Martyn Downer

The Queen's Knight
  • The Queen's Knight

  • Sir Howard Elphinstone, dashing hero of the Crimean War, was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1858 aged just twenty-nine. Handpicked by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to be governor to their third son, Prince Arthur, Elphinstone made an uncertain start at court, uncomfortabe within its cliques and clashing frequently with the impassioned Queen. But after Albert's death in 1861, Elphinstone became not only a surrogate father to Arthur, but also Victoria's most trusted confidant.

    Elphinstone's diaries and his prolific correspondence with the Queen shed remarkable new light on her complex personality and life at court. His story portrays in vivid detail the bitter rivalries and tragedies which rocked the palace during the Queen's long seclusion following Albert's death. It reveals the shocking effects of Prince Leopold's bleeding attacks, the security alarm caused by Irish republicans, and the truth behind Victoria's most notorious servant, John Brown.

    Artist and soldier, bodyguard and diplomat, confidant and spy: Elphinstone is the forgotten hero of the Victorian court. The Queen's Knight restores him to his rightful place at the heart of the most remarkable royal family in British history.

Martyn Downer grew up surrounded by art and antiques as his father owned a provincial auction house and he spent his school holidays working there as a porter. He started his career in the art business working for an antique jeweller in London's West End before joining Sotheby's as a junior specialist in 1993. Over the following ten years, Martyn sourced jewellery from around the world for Sotheby's auctions in New York, London and Geneva. In that time Sotheby's sold many important single collections of jewellery, notably those of Elton John and Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and - in 1994 - the single most valuable jewel ever sold at auction, a 100.1 carat diamond which fetched $16m. Martyn was Head of Jewellery at Sotheby's in London from 1999 to 2003. He regularly lectures on the subject and contributes articles to art and antiques magazines. He lives in Buckinghamshire with his wife, who is a painter, and their three young children.

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