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Four well-known people on their most treasured possessions - Tracey Rodgers, MLAs Danny Kinahan and John Dallat, and TV's Paul Clark

Businesswoman Tracey Rodgers, MLAs Danny Kinahan and John Dallat, and TV's Paul Clark value one item above all others. What is it? And why?

By Kerry McKittrick

For most of us, an inheritance usually means a few dusty items of furniture, a questionable artwork or two and whatever monies are left over after the taxman has taken his not inconsiderable share.

For Prince William and Prince Harry, however, the latter's 30th birthday three days ago has seen them eligible to inherit the £10m legacy from their late mother's estate, as well as laying claim to some other items which once belonged to her.

Diana's iconic wedding dress, with its 25ft train, designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel, now formally belongs to the princes.

It had been looked after at their uncle's Althorp estate until now, apart from when it was travelling the world for exhibitions. As well as the dress their mother wore to wed Prince Charles, the brothers will also inherit 28 other items of clothing, two tiaras, letters, photos, family jewels, paintings and home movies, among other things.

Often when a loved one passes on, relatives may choose an item of their belongings as keepsakes to remember them by. Sometimes particular items are left as bequests in wills as in the case of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis who left figurines to close friends in her will. Other mementoes can be passed on years before and continue to be treasured after their death.

As the Royal princes familiarise themselves with their new acquisitions, we talk to four local celebrities about objects that have been passed on to them and how, regardless of their worth, they're priceless to them.

'Getting granny's Bible was very emotional'

Tracey Rodgers (47) is director of model agency Style Academy and lives in Belfast with her husband Stefan. She says:

When my granny died at the age of 89 she left me her Bible. It's a very old black leather one and after she passed away they found a little handwritten note tucked into it saying it was for me.

I was very close to my granny – we spoke on the phone every night.

She had mentioned to me in passing that she was going to leave it to me.

She loved to talk about what would happen when she was gone but that only came back to me after she died. She stored the Bible in a little tin with pink and blue flowers.

My dad gave it to me a couple of days after she died and being handed it was very emotional.

It's written in very old-fashioned language so it's not a Bible that I could really use because I could barely understand it.

My granny came to church with us every Sunday and then we would spend the rest of the day together.

She always had faith in God but she only really became a Christian four or five years before she died.

I have a niece and a nephew so I imagine that I will pass the Bible on to my niece at some stage. I also have my great-grandmother's wedding ring. I never met her but it is important to me as it's part of my family history. I know that William and Harry have just inherited their mother's wedding dress but goodness knows what they're going to do with that. I can remember thinking "What on earth?" when I saw it on her wedding day. It was certainly a strange choice for someone who went on to become known for her style."

'This watch is a reminder of all my Dad did for me'

John Dallat (67) is an SDLP MLA and lives in Kilrea with his wife Anne. They have two grown-up sons, Ronan (36) and Diarmuid (30), and a daughter, Helena (34). He says:

My father left me an Omega watch. He never actually wore it – he found it when he was clearing the house of a relative after they had died and he gave it to me.

It didn't work and didn't have a strap and remained at my family home for many years until I got married. Then my wife took it to a jeweller's and discovered that it's actually a very good watch. We had it fixed and put a strap back on it, but the problem is that it's so old it's difficult to find people who can fix it. It stopped working again five years ago and we couldn't find anyone to undertake the work. Eventually Adairs Jewellers in Ballymena managed to fix it.

It's an heirloom that's very important to me because it keeps the connection between me and my father.

My father passed away in 1988. He had worked as a labourer and he struggled to earn enough to keep his family of six. I was the eldest of the family and he made great sacrifices so that I could get an education. I don't want to ever forget that, and this watch is a constant reminder of my dad and his kindness. I'd like to leave the watch to one of my boys in time.

I do wear the watch, but not every day as I keep it for nice occasions. To me, this watch is better than a photograph that you hang on the wall; it's a tangible piece of history.

I think a lot of people hold on to keepsakes quietly – when my mother died we discovered that she had kept the black ties we had all worn when my brother died as a child.

She never told anyone about that but when she died, we wore them to her funeral."

'My great-uncle never talked about the Somme'

Paul Clark (60) presents UTV Live on weekdays. He lives in Belfast with his wife Carol and sons Peter (26) and David (24). He says:

I have a set of my great-uncle's medals from the First World War. He was called Donald Clark and was in the 14th Battalion of the Irish Rifles.

I know he was at the Battle of the Somme because the Rifles were there that day.

Donald didn't die until 1980 so I remember meeting him as a child but he never talked about the war.

I'm full of regret on one level that we didn't talk about it but on another level I don't think he would have talked about it in any case – I was a child and he would have kept that from me.

The medals were lost for quite some time until a few years ago a woman who used to work for my uncle phoned me.

Her husband had died and she was going through some things of his and, lo and behold, there they were. She had looked after them for safe-keeping.

Towards the end of their lives my great uncle and his wife had gone into care homes and a lot of things were given to this lady.

I collected the medals and told my dad I wanted to hold on to them. I have always had a great interest in the two world wars.

There are three medals – the 1914/15 Star, the Service Medal, or British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. Together these medals are nick-named Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. They're not valuable because many were given out but to me they are priceless – back then each medal had the name of the recipient engraved on the back.

The other thing that was passed to me was a signed copy of the Solemn League and Covenant. My grandfather went blind and had to go into a home so my father and I were clearing out some papers and discovered this folded up among some papers.

Everyone who signed the Covenant signed the main one and got a copy to take away.

I can clearly see my grandfather's signature and the old family address on the Ravenhill Road.

The document doesn't have any meaning for me other than as an historical artefact and a piece of family history. It certainly doesn't have any political meaning for me.

Again, I don't think it's of any monetary value but it has a family connection and could have been lost if my father and I hadn't gone through those papers.

These are things that I'll pass on, probably to my son Peter.

He has said he would want to show these things to his own children some day."

'I'd never sell my aunt's painting of the Queen'

Danny Kinahan (56) is an Ulster Unionist MLA and lives in Castle Upton, Templepatrick with his wife Anna and their children, Eliza (20), Tara (19), Hugo (17) and Mia (15). He says:

I was left a portrait of the Queen by my aunt Lydia de Burgh. It's her copy of a portrait that she painted in 1958.

When she died I inherited the picture – I was the oldest son of the family as I had inherited Castle Upton, so I had somewhere to hang it.

The original of the painting is in Hillsborough Castle and Lydia was the only Irish painter to have had personal sittings with the Queen and her aunt, Princess Alice.

I was very close to my aunt. Before she passed away, she was being looked after by Marie Curie Cancer Care and I would read poetry to her. I have no idea if it meant anything to her or not but I hope so.

She was single but she had travelled the world and had a go at everything. She was very lonely, though.

I'm very grateful for the portrait but I do have to explain to people why there is a portrait of the Queen in our home, as we're not a public building.

We put it on display for occasions such as the Royal wedding or the Queen's jubilees.

I know it's just a copy but it's very valuable to me personally, so it's not something I would ever sell."

 

Where there's a will ...

  • In 2013 the National Trust was given what was thought to be a copy of a self portrait of the Dutch painter Rembrandt by the estate of Edna, Lady Samuel of Wych Cross. After spending two years in storage the painting was examined by an internationally renowned Rembrandt specialist and discovered to be the real thing – worth £20m
  • The Queen inherited the late Queen Mother's entire £70m fortune, including a collection of Faberge eggs, paintings, jewellery and horses
  • Marilyn Monroe left all of her clothes – including underwear – to her acting coach Lee Strasberg. Lee kept the wardrobe hidden away in a warehouse and it was his widow who auctioned it off after his death for more than £10m
  • Napoleon Bonaparte's unusual bequest was that after his death his head should be shaven and the hair be given to friends and family
  • Harry Houdini spent a large part of his life exposing fraudulent mediums. It is unusual then that in his will he requested his wife hold a seance once a year so he may contact her from the other side. Bess Houdini held a seance each year for 10 years after his death. After the last one Bess put out a candle that had burned beside a picture of Houdini for 10 years. She later said: "Ten years was long enough to wait for any man."

The royal wedding dress heavy with symbolism

It's one of the most famous wedding dresses in history – and now Princess Diana's gown has been passed onto her sons, Princes William and Harry.

Designed by David and Elizabeth Emanuel for Diana's wedding to Prince Charles in 1981, the ivory silk taffeta and antique lace dress was of its time, boasting a 25ft train, a full skirt and huge puffed sleeves. The gown was elaborately decorated with hand embroidery, sequins, 10,000 pearls, and was 'suitably dramatic in order to make an impression'.

But the dress was symbolic too, as the young bride appeared overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material, not to mention the occasion.

Although the dress has gone down as iconic in fashion history, it was not without its critics. One magazine branded it "too much dress, too little princess".

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