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Wallace Hartley’s Titanic Violin Fetches $1.5M at London Auction

Wallace Henry Hartley and the violin and case found strapped to his body after the Titanic sank in 1912.

Wallace Hartley, a second-class passenger on the Titanic, went down with the ship, but the violin he was playing on the night the liner stuck an iceberg survived and was sold at auction over the weekend for a surprisingly titanic sum, $1.5 million.

The instrument was recovered in 2006 along with Hartley’s travel bag, which also was auctioned by Henry Aldridge & Son in London. The bag contained the violin and sheet music.

Hartley was immortalized in the the 1997 James Cameron film “Titanic,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett. He was depicted calmly playing “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” with his eight-member band on deck as the ship sank.

Actor Jonathan Evans-Jones played Hartley in the movie and his prop violin was also on display.

The London auctioneer, which specializes in Titanic memorabilia, had estimated the violin to be worth between £200,000 and £300,000, which roughly translates to about $480,000 at the top end. The final selling price was £1.1 million, or $1,454,400.

Hartley’s fiancee gave him the violin before he sailed, according to the auction house. It was made in Germany around 1880. The violin was found in an attic. It was contained in a leather case with the initials “W. H. H.” It contained the inscription: “For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria.”

Forensic tests also confirmed the age of the instrument.

Hartley’s body was recovered about two weeks after the sinking, floating in the North Sea, according to press reports. He was “fully dressed with his travel bag strapped to his body.”

By the time of his burial, his heroic actions on the ship had been widely circulated. More than one thousand people attended his funeral, while an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 mourners lined his funeral procession route.