Saved from the Red Army! Peerless royal jewels go on sale today.

Saved from the clutches of Red Army! Smuggled out in a wheelbarrow then forgotten in a bank vault, a peerless collection of royal jewels goes on sale today…

Hidden in a vault in the depths of a German bank for almost eight decades, an extraordinary collection of royal jewels goes on sale at Sotheby’s today.

The beauty and craftsmanship of the tiaras, necklaces, bracelets, and earrings creates a treasure chest from one of the most opulent eras of European court life.

The collection can only be described as peerless.

Yet that it survived at all is something of a miracle, having been snatched from the clutches of the Soviets in circumstances of bravery and ingenuity.

The heroine, Princess Eudoxie of Bulgaria, elder daughter of King Ferdinand I

Princess Eudoxie was a descendant of Queen Marie Antoinette

Crown  Prince Boris of Bulgaria and future King Boris III

King Boris III of Bulgaria and Princess Giovanna of Savoy on their wedding day

They had lain buried in an iron box for two years as Bulgarian communists took over at the close of the Second World War, and were then smuggled out sewn into pieces of cloth – where they remained until eventually rediscovered earlier this year.

The heroine in the story is Princess Eudoxie, elder daughter of the penultimate King of Bulgaria who enjoyed commissioning sumptuous parures for his wife, the Queen. 

Through her father, Eudoxie, was a cousin of Queen Victoria, whilst through her mother – a descendant of Queen Marie Antoinette.

The Princess never married but on the abdication in 1918 of her father, she became ‘First Lady of Bulgaria’ to her brother Boris, the new king, until his marriage in 1930 to Giovanna of Savoy.

She remained an integral part of the Bulgarian royal family, living in the capital Sofia.

In 1944, however, with Russia’s Red Army closing in, Eudoxie realised that the end of the monarchy was fast approaching,.

Eudoxie saved the family’s sumptuous jewels, by sewing them into pieces of cloth and burying them inside an iron box in her garden in Sofia.

Arrest, solitary confinement and torture followed at the hands of the newly formed pro-Soviet, Bulgaria Fatherland Front. On her release, she was put under house arrest, with a guard at her side day and night.

On February 1st 1945 her brother, Prince Kyril, was assassinated.

Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma, Princess consort of Burlgaria wearing the Kochert lady’s gold watch 

A lady’s wristwatch by Austrian Crown Jeweller – Kochert, belonging to the Queen Marie Louise of Bulgaria

A three-strand seed pearl necklace set with pink topazes and diamonds. Inherited by Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria from her grandmother Queen Margherita of Savoy

Prince Kyril of Bulgaria who was assassinated

But in June 1946 it was decided that the remaining members of the Royal Family would be allowed to leave the country. The communist leaders didn’t want to make martyrs of them as had happened thirty years earlier to the Russian Royals.

As a Bulgarian, Princess Eudoxie was informed that she was not allowed to take anything with her, save the clothes she was standing up in.

But it was different for her sister-in-law, the Italian-born Queen Giovanna, who was granted permission to take her two small children and her personal possessions into exile.

This gave Eudoxie one slim opportunity to save the jewels.

One night, when her guard was fast asleep, Eudoxie dug up the box which contained the jewels buried two years previously.

She put the box into a deep wheelbarrow and covered it with books, claiming that the Queen’s library had been destroyed, and she needed more reading material. And transferred the whole consignment to the palace, ready for their joint departure.

On September 16th the small royal party of two women and two children, along with the Queen’s light luggage, left the palace to begin their brave voyage.

They were first taken by train over the Bulgarian-Turkish border to Istanbul where they boarded a boat heading to Alexandria in Egypt.

Princess Eudoxie disembarked in Port Said and with a suitcase packed with the jewels and a few clothes given to her by Giovanna, she boarded a cargo ship for Europe.

A gold fringe necklace set with diamonds, rubies, and sapphires belonging to Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicillies

A Fabergé crescent moon pendant brooch set with rubies and diamonds inherited by Princess Eudoxie of Bulgaria from Empress Maria-Feodorovna of Russia

Emerald and diamond cufflinks given to Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria by Sultan Abdul-Hamid II of Ottoman Empire in 1898

Princess Eudoxia who smuggled the jewels out of Bulgaria and deposited them in the bank where they were discovered in 2023

The former, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria who lived at the Coburg mansion in Switzerland

Despite having very little money, she made her way to Switzerland in in early October, travelling there in the lorry of a removal firm. And once there, she telephoned the Duke of Württemberg, husband of her younger sister Nadezhda who was living not far from their father, in Germany.

The Princess arrived at the Coburg mansion of her father, the former, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria and before long deposited her jewels in the bank where they were found in 2023.

They were all still hidden safely, preserved in the cloth pouches into which she had sewn them in 1944. Sadly, they had never been worn again.

  • Vienna 1900: An Imperial & Royal Collection. Monday November 6, Sotheby’s Geneva 

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