The violin famously played by the Titanic’s bandmaster as the liner sank beneath the waves has sold for a world record price of £900,000 at auction.
Wallace Hartley has become part of the doomed ship’s legend after leading his fellow musicians in playing as the vessel went down, most famously the hymn Nearer My God To Thee.
Hartley and his seven fellow band members all died in the tragedy on April 14 1912, when the cruiser hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank, killing 1,500 people.
His violin, which had been a gift from his fiancee Maria Robinson, was apparently found in a case strapped to his body when it was recovered from the icy waters.
Its re-emergence in 2006, when it was reportedly discovered in an attic in Yorkshire, prompted heated debate over its authenticity.
Titanic specialist auctioneers Henry Aldridge and Son say nearly seven years of research and tests have proved it to be the genuine article.
Now the violin – accompanied by a leather luggage case initialed WHH – has been sold alongside a host of items from the ship at an auction in Devizes, Wiltshire.
Andrew Aldridge, a valuer with the auctioneer, said worldwide interest in the instrument meant it was likely to break the world record fee for a single piece of memorabilia from the Titanic.
The violin had a reserve price of between £200,000 and £300,000, but sold for triple that amount.
Mr Aldridge said: “It symbolises love, with a young man strapping it to his body because it was an engagement present from his fiancee. It also epitomises bravery. He knew there would be no lifeboats.
“It symbolises everything that’s good about people, not just Wallace Hartley and his band, but all the men, women and children who lost their lives.”
The previous record sale saw a 32ft plan of the Titanic used in the 1912 inquiry into the sinking of the ship fetch £220,000 two years ago.
The violin has been on exhibition at Titanic museums in the US and Northern Ireland.
Mr Aldridge also took the violin to Mr Hartley’s hometown of Dewsbury, Yorkshire, this week ahead of its sale.
“I hope it stays in the UK and goes on exhibition,” he said. “There have buyers in the UK but also in the US and Asia so it could go anywhere.”
Among the other items on sale is a photograph showing victims being buried at sea.
The black and white image of bodies in sacks piled three high on deck is expected to fetch up to £5,000.