 each.

Auctioneer James Grinter said: "We've had worldwide interest and we've even got collectors travelling from America especially for the sale."

It was one of the conditions of his will that the items would be sold after his death and the money passed to the beneficiaries of his estate, though it isn't known who those beneficiaries are.

Queen Mum's Dubonnet note

SOME of the lots give an incredible insight into royal life.

There's a handwritten note from the Queen Mother saying: "I think I will take two small bottles of Dubonnet and gin with me this morning, in case it is needed."

A there's a touching two-page letter from Princess Diana written on the first day of her honeymoon thanking Billy for filling her Clarence House room with flowers.

CAPTION(S):

PICTURE... Lot 172 at the auction; TRUSTED... William Tallon at the Queen Mother's side outside Clarence House on her 98th birthday.
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jul 4, 2008
Words:441
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