Real-life Titanic love story memento sells for £68,000 at auction

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The badge with a picture of Ms Maioni in the background (Henry Aldrige & Son)
The badge with a picture of Ms Maioni in the background (Henry Aldrige & Son)

A star-shaped badge a Titanic steward gifted to a female passenger in a poignant love story echoing the epic 1997 film has sold for £68,000 at auction.

Roberta Maioni from Norwich is understood to have struck up a romance with an unnamed crew member during her time on the ill-fated ship in a love story similar to that of Jack and Rose in the Oscar-winning film.

The 20-year-old was onboard the liner as maid to the Countess of Rothes when she was gifted the White Star Line badge.

While she was fortunate enough to survive the sinking, her paramour died in the tragedy, but not before he sought her out and escorted her from her cabin to a lifeboat before perishing in the disaster.

Ms Maioni held on to the badge until her death at the age of 71 in 1963.

Now, the badge, a telegram and an archive note written by Ms Maioni describing her experience on the Titanic have been bought by a UK buyer after a private collector purchased the items from her descendents.

Her account also relays how she was helped onto the lifeboat by the ship’s captain, Edward Smith - “an elderly gentleman” - and of how she had “tears streaming down her cheeks”.

The fictional story of the star-crossed lovers from different social backgrounds, played in the James Cameron blockbuster by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is said to have borne a striking similarity to that of Ms Maioni and the unknown steward.

Auctioneer Andrew Aldridge of Henry Aldridge and Son auction house in Devizes, Wiltshire, which handled the sale, said the relationship between the couple was “quite literally a real-life Jack and Rose story”.

Mr Aldridge added that while Ms Maioni eventually told her family about her experience onboard the ship, she kept the details of him a secret.

He said: “During her lifetime Roberta is said to have told her family about how she survived the Titanic and about the young cabin steward she met on board.

“Although she never revealed his name to anyone - maybe because she was married by that time - she kept hold of this little brooch.”

Titanic memorabilia and personal artefacts from the vessel are highly collectable and attract large sums of money.

At the same auction, a locker key belonging to steward Sidney Sedunary, sold for £69,000.

A menu from the officers’ mess also sold for £90,000.

And in 2017, one of the last-known letters written onboard the ship sold for a record-breaking £126,000.

The historic document was written on embossed Titanic stationery and sent by first-class passenger Alexander Oskar Holverson on 13 April 1912, the day before the ocean liner sank.

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