Titanic violin sells for more than $1.4 million at auction

A violin believed to be the one played by Titanic bandmaster Wallace Hartley is seen in an undated handout image from auction house Henry Aldridge and Son made available Oct. 18, 2013. AP Photo/Henry Aldridge and Son

LONDON A violin believed to have been played on the Titanic before the doomed vessel sank beneath the waves has sold for 900,000 pounds (some $1.45 million) at auction.

An unidentified bidder on Saturday won the violin, whose metal fixtures appear corroded by seawater and is no longer playable. The violin, with bandmaster Wallace Hartley's name on it, is believed to have been found at sea with the musician's body more than a week after the Titanic sank.

Hartley and his seven fellow band members were among the 1,517 people aboard the Titanic who died after it hit an iceberg. According to some accounts, the band played the hymn "Nearer, My God, To Thee" to keep spirits up as the passengers boarded lifeboats in the early hours of April 15, 1912.

Auctioneer Henry Aldridge and Son says the violin has been subject to numerous tests to check its authenticity since it was discovered in 2006. It said earlier this year that the violin was Hartley's "beyond reasonable doubt."

The German-made violin was a gift from Hartley's fiancee Maria Robinson, and was engraved with the words "For Wallace on the occasion of our engagement from Maria."

"It is just a remarkable piece of history," auctioneer Andrew Aldridge said ahead of Saturday's auction. "I have been an auctioneer for 20 years, but I have never seen an item that brings out this degree of emotion in people before."

The musicians have been hailed as heroes for sacrificing their chances of escape.

"Mr. Hartley and the band were very brave people ... standing by their posts to the bitter end," Aldridge said.

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