£8 million Ming vase collection

£8 million Ming vase collection causes war between siblings

The inheritance dispute between the children of Sir Michael Butler over an incredibly expensive Ming vase collection has reached its conclusion.

The siblings, James, Katharine, Charles, and Caroline have been fighting over the valuable Chinese pieces which Sir Butler, the former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, spent decades collecting.

The 800-piece collection was handed to his children as part of the Butler Family Collection, however, no contract was drawn up saying what he wanted to happen to the collection. The siblings have been divided, with James and Katharine wanting to keep the collection together and Caroline and James wanting to sell their half.

The dispute has lasted six years with Katherine and Charles both fighting to keep the collection together, whilst Caroline and James have fought to remove their share from the collection, which is held in the family museum in Dorset.

The split has caused the siblings to cease all communication and has resulted in rumours being circulated about their late father, such as a supposed affair their father had whilst married to their mother.

The case has revealed numerous family secrets to be aired publicly, with allegations that Katharine and Charles were treated more favourably financially than Caroline and James. Caroline also alleged in an email that Sir Butler preferred the collection to his own children.

Katharine expressed her dismay at the decision saying it’s a “cultural tragedy”. She stated:

“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.”

Caroline and James claim that their decision was not motivated by money. Katharine and Charles have claimed they offered more than the markets worth to buy out their siblings half, which they refused. However, Katharine stated about her brother:

“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.”

Katharine and Charles have stated their intention to appeal the decision and have planned to open a petition to keep the collection together. Katharine said:

“We’re also looking into seeing if an organisation like the Art Fund would be willing to buy out our siblings, so it could be visited by more people.

We’re happy to give over our pieces to preserve this for future generations.”

Read more stories

Join over 6,000 wills and probate practitioners – Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Friday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.