Single-estate auctions function as powerful portraits of their owners. They are the expression of an individual through the objects that meant something to them, items which accompanied them through the years. In assembling the estate of lawyer, politician, and diplomat Roland Michener (1900-1991), it became clear that the pieces in this auction tell a story about the incredible breadth of a life spent in service to his country.
Michener served as the Speaker of the House of Commons from 1957 to 1962, the High Commissioner to India from 1964-1967, and as the Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974. These positions placed him in the centre of many of the events which defined Canada in the last half of the 20th century. Only ten days into his tenure as Governor General, he opened Expo 67. Michener also faced down a constitutional crisis while in office, when Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson’s government was defeated on a tax bill in February 1968. The FLQ Crisis also occurred during Michener’s period of service, sparking his invocation of the War Measures Act. Many years later, it was revealed that it was Michener himself, rather than James Cross and Pierre Laporte, who was the FLQ’s intended kidnapping target.
As Governor General, Michener ushered in a new precedent when he undertook a state visit to Trinidad and Tobago in 1971, followed by his trip to Persepolis for what would enter the history books as the most expensive party in modern history: Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s banquet to commemorate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire (see lot 501, a menu from this event). These trips sparked controversy, as Michener was not Canada’s head of state, yet was presiding over what looked like state visits. However, Michener’s successes on these trips would end up changing the conventions of the role and broadening the responsibilities of future Governors General. Michener and his wife Norah were also noted for relaxing protocol at Rideau Hall – particularly in their dissolving the requirement for women to curtsey.
After serving his term as Governor General, Michener and Norah relocated to the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto. He served as Chancellor of Queen’s University until 1980, and remained active in business.
Michener’s affairs, presented in this auction, include historical documents, signed photographs of international royalty, dignitaries and politicians, alongside presentation items from his time in office. These more formal items—sure to be of interest for the historian or lover of international affairs—are enhanced by personal belongings, books, and artworks. A few items bear the touch of Michener’s wife Norah—a similarly impressive figure—who annotated a few of the items in this auction, and purchased a few others. A poignant example of this is lot 527, a painting by Clayton David Insley, which was a gift from Norah to her husband on their 36th wedding anniversary, 26 February 1962.
Whether you intend to bid or just browse, we hope you take a moment to take a closer look at the Estate of Roland Michener. This special auction serves as an incredible time capsule, representing both a period in our nation’s history as well as the extraordinary life of Roland Michener.
About the auction
Waddington’s is pleased to present the estate of lawyer, politician, and diplomat Roland Michener. Michener served as the Speaker of the House of Commons from 1957 to 1962, the High Commissioner to India from 1964-1967, and as the Governor General of Canada from 1967 to 1974. Highlights from this auction include historical documents; signed photographs of international royalty, dignitaries and politicians; presentation items from Michener’s time in office; personal belongings and books, and other items of interest.
Online from May 27-June 1, we invite you to browse the online gallery and preview these works in person at our Toronto location, 275 King Street East, 2nd Floor.
Wednesday, May 24 from 1:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Thursday, May 25 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Friday, May 26 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Saturday, May 27 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday, May 28 from 12:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Monday, May 29 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Tuesday, May 30 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
Wednesday, May 31 from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Otherwise by appointment.
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