In 1878, Miss Valerie Susan Langdon secretly married Sir Henry Meux, 3rd baronet and grandson to the owner of Horseshoe Brewery based in London. Lady Valerie Meux was not accustomed to the lavish Victorian society. Previously an actress and singer in Holborn, Lady Valerie Meux suddenly stepped into a world of wealth and entered into a flamboyant and eccentric lifestyle. She was often seen around London in her phaeton drawn by a pair of Zebras!
She lived with Sir Henry Meux at Theobalds house in Enfield, London, that is now a four-star hotel. Her wealth and affinity for the mysteries of the world soon manifested in a fascination with Ancient Egypt and she began to collect antiquities of all types. Over the years she accumulated 1,800 objects, one of which was the mummy and coffin of Nesmin.
Nesmin’s mummy was first purchased by Walter Herbert Ingram in Luxor in 1885. In 1886, after purchasing it, Ingram gave it to Lady Valerie Meux to add to her collection. Nesmin resided in Theobalds House as part of Lady Meux’s collection for many years before being sold to the extravagant American newspaper mogul William Randolf Hearst. Hearst had built a decadent mansion filled with exotic artifacts and even a menagerie of animals at his Hearst Castle residence in San Simeon California, now a museum open to the public. In 1938, the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD museum) purchased the mummy and coffin for the Brummer Galleries in Rhode Island in the United States of America, where they are on display today.
"Nesmin resided in Theobalds House as part of Lady Meux’s collection for many years before being sold to the extravagant American newspaper mogul William Randolf Hearst"
From the hieroglyphs, we known Nesmin resided in Akhmim, in Upper Egypt and was a priest in the Temple of Min around the 3rd Century BC. His mummy and coffin are well-preserved and epitomize the beauty and care taken to ensure the continuity of life after death. Lady Valerie Meux appreciated the aesthetic of this coffin and mummy, demonstrated by the richness in colour and state of preservation. The mummy displays a Horus headed thick colourful collar necklace just above an image of the winged Goddess, Nut. The cartonnage on the outermost wrappings holds the names and titles of Nesmin below Nut. Traces of black resin on the wrappings indicate the body was filled with molten resin before being wrapped in linen.
Lady Valerie Meux became very close to E.A. Wallis Budge who, in 1896, published a catalogue of her collection at Theobalds house. Budge acknowledged that Lady Valerie Meux had a good eye for collecting, especially when it came to Nesmin. He highlighted it in detail in the catalogue, including a full translation of the hieroglyphs, under the name of Nes-Amsu.
Nesmin now sits in the RISD museum, but his story transverses from Akhmim to Luxor Egypt to Enfield London to California. For Lady Valerie Meux, Nesmin became another diamond in her lavish Victorian socialite visage.
Stacey Anne Bagdi is Research, Exhibitions and Museum Shop Officer for Enfield Council and Freelance Research Assistant for Ancient Civilisations at Birmingham Museums Trust. Stacey has an MA degree in Egyptology from Leiden University. She currently runs the West Midlands Egyptology Society which holds regular talks, trips and events relating to Ancient Egypt. Stacey is based in Enfield, London.