Contents of the home of Princess Viola von Hohenzollern in Scotland for sale at Bonhams Edinburgh


The contents of Scotland’s Killochan Castle, built in 1324 and bought by the present owner Princess Viola von Hohenzollern 15 years ago, will be sold by Bonhams on November 7th in Edinburgh.

A relative of Kaiser Wilhelm II by marriage, the princess is offering for sale a set of 12 silver-mounted beakers made for Edward Prince of Wales, later Edward VII as well as portraits of her husband’s ancestors, William III and Charles II. The full-length portrait of William III, an oil on canvas, after Sir Godfrey Kneller, is estimated to sell for £6,000-8,000. The original work is in Windsor Castle. The image of Charles II after Sir Peter Lely, is a three quarter length portrait of Charles II in a blue robe, an oil on canvas it is estimated to sell for £7,000-9,000.

Princess Viola von Hohenzollern comments: “I have long had a love of Scotland and have visited the country since the 1980’s. In 1997 I succumbed to the opportunity to purchase Killochan Castle, an important tower house with a history that dates back to 1324.  The castle sits in an idyllic setting between rolling hills, nestled down within an ancient wood, close to the beautiful Ayrshire coast.  With its fortifications and many secret passages a tangible sense of history pervades the castle.  I was often struck by a sense of wonder that I was living in a house that has been continuously inhabited for the last seven hundred years.   Some of the objects in the sale were acquired with the house and many others were added by me.   It is with reluctance that I have decided to leave Killochan but I hope that others will enjoy attending the sale.”

The top lot in the sale is a truly charming Victorian sporting picture by Richard Ansdell estimated to sell for £60,000-80,000. Richard Ansdell, RA (British, 1815-1885) Winter Shooting, Hares and Ptarmigan, signed and dated ‘R Ansdell/1869’, an oil on canvas.

It was exhibited in Royal Academy in 1869. This is an excellent example of Ansdell’s Scottish highland paintings. A prolific exhibitor at the London academies (showing 149 works at the Royal Academy, as well as 30 at the British Institution) Ansdell was one of the most successful Sporting artists of his generation. He exhibited many Scottish subjects throughout his long career, and built a Lodge on the banks of Loch Laggan.  Ansdell’s best highland works rival that of Sir Edwin Landseer; as one critic noted in 1860, ‘Ansdell’s products are among the best of their kind…if we had no Landseer, Ansdell would, unquestionably, occupy the very foremost place in this department of art’ (Art Journal, 1860, p.223).

There are also a few arresting pieces of furniture including a Queen Anne giltwood table, in the manner of James Moore estimated to sell for £12,000-18,000.

Another attractive item is an  early full length portrait is of Kenneth Duffis, 3rd Lord of Sutherland with his from circa 1710.

History of Killochan Castle

Killochan Castle has a documented history dating back to 1324 when Robert the Bruce granted the lands of Killochanto to the Cathcarts of Carleton on condition that they presented “three sufficient spears” on Christmas Day at the Head Manor of Turnberry.  The castle remained in the Cathcart family for the next 630 years, one of the lengthiest terms of ownership in one family for a Scottish residence.

One of the finest examples of early Scottish fortified architecture, the castle was first built in 1338 as a four-storey tower house with impregnably thick walls. The entire Clan of the Cathcarts at one time were besieged within the vaulted ground floor.   A date stone above the front door shows that in 1586, Ihone Cathcart added a wing to the Castle making it L-shaped and also added two extra floors to the original Tower.  The castle has well placed shot holes and gun loops facing in all directions from the turrets and there is a machicolation over the front door through which boiling oil could be poured on tax inspectors, estate agents and other unwanted guests The castle also has a great number of secret passages and stairways built into the huge stone walls and behind panelling. The former morning room, now a bedroom, was known as the `Laird’s Lug’ as the Laird, having retired, could eavesdrop from behind the panelling and learn of plots to overthrow him. If the odds were too heavily stacked against him, he also had his escape route through a tunnel from the Saloon under the lawn.

Throughout the 17th century the castle was a stronghold of the Covenanters.  The strength of the fortifications, coupled with the extensive network of secret passages meant that even a garrison of 120 soldiers ordered to attack Killochan in 1678 had to admit defeat. During the 18th Century outbuildings on the north side of the castle were demolished and Robert and James Adam, known for their work locally at Culzean and Dalquharran, designed a new wing and the gatehouse.


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