Saturday, April 30, 2011

Painting of the Day: “The Wedding Morning,” 1892

The Wedding Morning
John Henry F. Bacon, 1892
The Lady Lever Art Gallery
Here’s another painting purchased by Liverpool soap magnate Lord Levehulme to be used as an advertisement for his soap. Aside from its marketing appeal, it’s also a lovely work of art by John Henry Frederick Bacon. It was first displayed at the Royal Academy in 1892 where it was immediately purchased by Lord Leverhulme. Critics, while calling the painting “overly sentimental,” praised Bacon’s rendering of light, calling it an essay in lighting.

When Leverhulme reproduced the painting for his advertising, he had the clock on the mantel replaced with a box of his soap. Afterwards, he presented this lovely bridal seen to his wife and it remains in the Lady Lever Art Gallery to this day.

Royal Pets: Queen Alexandra with Facey, 1893

Queen Alexandra While
Princess of Wales
with Facey, 1893
Sir (Samuel) Luke Fildes
The Royal Collection
Among the gifts given to The Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George V and Princess Victoria Mary of Teck), was this beautiful painting of the Duke’s mother, The Princess of Wales (later, Queen Alexandra) and one of her favorite dogs, Facey.

The painting by Sir Samuel Luke Fildes was commissioned by Members of Royal Household as a gift for the Duke. Mary of Teck was said to have been very fond of the painting and displayed it prominently.

The Art of Play: The Royal Wedding Charger, 1981

The Royal Wedding Charger
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Museum of Childhood
This oddly cute toy was produced in 1981 as a memento of the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer and is the work of Maggie Wareham. Constructed of rope, wood, beads, shells and lace, this hand-carved and hand-painted toy depicts the Prince and Princess of Wales astride a colorful charger.

Though Mr. Heal had created this unusual piece for Mr. Oliver Heal of the department store Heal's of Tottenham Court Road, London. Instead of displaying this nifty object in the store as planned, Mr. Heal was so amused by the toy that he donated it to the Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood.

Saturday Sparkle: The Rose of York Brooch, 1893

The Rose of York Brooch
Enamel, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds
Collingwood & Co., 1893
The Royal Collection
Produced by Collingwood & Co. in 1893, the Rose of York Brooch is a masterpiece of gold, enamel and diamonds. Originally, this floral jewel was the centerpiece of a bracelet. The middle of the bracelet was detachable so that the floral section could be worn as a pin. The design takes its cues from the symbols of the Dukedom of York.

This is one of several that were produced in 1893 for The Duke of York (the future King George V) as gifts from the bridegroom to the bridesmaids. After the marriage of the Duke of York and Princess Mary of Teck, the duke presented one of these to each of the bridesmaids.

This is one of the few surviving pieces of this collection. None of the bracelets survive.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 233

Marjani sat up with considerable effort and glared at Marie Laveau. “Listen, you,” Marjani moaned. “I’d rather spend the rest of my life in this agony than join myself to you and your wickedness.”

“I hate to say it,” Marie shook her head, “but, I done admire your strength. We don’t have to be bad friends, Woman.”

From the pocket of her apron, Marie removed a small glass bottle and offered it to Marjani. “Drink this.”

“What is it?” Marjani asked, taking the bottle from Marie. “Some kind of sick mixture of goofer dust and bad wishes?”

“Close.” Marie smiled. “But, it’ll take away your pain.”

“Why should I believe you?” Marjani grunted.

“Have you got any other choice?” Marie smiled.

Meanwhile at their sad, borrowed shanty, Charles rushed toward Barbara Allen before she could do harm to Giovanni.

“You’re protecting him?” Barbara asked in a rage. “This man you’ve fled for all this time? This man who so shames you that you’ve changed your name and lived a life of servitude to avoid him?”

“I’m not protecting him!” Charles replied. “I’m protecting you! Do you really want blood on your hands in addition to…” He paused.

“In addition to all of my other sins?” Barbara spat.

“I didn’t say that.” Charles said, holding Barbara in his arms.

“You didn’t have to.” Barbara struggled to get away from him. “What does it matter? Who cares what happens to me now. I have nothing!”

“You have me, and I care.” Charles held her close. “I care more than you know.”

“Why?” Barbara wailed.

“Because, we’re the same. I understand you. We’ve both spent so much of our lives running away. Do you want to keep running? No, lets’ stop running, Barbara. Let’s be still—together.”

“I have nothing to offer you. Nothing except pain and ruin.” Barbara said.

Behind the, Giovanni moaned as he struggled to sit up.

“Just come away with me, Barbara. We can start anew.” Charles pleaded.

Meanwhile, outside the Cage’s Royal Street mansion, Mr. Punch took Adrienne’s hand as Edward released her from his grip. Adrienne hugged Mr. Punch and began to cry. “Now, now, Lady Chum.” Mr. Punch whispered as he helped her back into the carriage where Robert—still holding little Colin--helped her to sit down.

“There now,” Edward growled. “You got your woman back. Where’s my son?”

“Settle down, Edward.” Ulrika said, stepping forward.

Edward snarled at Ulrika. “Get away from me, Ulrika. I don’t wish to see that deformed pile of flesh you’re carrying.”

“This pile of flesh is Iolanthe Evangeline’s son.” Ulrika laughed.

“He’s disgusting.” Edward said. “The only child I wish to see is the one that belongs to me.”

“You’ll never get him, you won’t.” Mr. Punch said.

I’ve kept my end of the bargain. You’ve got your woman.” Edward fumed.

“Gentlemen,” Ulrika tried to quiet them. “You’re drawing attention to yourselves. We can work this out.”

“You keep saying that, Miss Rittenhouse.” Cecil barked. “Would you care to explain yourself?”

“It’s quite simple really. You have in our possession the child that belongs to Mr. Cage. Naturally, he wants it back.”

“You’re not one to talk to us about keepin’ things what don’t belong to you.” Mr. Punch mumbled.

“True.” Ulrika said. “But, I’m willing to correct that. You see, if you give Mr. Cage the child, I’ll reward you.”

“You got nothin’ I want.” Mr. Punch frowned.

“I think I do.” Ulrika winked. “I will not only give you another child, but I’ll return the thing you’ve been seeking all this time. You still want your father’s blue diamond, don’t you?”

Did you miss Chapters 1-232? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, May 2, 2011 for Chapter 234 of Punch’s Cousin.

Goal for the Day: Make Decisions with Your Head. Not Your Heart

Sometimes, we want things that just aren’t possible. Reality has a way of intruding on our desires. Often, we can’t carry out our plans because weather, economics and other practical matters get in the way. Every so often, we proceed despite these impediments, but in doing so we may put ourselves in situations that aren’t in our best interest.

That’s why it’s important to make decisions based on reality and not based on our wants and desires. Though we may not be emotionally satisfied by delays, we’ve got to think about the long-run. We must remember that we’ll eventually get what we want, and the best way to get it is always the safest and most comfortable route.

Object of the Day: An Antique Silver Napkin Ring

From my collection of antique napkin rings comes another engraved silver piece. My guess is that this silver ring dates to the 1920’s. With its beaded edge and chased checkerboard pattern, it demonstrates the ideals of 1920’s English design. As is often the case, this has been monogrammed within a smooth silver circle. A florid “F” stands out against the geometric design.

I like napkin rings and wish that we could use them more often. Cloth napkins don’t really lend themselves to daily use, but I think it’s always nice to dress a beautiful table every so often. It can give importance to even the simplest meal.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal Gifts: The Orange Blossom Parure, 1839-1846

Pieces of the Orange Blossom Parure
Given by Prince Albert to Queen Victoria
Gold, Enamel, Porcelain
The Royal Collection
Did you really think I’d let the day of the Royal wedding pass without mentioning Queen Victoria? I didn’t think so.

Perhaps the most romantic of all the Royal couple, Prince Albert and Queen Victoria truly took delight in one another. They lavished each other with gifts from almost the moment they met. One of the first gifts that Prince Albert gave Victoria—well before their marriage—was a lovely little pin of enamel and gold which took the form of a sprig of orange blossoms. Orange blossoms were often associated with marriage.

In honor of this gift, the Queen wore real orange blossoms on the day of her wedding. Over the next seven years, Prince Albert gifted the Queen with several more pieces of orange blossom jewelry. Some of these pieces still remain as part of this impressive and attractive parure.

Queen Victoria wore this suite on her wedding anniversary each year, even after the early death of Prince Albert.

Gifts of Grandeur: The Diamond Fringe Necklace, First Half of the Nineteenth Century

The Diamond Fringe Necklace
Diamonds, Gold, Silver, Silk Thread
The First Half of the Nineteenth Century
Presented to Queen Elizabeth, 1947
The Royal Collection
Since Queen Elizabeth II was wearing the Russian Fringe Tiara on the day of her wedding in 1947 (see below), it only made sense that she should have a matching necklace. The tiara started its life as a necklace, and this similarly-styled neck ornament was created around the same time—at some point in the first half of the Nineteenth Century.

This exceptional piece, made of diamonds, gold and silver—is held together with silk thread. It was a gift to the then-Princess Elizabeth from the Lord Mayor of London and the Court of Aldermen, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Chairman of the Stock Exchange, the Chairman of Lloyds, the Chairman of the Baltic Exchange and the Committee of London Clearing Banks. Her Majesty has been known to wear this necklace with some regularity.

Vintage Image of the Day: The Marriage of Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh, 1947

Princess Elizabeth (now the Queen)
and the Duke of Edinburgh at
their wedding, 1947
Baron Studios
The Royal Collection
Today’s Royal wedding, while removed from tradition in some ways (such as the cute and charming touch of the Prince and Princess driving themselves away from Buckingham Palace in a little blue Aston Martin Volante convertible), was steeped in centuries of a set pattern for Royal marriages. From the venue—Westminster Abbey—to the protocol, the marriage ceremony was greatly similar to other Royal nuptials.

Prince William’s grandmother (while still Princess Elizabeth) wed the Duke of Edinburgh at Westminster Abbey on November 20, 1947. Just as Prince William and Princess Katherine were created the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hours before their wedding, Prince Phillip was created Duke of Edinburgh shortly before walking down the aisle.

The Queen wore a gown embroidered with pearls and crystals and her ring was made from made of a nugget of Welsh gold from the Clogau St David’s mine near Dolgellau. This same nugget has supplied the gold for the wedding rings of The Queen Mother (1923), Princess Margaret (1960) Princess Anne (1973), and now, Princess Catherine.

The Russian Fringe Tiara, 1830-1839
For her wedding, Queen Elizabeth wore “The Fringe Tiara.” This graduated circle of vertical rows of diamonds is also known as “The Russian Fringe” and was originally made as a necklace for King George III in 1830. Queen Victoria, in 1839, had the necklace made into a tiara. In 1910, the tiara was given to Mary of Teck who, in turn, gave it to her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth (The Queen Mother) in 1937. Just as Queen Elizabeth II loaned “The Halo Tiara” to Princess Catherine today, the Queen Mother lent “The Fringe Tiara” to her daughter in 1947 for her marriage.

I love this image from the 1947 wedding. Her Majesty looks genuinely pleased and relaxed. Their marriage has lasted lo these many decades. It’s a good sign of things to come for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 232

Barbara Allen shrieked as she stumbled away from Charles. He caught her before she could fall backwards. Her speech was incomprehensible as she peered at Charles through tear-blurred eyes. She babbled viciously, her grief making her at once fierce and vulnerable, wild and weak.

“I’m so dreadfully sorry,” Charles whispered.

“My son!” Barbara screamed. “My brother!” She tugged on her hair and moaned. “It’s my fault!” Barbara crumpled to her knees. “They’re all gone. All of them, my entire family. Mother, Papa, Julian…and my…my…boy…”

A groan from behind them made Charles turn briskly to see Giovanni regaining consciousness.

“It’s not your fault, Lady Barbara. The death of your father—at the very least—can be pinned on one man.”

“Who?” Barbara hissed.

“My brother,” Charles whispered, glancing back at Giovanni.

Barbara shot to her feet and rushed past Charles. Towering over Giovanni she bellowed. “Then, he must die as well.”

Meanwhile, Marjani yelped as Marie Laveau stood over her.

“Got yourself a belly ache?” Marie grinned as she peered down at Marjani.

“You know that I do. You done it to me.” Marjani cried.

“I sure did,” Marie laughed. “And, I can undo it, too.”

“Then, do it!” Marjani growled.

“Oh, I will, woman. All ya gotta do is pledge your devotion to me.”

At that moment, the very much alive Mr. Punch turned to Ulrika Rittenhouse and whispered sharply. “This don’t concern you, you ginger weasel!”

“Oh, but it does.” Ulrika smiled. “My friend has been charged with your murder. But, you’re not dead. You’re here still trying to steal this man’s son.”

“Seems to me you got a baby of your own there to worry ‘bout. So, go on!” Mr. Punch spat.

Ulrika clucked her tongue. Shaking her head, she widened her eyes and glared at Edward Cage. “Let the woman go,” She said, nodding toward Adrienne.

“No.” Edward growled, tightening his grip on Adrienne. “Not until Holt is returned to me.”

“You don’t need that round-heeled French woman.” Ulrika chuckled. “We’ll get your boy back. And, I know how we’ll do it.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-231? If so, you can read them here.

Something Borrowed: The “Halo” Tiara

The Scroll Tiara
After much speculation about whether or not the former Katherine Middleton would wear a tiara as she walked down the marble aisle of Westminster Abbey, we got our answer today when the Duchess of Cambridge emerged from her limousine wearing an historic piece from the collection of Queen Elizabeth II.

The “Halo” Tiara is, I am fairly convinced, also known as “The Scroll Tiara.” Made by Cartier in 1936, this exquisite diamond tiara was purchased by the Duke of York (later, King George VI) for his wife, Elizabeth (later affectionately known as “The Queen Mother"). He presented the tiara to Elizabeth just three weeks before he ascended to the throne, replacing his abdicating brother, King Edward VIII. The Queen Mother presented the tiara to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) as a gift for her eighteenth birthday.

This beautiful piece of history was given new life this morning as it graced the head of Princess Catherine of Wales.

I should note that there is some debate as to the actual name of this tiara.  The official site of the British Monarchy refers to it as "The Halo," however many who study these things know it as "The Scroll."  Some feel that the tiara Katherine wore today is different than the "Scroll" tiara, but another created by Cartier in a similar style.  The Queen Mother owned over a dozen tiaras and this was a style which was popular in the 1930's.  I'll let you all look at the pictures and decide for yourselves barring any official identification between the two.  Regardless, it is a lovely diadem and was perfect for the Duchess. 

Object of the Day: A Dear Souvenir of the Marriage of Charles and Diana

This morning at 3:00 AM Central time, Bertie and I settled in to watch the marriage of Prince William and Princess Catherine of Wales, the newly created Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We were joined by most of the rest of the world and, with millions of other people, we wished them well. It was a stunning ceremony and perfect in every detail from the trees which lined the aisle to Princess Katherine’s gorgeous gown, accented by the Queen Mother’s Scroll Tiara (also known as the “Halo” Tiara.

Comparisons to other Royal weddings were inevitable, especially since reporting the history of such events has become a major part of my career. In light of that, today’s object is a special and unusual souvenir. You’ve all seen many of the items in my collection of Royal memorabilia. One of the most darling objects in that collection is one of the most untraditional and unexpected.

This mug, created for the ill-fated 1981 marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana is not the usual souvenir mug, but, rather one which bears images created by children of the time. In 1981, I was seven years old and recall watching the wedding—mystified. Perhaps that’s why I feel such a connection to this mug. The art work is from the hands of Annamaria Reid (aged 7) and Stephen Winder (aged 8) both of the Hornsea Primary School in Hornsea, England. The images are a child’s idea of that lavish wedding. With the title, “A loyal message to Prince Charles and Lady Diana on their marriage, 1981,” the mug shows these innocent interpretations of the occasion with the caption, “Prince Charles is marrying Lady Diana because she is pretty.” And, she was. And, I suspect, he did.

As the handsome Prince married his new Princess today, we can’t help but have similarly childish thoughts. On behalf of U.S. Royal Watchers, we wish them all the very best as they begin their life together.

Best Wishes to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: Royal Preparations

“Sew faster!  We promised Kate this would be ready by tomorrow!”

Image:  The Seamstress, 1858, Charles-Louis Baugniet, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: Queen Elizabeth II’s Sapphire and Diamond Suite, 1947

Sapphire and Diamond Parure
Carrington & Co., 1947
The Royal Collection
In 1947, King George VI purchased this magnificent suite of diamonds and sapphires set in gold from Carrington & Co. as a gift for the wedding of his eldest daughter, Princess Elizabeth, to Prince Philip.

Her Majesty loved the necklace, but found it a trifle too long. In 1959, she had it shortened by four stones. The largest of the sapphires that were removed was converted into the elegant pendant which hangs from the center of the necklace. This pendant, as is the case of much of the Royal jewelry, serves as a secondary piece of jewelry when detached and worn from a matching pin assembled from the remaining stones from the necklace’s alteration.

Painting of the Day: The Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York, a Symbolic Representation, 1923

The Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of York:
A Symbolic Representation
April, 1923
Ricciardo Meacci
The Royal Collection
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was a lifelong fan of Florentine painting after being introduced to the work of the Italian masters as a young girl. The woman responsible for teaching young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon about art was her mother’s unmarried sister, Violet Cavendish-Bentinck.

It was Cavendish-Bentinck who presented The Duke and Duchess of York (the future King George V I and Queen Elizabeth) with this symbolic painting on their wedding day in April of 1923.

The Duke and Duchess of York on their
wedding day in 1923.  Elizabeth is not holding her
bouquet.  In a touching, unrehearsed moment,
she paused to place her flowers on the
Tomb of the Unknown Solider upon entering
Westminster Abbey.
The painting is styled as a Renaissance altarpiece and is the work of Italian painter Ricciardo Meacci who was celebrated for his miniature watercolor allegorical paintings. Meacci often created miniature works in the style of Renaissance altarpieces and his work quickly found an audience with the elite of London.

This was one of two wedding gifts that were created by Meacci. The other was a painted headboard in a similar style.

Unfolding Pictures: The Marriage Fan, 1760

The Marriage Fan
French, 1760
Presented to Queen Elizabeth II, 1947
The Royal Collection
This antique French fan with pierced mother-of-pearl sticks and guards was a gift to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) on the day of her 1947 wedding to Prince Philip. Traditionally, those firms employed by the Royal Family make gifts of objects which represent their trade on the occasion of weddings. The Royal fan-makers of Duvelleroy presented this fan to the Queen to add to her collection of similar antique fans (most of which had been assembled by her grandmother Queen Mary).

The fan’s painted leaf depicts a scene of an Eighteenth Century French wedding. As was the tradition of the time, the wedding guests are shown wearing red flowers and crimson party favors—typical symbols of marriage.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 231

Charles’ hands shook has he knocked on the door of Marie Laveau’s low, mean house. He was unsure who would come to the door. When it was Marie herself who answered his soft knocking, he was at once relieved and terrified.

“Well, if it ain’t the pretty manservant?” Marie grinned. “Whatchoo want?”

“If you’ll pardon me, Miss Laveau…” Charles began.

“Oh, such pretty talk from the pretty man.” Marie laughed.

“I’ve come to ask you for your help.”

“For true?” Marie chuckled. “With what?”

“Marjani—she’s in a terrible way. She keeps askin’ for you.” Charles explained.

“She’s right to ask for me,” Marie grinned. “I’m the only one that can stop the fire in her belly.”

“How did you know?” Charles asked.

“Boy, who do you think done put it there?” Marie howled.

“Please, make it stop.” Charles pleaded. “She’s in awful pain.”

“Serves her right.” Marie spat.

“Please, ma’am.”

“So polite.” Marie winked. “Treatin’ me like I’m some kind of lady.”

“Marjani is needed, Miss Laveau. The Duke of Fallbridge and Dr. Halifax have been killed. Marjani must help the family. The child is dead, too. The poor lad.”

Marie squinted. “They’re dead?”

“Yes, Miss.” Charles nodded. “Murdered by Iolanthe Evangeline.”

“Is that so?” Marie murumered, squinting into the distance. She shook her head, not believing Charles. Nonetheless, she was curious as to what was happening and thrilled that Iolanthe was in trouble.

“Will you go to her? Please?” Charles begged. “Make her pain stop.”

“Where is she?” Marie asked, stepping out of the house and shutting the door behind her.

Charles told Marie in which hotel Marjani was still lying.

“I’ll go.” Marie grinned. “If you do somethin’ for me.”

“What’s that?” Charles asked.

“Make sure you go an’ tell Barbara Allen that her brother and son are dead. Make it hurt.”

“I have no desire to hurt Miss Allen,”’ Charles growled.

“Whether you wish it or not, it’s gonna hurt her anyway.” Marie chuckled. She slapped Charles on the back. “Now go to her before you do anything else.”

Without another word, Marie hurried off in the direction of the hotel. Charles watched her for a few seconds and then rushed toward the shanty where he’d left Barbara.

When he arrived, he was shocked to find Barbara standing over the bloodied body of his brother.

“Giovanni!” Charles gasped. “What’s happened?”

“He arrived unexpectedly and tried…he tried to…” Barbara began to sob.

Charles wrapped his arms around her. “Have you killed him?”

“No.” Barbara wept. “I’ve only knocked him unconscious. I’d hate to think that I’d killed your brother. You may be estranged, but he’s still your family. I’m sure you don’t wish him dead.”

Charles released Barbara from his embrace. “My dear, I have something to tell you.”

At that moment, Mr. Punch was handing the baby to Robert and rushing out of the carriage after Edward Cage who was dragging Adrienne into the house. She screamed and struggled, but Edward’s grip was too strong.

“Let her go, Cage!” Mr. Punch shouted angrily.

“Give me my son!” Edward barked.

“If you love the boy, you’ll know he’s better off with me than he is with you.” Mr. Punch yelled.

“You—a lunatic! I think not.”

Cecil joined Mr. Punch and took off his coat, throwing it on the ground.

“Edward!” Cecil demanded. “Unhand my wife!”

“Not until my son is returned to me!” Edward said.

“Dear God!” A woman shouted from behind them.

Mr. Punch turned to see Ulrika Rittenhouse approach. In her arms, she carried a wriggling bundle. Mr. Punch squinted at it and recognized it as a child albeit a deformed child.

“I knew you hadn’t really been killed!” Ulrika whooped.

“Help me, Ulrika!” Edward shouted and he squeezed Adrienne’s arm even tighter.

“What do you think I’m here for?” Ulrika smiled.

Did you miss Chapters 1-230? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Keep it in the Family, A Royal Wedding Tiara

The Girls of Great Britain Tiara
Silver, Diamonds, 1893
The Royal Collection
We all have wonderful valuable items in our families which may have more sentimental value than monetary value. Regardless of the financial importance of these pieces, they should be kept within families for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

Of course, the British Royal Family has more nifty stuff than most of us. Their collection of art and jewels is unrivaled. As the world wonders about the particulars of tomorrow’s Royal wedding, there’s much speculation as to whether the bride will wear a tiara on her wedding day. If chooses to wear one, she’s certainly got a wealth of them at her disposal.

Take for instance, this beautiful tiara which was given to Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (later Queen Mary) upon her marriage to the future King George V. This tiara of diamonds and silver was presented to Mary in 1893. Known as The “Girls of Great Britain” Tiara, it was a gift from the “Girls of Great Britain and Ireland,” and bought with money raised by a committee chaired by Lady Eve Greville. Mary wasn’t thrilled with the original pearl finials on the tiara and had them replaced with the large diamonds we see today.

Queen Mary gave this stunning piece of jewelry to Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) on the day of her wedding in 1947. Perhaps this tiara, which can also be inverted and worn as a necklace, will make a reappearance tomorrow. Perhaps it won’t. We’re not sure if Miss Middleton will even wear a tiara, but if she wants to, she’d got options because the Royal Family—as should we all—remembers to keep it in the family.

Object of the Day: An Antique Silver Napkin Ring

Though Prince William of Wales and Catherine Middleton have requested that their guests make contributions to their chosen charities in lieu of sending gifts for the Royal wedding, I’ve no doubt that some of their friends and family will nonetheless offer tokens of affection and remembrance to mark their special day.

Much as Americans do, the English have historically given gifts which commemorate the occasion and will serve as cherished mementos in years to come. For example, let’s look at this sterling silver napkin ring. Adorned with a lovely repoussé pattern of leaves, the ring is ornamented with two shield shapes which have been engraved. The first shield is engraved with the initials “MPR” and the other has been marked with the date 3 February 1929. No doubt, this was part of a set given as a wedding gift seventy-three years ago.

Such objects are often passed from generation to generation of a family and act as a reminder of the love and relationships of a family’s ancestors. Sometimes, they end up in antique shops and are purchased by people like me who help to give these objects a new life. While I don’t know to whom this napkin ring belonged, I do appreciate the sentiment behind it and hope I can, in some small way, keep the spirit of joy with which this was given alive.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sculpture of the Day: The Lily Font, 1841

The Lily Font
Barnard & Co., 1841
Silver Gilt
The Royal Collection
February 10, 1841 was a special day for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Not only was it their first wedding anniversary, but it was also set as the date for the christening of their first child, Victoria Adelaide Mary Louisa.

The Queen and Prince decided that their daughter should be christened in a new baptismal font and commissioned E.W. Smith of Barnard & Co. to create a magnificent silver gilt font adorned with water lilies which were considered symbols of purity.

The result is The Lily Font which has been used at every Royal christening since 1841. Perhaps it will soon act as a baptismal font for a new generation of Royals.

The Christening of the Princess Royal, 1841
C.R. Leslie

Building of the Week: Kensington Palace

Nestled elegantly in Kensington Gardens in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, England, Kensington Palace has been the home to many members of the Royal family for over three hundred years.

Most recently, the palace has served as the primary residence of the late Diana, Princess of Wales as well as her children, Princes William and harry, and the late Princess Margaret. Presently, the palace is the comfortably, yet lavish, home of The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Since for the last century, the palace has been the residence of many a female member of the Royal family, Edward VIII referred to Kensington as “The Aunt Heap.” He was really quite unpleasant, I think.

Nottingham House
Originally, a rather square Seventeenth Century mansion sat on the grounds. Initially called Nottingham House, it was the home of the Earl of Nottingham. The land was sold by Nottingham’s heir to King William III in 1689. At that time, Chelsea was actually still quite undeveloped and King William wanted to live there so as to be away from the smoke and soot in the air in London proper.

Sir Christopher Wren expanded the house considerably, re-orienting it to face West, changing the floor plan, adding ornate staircases and galleries, and altering the gardens to make it a more fitting residence for the King. The house was renamed “Kensington House” and still had not achieved palatial status.

The Orangery
For the next seventy years, Kensington House was the favored Royal Residence and remained relatively unchanged until 1704 when Queen Anne added the “Orangery” (essentially a greenhouse or conservatory), had the gardens made more formal and commissioned Wren to create a new grand staircase and ceremonial entrance.

By 1718, King George I had begun to occupy the house which had attained the status of palace. He spent a small fortune in redecorating the Royal apartments and commissioned William Kent to create lavish frescoes and murals for the state rooms.

George I's Interior, 1722
George II was the last reigning monarch to live at the palace. Thereafter it was used as a residence for minor members of the Royal Family. It was the girlhood home of young Queen Victoria and her mother and also the birthplace of Mary of Teck.

In the 1980’s a newly married Prince Charles and Princess Diana made the palace their residence and it remained Diana’s home after divorcing Charles. Today, it still houses members of the Royal Family, but also serves as a museum and opens its state rooms to the public. Kensington Palace is often the location for special exhibitions hosted by the Historic Royal Palaces Charity—such as the current exhibit of Royal wedding gowns. Presently, the palace has been transformed into "The Enchanted Palace" as part of a special display of Royal artifacts. 

For more information about Kensington Palace, visit the official Web site of the Historic Royal Palaces which features a rather nifty bit of animation. 

Royal Icing: A Delicious Souvenir of the Wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert

Silver Box Containing a Piece of
Queen Victoria abd Prince Albert's Wedding Cake
Silver, Fruit cake
The Royal Collection
Keeping a piece of the wedding cake in the freezer to enjoy on one’s first anniversary is a common practice. Keeping a piece of the wedding cake forever is a little more unusual these days, but if you’re the Queen and Prince Consort of the British Empire, then, it’s certainly a charming idea.

A square of the wedding cake from the Wedding Breakfast of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert has been preserved in this simple silver box upon which the date of the wedding, February 10, 1840 has been engraved.

The wedding breakfast was not technically a breakfast, nor was it even a brunch. It was more of a late lunch than anything. Following the wedding ceremony at 2:00 in the afternoon, members of the wedding party and special guests were invited to the lavish “breakfast” at Buckingham Palace. Friday’s wedding will be followed by a similar event.

I wonder if Prince William and Katherine will save a piece of their cake, too.

Unusual Artifacts: Mary of Teck’s Handkerchief from Her 1893 Wedding

The Future King George V and Queen Mary
on their wedding day, 1893.
The Royal Collection
Everyone cries at weddings. I’m sure many of us will shed a tear when we see the lovely Catherine Middleton walk down the magnificent aisle of Westminster Abbey on Friday. Even Royal eyes need daubing and even Royal noses need the occasional wipe. Of course the bride would carry a pretty, little handkerchief. Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known upon her husband’s (George V) ascension to the throne as “Queen Mary”) was never one to be without the appropriate accessories.

Honiton Lace Handkerchief, 1893
The Royal Collection
This crisp handkerchief of fine Honiton lace (matching her veil) is embroidered with her initials, “V.M.” A label sewn into the handkerchief, written in her own hand, states that she, “Victoria Mary, Duchess of York” used the handkerchief on her wedding day, July 6, 1893.

Mary's Wedding Gown
The Historic Royal Palaces

At the time of their marriage, the Royal couple had not yet been styled as The Prince and Princess of Wales (George was created Prince of Wales in 1901) and were called, The Duke and Duchess of York. They were married at the Chapel Royal at St. James Palace. Much as it is this week, all of London rejoiced.

The Times wrote of Mary’s dress:

Of silver and white brocade with its ingeniously clustered shamrocks, roses and thistles [the national official flowers of the empire] hampers the bride’s graceful movements . . . The bridal veil of fine old Honiton point is caught back of the face, and trails and clusters of orange-blossoms, together with the inevitable bouquet of white flowers carried in her hand . . .

The event was carefully photographed as well as the subject of several paintings and drawings. Enjoy these historic images from The Royal Collection of that lavish 1893 wedding.

Punch's Cousin, Chapter 230

Iolanthe Evangeline shivered as a trickle of perspiration ran down her back and attracted the cold winter breeze to her damp gown. Her waxy makeup had begun to smudge as she sweated and she wanted to pause to look in the small glass she carried with her at all times. Iolanthe always prided herself on her appearance. When the world around her seemed chaotic, she could always comfort herself by gazing at her own reflection and studying the careful arch of her painted eyebrows, the smoothness of her cheeks beneath the layer of light-colored makeup she wore to conceal her dark complexion and the purposefully savage, yet, alluring red of her lips—drawn well past their natural lines to give her mouth a cruel, but oddly appealing fullness.

Yet, with her child in her arms, she dared not pause to examine her looks. All too aware that she was melting in her nervousness, she chose to focus on the baby that she carried in her arms—her poor son whom she feared would never be as handsome as his father or as beautiful even as her own long-lost brother and father. Iolanthe’s thoughts flooded with memories of her youth—her peaceful, strange, boring girlhood in a small Louisiana town, the daughter of a minister. Her name was different then. She was a pearl, a jewel, the sparkle in her father’s reverend eye. One sticky morning in a stable had changed that—had cast a dullness over her shine. She tried for years to polish herself to regain her sparkle. Sure, she had a radiance as Iolanthe Evangeline, but it was false—as false as the dark curls which she clipped into her hair, as false as the flawless cream complexion of her cheeks, as false as the padding she wore over her rapidly withering bosom.

“Slow down, Iolanthe,” Ulrika complained.

“You’d better speed up,” Iolanthe spat.

As they approached the hotel, Iolanthe took a deep breath and whispered to her child. “Egil, honey, there’s a man in there who’s gonna help ya. He’s gonna help ya be a boy like any other.”

The baby gurgled and sputtered and a wave of repulsion swept across Iolanthe’s back followed by a swell of shame as she secretly chastised herself for not loving her son enough.

“Open the door for me, would ya?” Iolanthe said sharply.

Ulrika frowned at the order, but did as Iolanthe instructed. As she did, she was startled when three men in uniform stormed from the hotel and stood between her and Iolanthe.

“Iolanthe Evangeline?” The tallest man asked.

“Who’s asking?” Iolanthe growled.

“Come with us.” The other man said.

“Why?” Iolanthe hissed.

“You’re accused of the murder of the Duke of Fallbridge, Doctor Robert Halifax and the Duke’s nephew.” The man answered. “Now, I’ll thank you to give the child to your companion.”

Ulrika looked confused. “What are you saying, Sir?”

“You heard me.” The man spat.

The third man stepped forward, “Give the child to your friend, Miss Evangeline.”

“No.” Iolanthe backed away. Two of the men restrained her.

“No!” Iolanthe shouted again. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Egil began to cry.

“Give him to me,” Ulrika urged.

“Never!” Iolanthe howled.

“Take the child!” The second man ordered.

“Don’t touch him!” Iolanthe screamed. “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“She hasn’t!” Ulrika said quickly. “She’s been with me.”

“Maybe you should come with us, too.” The third man grinned.

Iolanthe looked confused. She took a deep breath. “There’s no need for Miss Rittenhouse to be involved with this.”

Ulrika puffed air from her cheeks.

“Ulrika, take my son.” Iolanthe said softly.

“Where?” Ulrika stammered.

“Take him to Edward’s.” Iolanthe whispered.

“Very well.” Ulrika shrugged.

“What’d you do with the bodies?” The second man grumbled as Iolanthe handed Egil to Ulrika.

“I don’t know what you mean, and I don’t want you thinkin’ that I do.”

“You can tell us in prison, then.” The first man laughed.

“We’ve been after you for a long time, Miss Evangeline.” The second man smiled.

“And, now we finally got you.” The third officer nodded.

“Hurry, Ulrika.” Iolanthe said. “Take my boy to Edward Cage. Tell him what’s happened!”

Ulrika watched as the men pushed Iolanthe to their armored carriage. She looked down at the child in her arms and shivered at his distorted face. “What do you think, you ugly little thing?” Ulrika cooed. “Do you think your mama killed those people? I wouldn’t be surprised if she did. Edward Cage wants a child, but I don’t think he wants a little beast like you. It’s not a fair trade is it—a monster for a boy?” She laughed cruelly. “You’re no good to anyone, are you? Or, are you?”

Ulrika grinned as an idea passed through her mind. “Perhaps Edward should see you after all.”

Meanwhile, Edward Cage was quite busy with his own thoughts as he leaned into the carriage in which Mr. Punch, Colin, Robert, Cecil and Adrienne were trapped.

“This doesn’t have to be difficult,” Edward smiled. “Simply hand over Holt and we’ll forget about this whole thing. Cecil, maybe even I’ll offer your employment back to you.”

“I wouldn’t accept it, even if you did.” Cecil responded sharply.

“How could I expect you to be anything other than ungrateful?” Edward chuckled.

“I’m not givin’ this child to you,” Mr. Punch shook his head.

“He’s my son.” Edward said.

“No, he ain’t!” Mr. Punch spat.

Edward sighed. “I had wanted to do this nicely.”

“Why start now?” Robert snarled.

“True.” Edward nodded. “It’s not my way.” With that, he grabbed Adrienne by the arm. She yelped as he pulled her from the carriage.

“Now, I’m afraid,” Edward shouted, “We must make a trade. My child for your beloved woman.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-229? If so, you can read them here.

Goal for the Day: Don’t Wish Your Life Away

How often do you say, “I wish Friday would come?” How much time do you spend wishing your life away in order to get to a goal or event? As a historian, I see how relatively brief our lives are in the grand scheme of things. We don’t really have the luxury of extra time to skip over.

Each moment has something which makes it special. We should define our waking moments by their inherent quality, not as steps toward something grand and exceptional, but as exceptional moments unto themselves. Climbing a mountain is just as fascinating and enjoyable as reaching the top. After all, sometimes it’s the journey that is more exciting than the destination. So, let’s not wish for time to go faster. Let’s wish to enjoy every second of the day. There’s always something to celebrate.

Object of the Day: A Souvenir of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee, 1977

Upon the death of her father in 1952, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth ascended to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II with a coronation taking place on June 2, 1953. In 1977, Her Majesty celebrated twenty-five years o the throne and enjoyed the festivities of her Silver Jubilee. Now, fifty-nine years into her reign, she is just as strong and vital as the day the crown was placed upon her head.

As was and remains the tradition, a variety of souvenirs were produced for the Silver Jubilee. This mug is one of them. Crafted by Biltons, England in 1977, the cup features the official portrait of Her Majesty on the front with her cipher surmounted by English roses on the reverse. Biltons produced fine china and dinnerware in England from 1900 to 1999.

The tradition of Royal Souvenirs continues. A host of such items have been produced for the impending wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton and a slew of objects is already in production for the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty which will occur in 2012 when Queen Elizabeth II celebrates sixty years as the sovereign.