A butler who worked for millionaire friends of the Royal Family has been jailed after stealing Faberge eggs and artwork by Picasso and Bob Dylan as well as £1.9million of their jewellery.

Simon Dalton has been caged for six years after pleading guilty to six counts of theft from Hungerford couple Major Christopher Hanbury and his wife Bridget, using the proceeds to fund his gambling addiction.

Major Hanbury, a former member of the Queen’s Royal Irish Hussars and aide to the Sultan of Brunei, is a family friend of the Prince of Wales, having previously hosted Prince Harry at his Argentinian polo estate.

Three pieces of artwork, a line drawing by Picasso, a Toulouse-Lautrec and a piece of art by Bob Dylan remain missing after Dalton still refuses to reveal their whereabouts.

Manchester Crown Court heard that Dalton, 54, of Finchale Drive, Hale, had worked for the Hanburys since 2009, and committed the offences between 2010 and 2012.

As house manager, he was paid £19,000 a year after tax and lived rent free in a cottage with his wife on the family’s estate in Loveslock House.

Prosecuting, David Farley said Dalton managed the Hanbury’s finances, and as such had access to their accounts and their safe.

In December 2012 Dalton left the family and his wife suddenly without explanation, except for a note saying ‘I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to Scotland to clear my head for a few months’.

The family made efforts to contact Dalton as they were worried about his well-being, but they heard nothing.

The court heard they already had ‘doubts’ about Dalton, and decided to check their possessions to see if anything had been stolen.

They discovered three Faberge eggs were missing, as well as the Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, both worth £650,000 each and the Dylan painting which is worth £100,000.

Police were alerted and subsequent financial investigations found that he had stolen £725,000 from the Hanbury’s bank accounts, of which he gambled more than £570,000.

They also traced a pawnbrokers in Fleet Street, London, where Dalton had pawned jewellery, watches and gems.

However the pawnbrokers became suspicious when he later attempted to pawn the three Faberge eggs and a Faberge stamp, cancelling the transaction and the items were later returned to the Hanburys.

Instead of travelling to Scotland, Dalton had actually fled on a ferry to Lille in France, where he rented a safety deposit box.

A suitcase full of his clothes as well as £1.9 million of jewellery and watches were later recovered from the deposit box.

He was arrested on January 3, 2013 after returning to the UK.

In a victim impact statement, Bridget Hanbury said they are an ‘extremely private family’ who had welcomed Dalton and trusted him so they could ‘relax’.

Now they have had to install 24-hour security, and say their life of ‘peaceful security’ has now been ‘shattered’.

Defending, Mark Cotter said Dalton, who served in the Army including in Northern Ireland, was a heavy gambler.

He said Dalton, who has now separated from his wife, is ‘obsessed by death’ having lost close friends and following the death of his father at a young age.

Mr Cotter apologised to the victim’s on his client’s behalf.

Judge Martin Steiger QC previously told Dalton he would be ‘well served’ at sentence, if he were to reveal the location of the missing artwork.