Titanic’s passenger brooch gifted by crew member emerges for sale
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But now a brooch that a steward gifted to a female passenger during their brief romance on the doomed ship’s only voyage – likened to that of Jack and Rose from the box office smash film – has emerged for sale.
Roberta Maioni struck up the close friendship with the unnamed crew member during the four days she spent on board the ill-fated liner.
Then 20-years-old, she was the maid to a first class passenger and it is thought she fell in love with the young man who was their cabin steward.
Their short real-life romance bears striking similarities to the one between Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, in James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic.
After the ship struck an iceberg on the night of April 14, 1912, and the passengers had to evacuate the ship, the steward sought Roberta out.
He escorted her from her cabin to lifeboat number 8 and made sure she was safe.
As he did so he handed Roberta the white star-shaped badge that was on his uniform to remember him by, as it tragically turned out.
Just like DiCaprio’s character Jack, the young steward died in the disaster.
But some 14 years later and by then married, Roberta wrote an extraordinary eye-witness account of the tragedy for a Daily Express writing competition.
It referenced her beau several times as well as Captain Edward Smith.
She wrote: “An elderly officer, with tears streaming down his cheeks, helped us into one of the lifeboats. He was Captain Smith – the master of that ill-fated vessel.
“As the lifeboat began to descend, I heard him say, ‘Goodbye, remember you are British’.”
Smith also died in the tragedy that happened 110 years ago.
Now the poignant brooch that Roberta kept for the rest of her life has emerged for sale at auction for £60,000.
Along with it is her 1926 typed account of the disaster that is valued at £5,000.
There is also a rare piece of correspondence from the White Star Line First-Class Passenger Department dated April 18, 1912. It is addressed to Roberta’s mother Jane and it confirmed that her daughter had been rescued. It is also worth £5,000.
The letter would have been a huge relief to Mrs Maioni as Roberta’s name did not appear on any survivors’ lists because she was recorded under the name of her employer, the Countess of Rothes.
The archive is being sold by a private collector who bought it from descendants of Roberta over 20 years ago.
It will go under the hammer with auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son of Devizes, Wiltshire.
Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said: “During her lifetime Roberta is said to have told her family about how she survived Titanic and about the young cabin steward she met on board.
“She is said to have fallen in love with him and he with her.
“Although she never revealed his name to anyone – maybe because she was married by that time – she kept hold of this little brooch.
“She told her family that the steward gave it to her, either as a token of love or something to remember him by as he probably realised his fate.
“Either way, it is an incredibly poignant item and one that has a direct connection with the Titanic.”
Roberta, from Norwich, boarded Titanic at Southampton with the Countess of Rothes.
Her account of her time on board the liner also included the near-miss collision the huge ship had with the smaller liner, the SS New York.
As it left Southampton, the water displacement made by the doomed ship sucked the New York towards it and led to Captain Smith to take evasive action.
In her account, Roberta recalled how when she was not on duty she spent her time exploring the ship and ‘making friends’, believed to be a reference to the male steward.
On the night of the disaster in 1912, she wrote how she spent the night in the music salon before going to her cabin and being startled by the ship hitting the iceberg.
She wrote: “I was about to get up when a steward came and said, ‘Miss, we have struck an iceberg but I don’t think there’s any danger. Should there be, I’ll come back and let you know.
“…in a few minutes the steward was back again, telling me not to be afraid but to dress quickly, put on my life belt and go on deck.”
She added that she struggled to get her life jacket on and the steward helped her.
She added: “Still realising nothing of the danger I was in, I joked with him about the funny way in which it was fixed. He did not answer but smiled very sadly and shook his head. Then I knew that something serious had happened.”
She recalled how there was ‘ice all over the deck’ and men and women ‘looking gaunt and fearful’.
She wrote how there were about 35 people in her lifeboat. When they were a safe distance they stopped rowing and watched as Titanic began to sink.
She added: “Then I heard the terrible cries of the twelve hundred men, women and children left upon her. And then came an awful silence – more terrible than the sound that had gone before.”
Roberta and her employer were rescued by the RMS Carpathia several hours later.
She returned to Britain and married London business consultant Cunliffe Bolling in in 1919. He died in 1938 and she passed away in 1963, aged 71.
The archive relating to her has an overall estimate of £75,000 and will be old on April 23.
The Titanic sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on its maiden voyage.
Of the estimated 2,224 passengers and crew aboard, more than 1,500 died, which made the sinking possibly one of the deadliest for a single ship up to that time.
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