Priceless collection of Ming vases to be broken up in inheritance dispute

The near-priceless collection of Ming porcelain assembled by a late Diplomat is set to be broken up, after two of his children took their other siblings to court.

The 500 gleaming porcelain bowls and vases are considered the world’s most important collection of 17th century Chinese porcelain and took Sir Michael Butler 50 years to assemble.

According to The Mail on Sunday, Katharine Butler, 48, and her brother Charles, 49, have been locked in a six year long battle to keep the collection intact, while Caroline, 62, and James, 50, fight through the courts to remove their share from the private family museum in Dorset.

But a judge has ruled in favour of the elder two siblings who fought to be able to break up the collection, which is estimated to be worth £8 million.

Katherine told the MoS: “It’s a cultural tragedy. The world’s best collection of Chinese porcelain from that era will be broken up and dispersed, when our father made it very clear he wanted it kept together.

“For me, the pieces aren’t just pots – they represent my father’s extraordinary achievement. He created the collection meticulously over 50 years.

“I can’t understand why my brother and sister think it’s OK not to have talked to us in two years, to disregard my father’s wishes and to break up a collection which has such cultural and academic importance.

“I’m particularly confused about why James has taken this position. I find it difficult to believe he wants to keep 125 pieces of porcelain in his house.”

Sir Michael died on Christmas Eve, 2013. Katherine continued: “Charles and I got a letter from Caroline and James’s lawyers three weeks after we buried him. We were astonished. They’ve refused to speak to us ever since. We tried through every means possible to communicate with them, but all we got were legal letters. Their condition of any meeting was the division of the collection.”

Katharine says she and Charles have attempted to buy their siblings out, offering more than the market worth. They refused. In court, Caroline and James said they do not want money, only to keep their 125 pieces of porcelain at home, where they can enjoy them.

A petition in favour of keeping the collection together has been set up.


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