Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Sparkle: The New York Flower Basket Brooch, 1930

Cartier, New York
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By 1930, traditional themes in art had become stylized into geometric patterns of cool-tones and shine. The floral jewels of the Nineteenth Century gave way to icy sprays and baskets of diamonds, rock crystal and platinum.
Take, for example, this floral basket brooch made by Cartier New York in 1930. With its Eastern and geometric influence, the blooms are stylized, and the base of the basket is emphasized by baguette-cut diamonds. Cartier has combined rock crystal with diamonds and platinum to create a study in shades of white which is brought to life from icy splendor by brilliant-cut diamonds.

The Art of Play: Dismal Desmond, 1926

Dismal Desmond
England, 1926
The Victoria & Albert Museum
By the 1920’s as the world was trying to recover from the Great War and as economic and social troubles began to threaten the stability of many major world powers, people’s sense of what’s cute and/or attractive began to change.

As all of the arts became increasingly abstract and stylized, so did children’s toys. Our friend, “Dismal Desmond” (as he was named by his maker) is evidence of that. Desmond was produced in England in 1926 by Dean's Rag Book Company. He is, essentially, stuffed, printed cotton. And, he is cute in a “dismal” kind of way. While most children before the Great War would have rejected Desmond for being rather on the morose side, in the 1920’s, he was the perfect companion.

At the Music Hall: The Oceana Roll, 1911

Whether it was Veda Pierce singing it in Mildred Pierce or a melody playing in the background of an old cartoon, you’re sure to have heard the Oceana Roll at some point. This familiar song was written in 1911 by Roger Lewis with music by Lucien Denni and quickly became a popular music hall favorite.

So, sit back and enjoy this original classic recording of a song which is sure to bring back a lot of memories.

Mastery of Design: The Aachen Hound Pendant, 1860

Aachen, Germany, 1860
Enamel, Gold, Diamonds, Emerald, Rubies, Pearls
The Victoria & Albert Museum
German jewelers—particularly in Aachen—in the Nineteenth Century had mastered the art of enamel and rivaled the works of Russian jewelers.

This beautiful pendant from Aachen is evidence of the immense skill of the German jewelers. Made by Reinhold Vasters of Aachen in 1860, this pendant of enameled gold depicts a hound on a cornucopia, and is set with rubies, table-cut diamonds and an emerald, and hung with pearls.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 308

Come with Uncle Punch,” Mr. Punch cooed as he cradled “Colin” in his arms. Together, they climbed the stairs, followed by Meridian who couldn’t help herself from grinning at Punch’s display of paternal affection. “I’m gonna take you to see your cousin.”

As they walked through the upstairs corridor, Punch continued. “Well, I ‘spose he ain’t really your cousin cuz we ain’t really blood kin. But, see, Fuller is the son of me chums, and he thinks of me as an Uncle, just like you do. Only,” Punch chattered on, “I’d like for you to think of me as your papa as you grow up cuz that’s what I’ll be. See, I’m gonna be your papa and Robert’s gonna be your papa and that would make you, truly, more like cousins with Fuller cuz Robert’s really his uncle while I ain’t.”

Punch snorted and looked over his shoulder at Meridian. “You think he understands?”

“Sure he does.” Meridian nodded.

“I ain’t sure I really understand.” Mr. Punch chuckled.

“He knows that ya love him. That’s all he needs to know,” Meridian nodded as she opened the door to the nursery.

Mr. Punch placed “Colin” next to Fuller who slept soundly.

“Won’t Adrienne and Cecil be surprised in the morning when they wake up to find him lyin’ here, too?”

“I’d say they will be.” Meridian nodded.

Toby, who slept next to the nursery fire, looked up and wagged his tail when Punch entered the room.

“Maybe Toby’d like to sleep with the babies?” Punch chirped.

“I’m sure he would,” Meridian chuckled softly. “But, I think he’ll be fine on the floor by the warm fire.”

“Well, then, maybe they’d like to sleep with me puppet what’s nice to have as company.” Punch suggested.

“Your puppet’s most handsome, Mr. Punch, and I’m sure he’s a fine puppet and very comforting, but I think these babies are so tired they won’t even know if your puppet is there or not. Besides, when you do get home tonight, won’t you want to have your puppet in the bed with you?”

“I will.” Punch replied thoughtfully. “You’re so awful kind to think of that, Meridian.”

“Just doin’ my job, Your Grace.” Meridian smiled. “Come now, let’s leave these boys to sleep.”

“I hate to leave him.” Punch frowned.

“I know, but you gotta go with Charles to tend to your sister.” Meridian replied gently.

“You’ll make sure…” Punch began.

“I won’t no one get to him.” Meridian smiled. “Charles was careful when he came here and Mr. Cage don’t even know the boy’s here. I got a man at each of the doors. Ain’t no one gettin’ in this house tonight without my knowin’ it.”

“Thank you.” Punch grinned. “I wish I could take you with us when we leave.”

“I don’t think Dr. Biamenti would like me leavin’, Sir. But, if I could come with you, Your Grace, I would.”

“Maybe we’ll find a way.” Punch nodded.

“Maybe we will.”

They descended the stair together.

“Here, do you think Arthur’s dead yet?” Punch asked as they reached the lower floor.

“I don’t know, Sir.” Meridian shrugged. “In a way, I hope the rogue is sufferin’ some more though it’s awful of me to say it.”

“Nah,” Punch shook his head. “He deserves what he gets.”

Together, they walked into the kitchen.

“Charles, take me to the cathedral, then, and we’ll see ‘bout Barbara.” Punch said slowly.

“I hope it’s not too late,” Charles replied softly.

“It won’t be,” Punch answered.

However, perhaps Charles was correct. When the two men arrived at the cathedral, there was no trace of Barbara, nor even of the corpse of Louis Glapion. All that remained was a pool of blood which had begun to clot upon the altar. Two sets of sanguine footprints led away from him—women’s footprints.

Little did they know that Barbara was far away from the cathedral. Reclining in a tub of hot water, Barbara smiled at Mala—Iolanthe hideous servant as the beastly woman toiled to pour another bucket of steaming liquid into the tub.

“I’ve come back, Mala.” Barbara winked.

“I see that, Miss Allen.”

“This time will be quite different.”

“How is that?” Mala asked.

“This time, I’m in control.” Barbara grinned.

Did you miss Chapters 1-307? If so, you can read them here. Come back on Monday, August 1, for Chapter 309 of Punch’s Cousin.

Card of the Day: HRH The Prince of Wales

When you're bored with yourself, marry and be bored with someone else.
King Edward VIII

I’ve often written of my dislike for the briefly-reigning King Edward VIII, the one-time Prince of Wales, and later Duke of Windsor. I tend to side with Queen Mary in matters regarding the Royal Family (not that my opinion really matters at all) and tend to keenly feel her disappointment in her eldest son.

But, to be fair, just for a moment, let’s examine the Prince of Wales who is seen here in this 1935 Silver Jubilee card by the Godfrey Phillips Company.

“David,” as he was known within the family was always restless. This was a state of mind which never made sense to his parents—King George V and Queen Mary. The King and Queen were anything but restless. They had their duties, they had each other, they had the empire and they had their family and that was quite enough. Sure, the King and Queen each had their hobbies, shooting and shopping respectively, but at the end of the day, it was a quiet supper en famille which most appealed to them. Prince Edward, on the other hand, yearned for adventure. He was considered quite good looking. Though Mary wasn’t eager to share this with her son, she often wrote to King George just how handsome she thought her fair-haired eldest boy was and that she was pleased that he physically favored, “The old Royal Family.”

Young Prince Edward
The Royal Collection
David didn’t need his mother to tell him that he was attractive. Everyone else told him. He liked to be told. He liked praise and attention and enjoyed going places where he’d be get both. Sitting at home while his mother sat cataloging her jewels (and truly, this was how Queen Mary spent her evenings) and his father sat smoking and growling to himself about the Empire (which, indeed, is how George spent his evenings), was not appealing. The King was often very vocal (quite violently at times) about his displeasure with his hard-living eldest boy. And, the more the King ranted, the more Prince Edward wanted to be out of the house—typical teenager stuff, but heartily magnified when you’re the Prince of Wales and your dad is the King. What Edward didn’t know was that his mother—though she never said it aloud—often wrote long letters to her husband pleasing with him to be gentler with their son. It didn’t work, but she tried.

Mary, for her part, had no ability to communicate on a personal level with anyone. She was quite shy and inhibited. While she was able to make small talk at parties and while she had no trouble running her myriad charities and talking with her subjects, when it came to talking with her family, she was crippled. This owed a lot to her tumultuous childhood with her egotistical mother and her father, the Duke of Teck, who was, at best, something of a nut. The Queen was very sensitive and loving, but had no means of communicating that. And, so, he children were often left wondering what she was thinking and, when alone with her, would despair that they only talked about vague subjects. Mary’s few attempts to have real conversations with her children were such failures that they would leave her rooms wondering just what had happened.

After the close of the Great War, Mary hoped that “David” would settle down. She had planned to find a way to start to mold him into a proper heir presumptive, but then, her youngest son—Prince John—died during an epileptic seizure. The Queen sank into a private depression. She never spoke of her son’s death. In fact, she rarely ever mentioned him again, but she privately wrote of her secret, deep despair and how it prevented further closeness to her other children.

Meanwhile, the King and Queen couldn’t understand why Britain was so uneasy when they finally had achieved peace. The Prince of Wales began to represent the new sensibilities of the 1920’s—glamour, adventure and excitement. George V and Mary never could understand their son’s sense of boredom. The Queen was the first to point out that she was “never bored.” Yet, “David” was always bored. Always. And, much of the Empire was bored, too.

And so, disappointment built on disappointment. The more the King ranted, the more “David” became bored. He kept questionable company—company which ultimately led to his abdication, and he was, notably, Queen Mary’s deepest disappointment of all.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition, The Neptune Candelabra, 1818-1820

Silver, 1818-1820
The Victoria & Albert Museum
In the early Nineteenth Century, a common theme in plate and in table ornament was the theme of the sea—personified by the Roman sea god, Neptune. For the English, Neptune represented the source not only of the fish and seafood which comprised many of their meals, but also of salt—a precious commodity indeed.

One of the ways by which an aristocratic family would show their social position and wealth was by adorning their tables with the finest silver, plate and china. Here’s one example of the type of adornment which would have graced a noble dining room.

Modeled with a figure of Neptune kneeling on a sea horse (or “hippocamp”) on a rocky base, this magnificent candelabrum is cast and chased with shells, seaweed and sea creatures. As he often does, Neptune holds a trident in his left hand and, in his right, presents a shell from which a hydra (the mythical multi-headed snake) springs. The hydra’s heads form the branches of the candelabrum.

This was part of a massive table garniture ordered by the then Duke of York—Prince Frederick (second son of King George III and brother of the future King George IV. Frederick would die before his elder brother, thus allowing his younger brother, to become King William IV when George IV died without legitimate heirs*). Upon his early death, the catalog of the sale of the Duke of York’s silver shows that this candelabrum is attributed to the antiquarian and silver retailer Kensington Lewis, who promoted himself with great pride as “Silversmith and Jeweller to his R. H. the Duke of York.” This candelabrum bears the mark of artist Edward Farrell, a silversmith who worked with Kensington Lewis between 1816 until the mid-1830s.

*In keeping with “family tradition” of lots of illegitimate children from the progeny of George III, King William IV also died without legitimate issue and the Crown, upon William’s death, was passed to the eldest child of his younger brother, Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent. This, of course, was Queen Victoria who, as we know, did her best to put the Royal Family back in order.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gifts of Grandeur: The Ladies of Devonshire Earrings, 1893

The Ladies of Devosnhire Earrings
English, 1893
The Royal Collection
These simple and elegant earrings were purchased by the Ladies of Devonshire—a group headed by one Lady Clinton—in 1893 as a wedding present for Princess May of Teck (later Queen Mary). The earrings were designed to match a pearl and diamond necklace which was presented to the future Duchess of York/Princess of Wales/Queen by a sister group called “The Ladies of England.”

Queen Mary cherished these earrings. In 1947, she presented them as a wedding gift to her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II).

Friday Fun: The Queen, Uncensored

The Royal Collection
Well, perhaps not, “uncensored.” But, being a Monarch isn’t all just handbags and sceptres. Okay, a lot of it is. But not all of it. Here’s a video compiled of decades of footage showing Queen Elizabeth II being a real human being.

Mr. Punch in the Arts: Heigh Ho! Come to the Fair! 1932

British, 1932
The George Speaight Punch & Judy Collection
The Victoria & Albert Museum
This print published by Edmund Evans, Ltd. and drawn by Nina K Brisley in 1932 is entitled “Children at a Country Fair” and was produced for Child Education Publications as a fun way to encourage youngsters and their families to attend county and local fetes and fairs.
Such events are deeply entrenched in the English tradition. So, it’s only fitting that Mr. Punch—perhaps the most long-lived fictional figure in theatrical history—should act as ambassador of the gatherings which have long served as one of his most popular performing grounds. Here, we see a Punch & Judy show (featuring Mr. Punch and Toby) in mid-performance in the foreground of the print above the words, “Heigh Ho! Come to the Fair!”

A print like this depicted the innocent possibilities for entertainment available in Britain during a time when funds were limited and families were searching for low-cost fun.

Painting of the Day: A Portrait of Queen Mary by Richard Jack, 1927

Queen Mary
Richard Jack, 1927
The Royal Collection
No matter where King George V went, he always took a photograph of Queen Mary with him so that she could look out at him from his desk and offer him the inspiration that he needed to guide the Empire.

While in their many homes, the King liked to be surrounded by paintings of his family—particularly of his beloved wife. In 1927, His Majesty commissioned painter Richard Jack to create a full-length portrait of the Queen for display in the King’s chambers at Buckingham Palace.

By the 1920’s, Queen Mary’s golden hair had gone gray from age, but also from the stresses of the Great War and the King’s continued failing health. Still lovely and regal, Mary posed for this full-length portrait wearing one of her favorite gowns (she preferred, when not in mourning, to wear light colors such as white, gold and blue) and her some of her favorite jewels. In her hands, she holds one of the numerous antique hand fans from her personal collection, and across her sash she wears an assortment of her garter badges and order stars.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 307

Barbara Allen giggled as she plopped down onto the raised floor which held the cathedral’s altar. She slid across the slick steps and sat next to the lifeless body of Louis Glapion whose corpse she had dragged to the front of the sanctuary.

“This is pleasant,” She said absent-mindedly to the corpse. “I’m sure that you never thought you’d die in a church like this. What a nice surprise it must have been for you. Now,” She looked at Louis’ body. “Would this be considered your funeral?”

Barbara grunted as she waited for Louis to respond.

“Of course, you’re not talking. I suppose that’s to be expected. I’ll have to make the decisions, then. How odd. Mother would never allow me to go to a funeral.” Barbara chuckled wildly. “Well, then, this isn’t your funeral. It’s your…” She thought for a moment. “What are they called, then? Your wake! Yes, it’s your wake. Do your people have wakes? I wonder.”

Barbara frowned. “Oh, but if it’s to be your wake, we’ll need people to come and look at you. That won’t do.”

She looked around the cathedral. “I suppose there are already people here.” She pointed to a large polychrome, wax-covered figure of a saint with glass eyes which sparkled in the dim light. “There’s one.”

“Who are you?” She called out.

Naturally, the figure didn’t respond.

“Are you rude or simply grieving?”

Barbara sighed. “Don’t try to tell me that it’s because you’re just a figure. Figures talk. I’ve seen it. My brother is a figure. Not exactly the same thing as you are, but he’s a figure of sorts. A puppet of wood is the same as a statue, more or less. But, I suppose that the difference is that my brother is a puppet who lives in a man’s body. It’s very complicated.”

She turned her attention back to Louis’ lifeless body. “I wonder if you’d come back to life if you had another spirit in you—like my brother.” She thought about that for a moment, but then, her head began to ache.

“No, I can’t consider that further.” Barbara shivered, rubbing her temples. “Still, someone should come here to mourn you. I never got to mourn, you know. I never had the chance to mourn my father, nor, really, my mother. I’ve lost other people, too, of course, but they’re not dead. Just lost. Well, God knows where Arthur is.”

“You’ve lost him, too.” A voice said from the rear of the sanctuary.

Barbara looked up, her eyes catching a glimpse of a statue of the Virgin Mary.

“Oh, so, you talk, too?” Barbara grinned maniacally. “What wisdom do you have for me, Virgin?”

The voice laughed. “Barbara Allen, I ain’t no Virgin.”

That’s when Barbara noticed that Iolanthe Evangeline had come into the sanctuary.

“Oh, it’s you.” Barbara frowned.

“Yes, Barbara.” Iolanthe said softly.

“What do you know of Arthur?”

“He’s dying. If not dead already.” Iolanthe responded. “The Yellow Jack.”

Barbara nodded slowly. “That’s for the best.”

“So, you’re a widow.” Iolanthe grinned.

“Yes.” Barbara sighed. “I wonder if this man had a wife. He’s dead, you see.”

“I can see that.” Iolanthe answered. “You’ve done well.”

“So you came to applaud me?” Barbara asled.

“No. I’ve come to help you.”

“How so?”

“Your brother is on his way. Charles has brought the baby to him and told him all about what happened here.”

“I don’t wish to see Julian.”

“I didn’t think you would,” Iolanthe smiled. “That’s why I’ve come.”

“I don’t really think you came to help me.” Barbara scowled.

“I did, Barbara.” Iolanthe said firmly.

“Well, then, what shall we do with him?” Barbara pointed to Louis’ body. “We can’t leave him here for Julian to find.”

“We should bring him home.” Iolanthe replied.

“I don’t have a home.” Barbara snarled.

“Not your home. His home. He’s Marie’s kin, is he not?”

“Yes.” Barbara shrugged.

“Then, we should bring him to Marie.” Iolanthe answered plainly. “You see, there’s already another corpse there.”


“Nellie.” Iolanthe smiled.

“Did she die in the fire?” Barbara asked.

“No.” Iolanthe laughed. “I took care of her before I left.”

“Oh.” Barbara replied blankly. “That was smart.”

“Wasn’t it?” Iolanthe whispered.

“So, this man and Nellie can be together? How nice. It would be terrible to be dead alone.”

“Well, that’s what I was thinkin’.” Iolanthe lied.

“They can be nice and peaceful together.” Barbara nodded.

“We can make other people nice and peaceful, Barbara. Together, you and I. Now that you know how, it shouldn’t be hard.”

“So, we’d be doing something good?” Barbara asked.

“Infinitely good!” Iolanthe said cheerfully. “We can bring peace to all those who have hurt us. Wouldn’t that be the utmost kindness?”

“Yes,” Barbara replied brightly. “I think it would.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-306? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: Her Majesty, Queen Mary

There's only one thing I never did and wish I had done: climbed over a fence. --Queen Mary

The second card in the set of twenty 1935 Silver Jubilee Edition cards by the Godfrey Phillips Company rightfully shows Queen Mary, consort of King George V. She was known throughout the world for her genuine and sympathetic nature, her devotion to Britain, her lack of pretension, her keen wit, her sense of adventure, her terrible shyness and her ability to present an appearance of unsurpassed glamour.

We’ve spoken at length about Queen Mary’s devotion to her Empire, to the Monarchy and to her husband, but I thought it might be pleasant, today, to examine King George’s feelings for his wife. George V was deeply and madly in love with Mary and until his dying day called her by the affectionate nickname of her youth, “May.”

Though George V, like many a British man of the time—especially one of Royal birth, had difficulty expressing his feelings vocally, but was quite a master of it in letter form. Let’s take a look at a letter that King George V wrote to Mary of Teck, his most beloved wife, near the end of the First World War when circumstance and the King’s injuries kept them apart. He wrote:

I can’t ever sufficiently express my deep gratitude to you, Darling May, for the splendid way in which you are helping me during these terrible, strenuous and anxious times. Very often, I feel in despair and if it wasn’t for you, I should break down. Everybody seems to give one extra worries in these days. It was dear of you coming with me last week, it helps enormously if you come, I only hope you were not too tired, the great heat of course made it worse, but I know the visit did good. I miss you know abominably…

King George was not the only one wo appreciated his wife. When the Great War ended, the King and Queen were faced with an eerily familiar scene as throngs of people flocked to Buckingham Palace. George and Mary went out to greet their subjects, standing on the central balcony of Buckingham Palace—a place upon which they first stood together on the day of their wedding twenty-five years ago as they faces a cheering crowd for the first time as husband and wife. They had stood in the same spots on the day that the war had been declared and also waved to cheering crowds. However, on that particular evening, the cheering was different.

The crowds had not gathered to celebrate an occasion, they were not cheering for a wedding or as a pep-rally for the empire. That night, Queen Mary felt something quite different as she smiled and waved to her beloved people. She remarked to the King. “They’re cheering for us.”

And, indeed, they were.

The cheers continue to this day. Here’s another video dedicated to the memory of this complicated and brilliant woman. The end of the video also shows some of Mary's exquisite jewels.  Enjoy!

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: An Antique Silver Napkin Ring, 1873-1874

Napkin Ring
Silver, 1873-1874
Barnard and Sons, Inc.
The Victoria & Albert Mueum
We’ve previously examined some of the antique silver napkin rings in my own collection. Now, let’s take a look at one from the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The advent of the napkin ring was peculiar to the Victorian mind-set in which everything had to be kept tidy and attractive. These rings were developed simply to hold linen napkins in place on the table. Of course, like most Victorian inventions, they soon took on ornate and elaborate forms. Initially introduced in the mid-nineteenth century, napkin rings were were soon personalized monograms and engraved sates with special meanings to each member of the family. By the 1880s, boxed sets were produced specifically to be given as gifts for special events.

This particular napkin ring of silver with floral engraving is the work of Barnard & Sons of London and was made for display between 1873 and 1874. Since this is part of a set meant to illustrate the silversmith’s handiwork, the rings are engraved with the initials of the “Sons” of Barnard & Sons--J, E, J, W and B for John, Edward, James and Walter Barnard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Gratuitous Bertie Dog Picture: A Disappointed Bertie

“I know you’re disappointed, Lady, but this is a really lousy picnic.  Would it have killed you to make some sandwiches?”

Image: A Disappointed Love, Francis Danby, 1821, The Victoria & Albert Museum

Mastery of Design: An Art Deco Platinum and Diamond Brooch, 1925

Platinum and Diamonds
The Victoria & Albert Museum
King George V enjoyed giving little trinkets to his wife, Queen Mary, who always delighted in jewels and baubles. Mary was especially fond of diamond pieces which encouraged the play of light between the stones. This brooch, made in Europe between 1925 and 1935, is just the sort of thing that would have appealed to Mary of Teck.

Jewelry set only with diamonds has been created for centuries, however, the style really came into its own as it once again rose in prominence during the Art Deco period. During this creative era, jewelers experimented with various shapes and cuts of diamonds and devised new ways to fit them together.

This is the work of the jeweler Georges Fouquet who wrote in the Studio magazine in 1929, “But how new is this white stone jewellery, and how much it differs from the old... The wand-shaped brilliants give different reflections from the round ones, and the most varied play of light may be obtained by arranging them side by side.”

Gifts of Grandeur: The Basket Brooch, 1890

Platinum, Gold, Diamonds, Rubies, Emeralds
French, 1890
The Victoria & Albert Museum
Delicately crafted of interwoven platinum and gold, a basket holds flowers of the same metals set with rose-cut diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Made by an known maker, the work is certainly Parisian and dates to about 1890 when such floral-themed jewels reached their height of popularity.

The trend of jeweled floral arrangements in baskets first came into fashion in France in the 1750s with “giardinetti” (little garden) rings were made of tiny jewel-set blooms. This Rococo phenomenon was resurrected later as it appealed to Victorian sensibilities. Such jewels were often given as tokens of affection or to mark occasions such as weddings, engagements or anniversaries. More somber versions in jet and onyx were crafted a memorial pieces.

Sculpture of the Day: A Bust of King George V in Naval Uniform, 1914

Bust of King George V
in Naval Uniform
James Stevenson, 1914
The Royal Collection
This bust from 1914 is the work of the celebrated sculptor James Stevenson and depicts King George V looking quite sturdy in his Naval uniform as Britain was gripped by the chaos and tragedy of the Great War.

James Stevenson, who was known for his portrait busts, was trained in sculpture at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. This particular bust of the King was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1915. Stevenson often signed his works in a peculiar way. This is evidenced on this bust which shows the sculptor’s usual signature MYRANDER. The word is a conflation of his wife’s Christian name and his own second Christian name.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 306

Iolanthe Evangeline crouched in the shadows behind the stable as she heard Meridian’s footsteps hurry across the courtyard from the house. Iolanthe peered around the corner and watched as Meridian covered her face with her apron before entering the stable.

“Your Grace?” Meridian said softly through the thin cloth. “You’re wanted in the house.”

“Here, what for?” Punch asked.

“Charles has returned.” Meridian responded.

“It’s ‘bout time.” Punch grumbled. “Has he got any news ‘bout the child?”

“You’d best come in the house, Sir.” Meridian replied quickly, glancing at the mattress of hay upon which Arthur lay groaning and dying.

“You can’t leave now,” Arthur moaned. “You’ve got to hear me.”

“I heard ‘nough from you.” Punch spat.

“Go on,” Robert nodded. “See what Charles wants.”

“No.” Arthur wheezed. “I ain’t finished.”

“Oh, honey,” Marjani smiled. “Yes, you are.”

“I’ll come back.” Punch answered. “But, not for you, Arthur.” He looked at Gerry. “Listen, Gerard, make sure this ain’t how you end up—dyin’ in a mess with no one prayin’ for your soul, no one believin’ what you say, no one carin’ what happens to ya.”

“Yes, Sir.” Gerry nodded.

With that, Mr. Punch followed Meridian out of the stable. She uncovered her face once they’d reached the courtyard and took a deep breath. “He ain’t got long, has he, Your Grace?”

“No.” Mr. Punch shook his head. “Now, what is it that you ain’t tellin’ me ‘bout Charles?”

“You’d better see for yourself.” Meridian shook her head.

“He ain’t brought that Barbara Allen with him?” Punch frowned as they entered the house.

“No, Sir.” Meridian responded, “but, he got someone with him.”

Punch walked into the kitchen and squealed with joy when he saw Charles sitting at the kitchen table with the baby in his arms.

“Give him to me!” Punch shouted happily as he scooped up his nephew.

Charles couldn’t help but smile despite the heaviness in his heart.

“However did you get him back?” Punch squawked gleefully. “Me boy, me Colin—dear boy.” He nuzzled the baby.

“It’s a long story, Your Grace.” Charles said sadly.

“I’m listenin’.” Punch said, gently hugging his nephew.

“None of it matters now, Your Grace.”

“Sure it does.” Punch said. “And, you know well enough by now to know I ain’t Julian. Just call me, ‘Mr. Punch.’” Punch smiled. “Same for you, Meridian.”

“To me, Sir, you still deserve to be addressed by your title.” Meridian responded. “Now, let me go get the baby something to eat. He’s gotta be hungry.”

“He is.” Charles nodded.

Meridian hurried to the pantry.

“Come on, then, Charles, tell me how you got him back. I want to hear how ya done it. Besides, I want to congratulate you for bein’ such a hero.”

“I’m no hero.” Charles shook his head.

“Sure, you are.” Punch argued. “Now, how’d you get Nellie to give him up?”

“Barbara did it, really.” Charles replied.

“Did she?” Punch’s eyes widened. “And, she let you bring him back to me? Where is Barbara now?”

“She’s gone mad, Sir.” Charles said, his eyes filling with tears.

“What you mean?” Punch asked.

“She’s killed a man. She’s with him right now at the cathedral—shrieking with laughter. She dragged him to the altar. She’s ranting…I…I didn’t know what to do. I took the child and came here. She wouldn’t come with me.”

“Who’d she kill?” Punch asked, still cradling the child.

“Marie Laveau’s late husband’s brother.” Charles answered.

“That ain’t good.” Punch muttered. “That ain’t good at all.”

“No.” Charles sniffed.

“Why’d she do it?” Punch asked. “Did he hurt her?”

“No.” Charles shrugged. “As I’ve told you, she’s gone mad. She doesn’t make sense. We’ve got to help her!”

“I ‘spose we do.” Punch sighed.

From outside the kitchen, Iolanthe listened at the slightly open back door. “Not if I get to her first.” She thought to herself.

Did you miss Chapters 1-305? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: King George V

I can’t believe that we have already worked our way through the fifty Wills’s Cigarette Company cards that were produced in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. But, never fear. There are more. Many, many more.

Here’s another set, also produced in 1935 for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. This set of twenty cards (of an unusual square shape) were made by Godfrey Phillips Ltd. of London.

The first card in the set, naturally, depicts King George in his red Irish Navy uniform wearing his appropriate garter badges and medals.

Unlike the last set of cards, these focus more on portraits of individual people instead of scenes from the reign of the King and Queen. I think you’ll really enjoy these attractive cards. So, over the next twenty days, we’ll take a look at them and examine the lives behind the faces.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: A Silver Jubilee Jig-Saw Puzzle, 1935

Jig-Saw Puzzle
Wood, Card, Paper
Tuck and Sons, Ltd., England
The Victoria & Albert Museum
As my collection of Royal memorabilia has grown, my fondness for Queen Mary and King George V has naturally led me to acquire a good many objects made for their 1935 Silver Jubilee. I don’t, however, have this one. And, frankly, I’d very much like to. From the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum, we see a jig-saw puzzle commemorating the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary.

This is, essentially, a chromolithograph of the King and Queen in their State robes, mounted on wood and cut into interlocking pieces. It is housed in a card box covered with silver paper and the key picture. Made by Raphael Tuck and Sons, Ltd., this puzzle features eighty pieces. In this example, one piece is missing.

Made in England between 1935 and 1936 for the Silver Jubilee, the puzzle was advertises by Tucks as by produced by the “Art Publishers to George V and Queen Mary and HRH the Prince of Wales.” (later Edward VIII) and states, “No. of Players: any.” On the box, under “Equipment required:” it simply shows a picture of King George V and Queen Mary.

God knows where the eightieth piece has gone, but even incomplete, it’s a beautiful little item and a clever take on the traditional souvenir item.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Mastery of Design: The Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara

The original tiara, 1818
on Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel
Queen Mary is often depicted wearing her most fabulous jewels—and she had a lot of them, a lot. One of the most frequently worn pieces in which she’s pictured is a fantastic tiara of diamonds and pearls. This is the Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara and it was Queen Mary’s favorite.
The tiara that Queen Mary often wore was not the original Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara, but one that she had created for her in 1913 from diamonds and pearls in her own existing collection.

Growing up as Princess May, Mary had often admired her grandmother’s tiara—the original Cambridge Lovers Knot Tiara. This had been a gift to Mary’s grandmother, Princess Augusta of Hesse-Kassel upon her marriage to the Duke of Cambridge. Upon her death, Princess Augusta passed the tiara on to her daughter Princess Augusta of Cambridge, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg . The Grand Duchess, sister of Mary’s mother, was one of Queen Mary’s closest friends. She often loaned the tiara to Queen Mary. However, after the Duchess’ death, the tiara was removed from the family through a long and complicated series of events which are too difficult to recount here.

The original tiara on
Augusta, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg
Queen Mary never forgot about that beloved tiara and in 1913 commissioned Garrard’s to create a duplicate based on paintings and photos. The one difference between the new version and the original is that the upper tier of pearl and diamond “spikes” could be removed and worn as various other pieces of jewelry. Queen Mary wore the tiara (with and without its upper tier) for the remainder of her life, bequeathing it to her granddaughter, Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen mary in the New 1914 Tiara
(with spikes)
Queen Mary in the new tiara
(without spikes)

Sculpture of the Day: A Group of Parian Figures of the Royal Family, 1773

The Royal Family of King George III
Parian, John Bacon, 1773
The Royal Collection
That Queen Mary felt compelled to rescue this delicate group of parian figures is not surprising. Not only is the group extremely rare, but it also represents her ancestors. Not only that, but it is in itself an example of the reproduction in porcelain of an elaborate painted composition portrait group from 1770 by Zoffany which the artist created of the Royal Family in “Van Dyck” costume.

The group was modeled by the sculptor John Bacon who adapted the arrangement of the figures to better present them on the base. More so than Zoffany’s portrait, Bacon focused the attention of the group more directly on the four Princes which includes the future King George IV .

Unfolding Pictures: Brisé fan with Princess Augusta’s Monogram, c.1810

c. 1810
Tortoise Shell and Red Paste
The Royal Collection
Queen Mary’s interest in the history of the Royal Family was quite natural considering that she, herself, was the daughter of Her Serene Highness, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, one of the few remaining granddaughters of King George III. Queen Mary had a particular fascination with George III and his wife Queen Charlotte whom Mary thought she resembled (she did, in fact, look quite a lot like Queen Charlotte). Though Princess Mary Adelaide's marriage to the Duke of Teck was morganatic (meaning that he was, technically, not her equal being simply a Duke while she was a Princess, albeit a Serene Highness and not a Royal Highness), Mary of Teck took Queen Victoria’s point of view and didn’t let these minor differences distract her from realizing the importance of her father’s family history as well.
Queen Mary’s maternal grandmother (The Cambridge side of the family), was Princess Augusta of Cambridge, daughter of King George III. Princess Augusta was also a collector, but not to the monumental proportions that her granddaughter was. It’s important not to confuse this Princess Augusta with Augusta, the Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg who was Mary’s maternal aunt (sister of Mary Adelaide and daughter of Princess Augusta and the Duke of Cambridge) and one of her dearest confidantes. Even I got temporarily confused when researching this object. Everybody shared the same ten names, so sometimes it’s hard to keep them straight.

Upon the 1840 death of Princess Augusta of Cambridge, an inventory was taken of her possessions. The lot included a set of fans which were valued at over £500. According to the Royal Collection, “these, together with the rest of the Princess’s estate, appear to have been divided among her family, a group of her fans being noted subsequently in Queen Victoria’s collection.” Six of these fans ended up in the permanent Royal Collection where they continue a traditional association with Princess Augusta. Here’s where the confusion can easily be seen. Even the Royal Collection confused the two Augustas. It’s recently been realized that several other fans described as having belonged to “one of the Queen’s [Mary's] aunts” also belonged to Princess Augusta. Most of the fans are brisé fans, which were extremely fashionable in England at the start of the Eighteenth Century.

This is one of ones that got away. A brisé fan is a fan where instead of a leaf of paper or leather, the sticks become gradually larger at the top to form the fan itself. This one is crafted from tortoise shell and red paste and dates to about 1810. There’s no doubt as to the ownership of this fan as it bears the monogram of Princess Augusta. Like many objects which had fallen out of the Royal Collection, this one was later purchased by Queen Mary who was eager to return it to its proper place.

Unusual Artifacts: A Miniature Nephrite Piano by Fabergé, Before 1896

Miniature Piano in Louis XVI Style
Michael Perchin
Before 1896
Nephrite, Enamel, Gold
The Royal Collection
Of the myriad little treasures that Mary of Teck collected throughout her long life, a great many of them were works by Fabergé. Queen Mary had a special fondness for Fabergé’s miniature “objets de fantasie.” These objects included several specimen of miniature furniture in the form of bonbonnières (candy dishes) thus allowing the Queen to combine her love of art with her passion for good food.
The craftsmen at Fabergé relished the chance to showcase their keen skills with such objects which allowed them to replicate in precious stones and metals the real materials of the full-scale object. This miniature piano of Siberian nephrite was made by Fabergé master craftsman Michael Perchin (whose work often caught the attention of Queen Mary) and is carved and polished to resemble ebonized wood (though it has faded to a greenish color now).

The piano’s lid opens just as the lid of a real piano wood, allowing for use as a bonbonnière. More impressively, the front drops down to reveal a keyboard of gold and enamel. The keyboard is inscribed C. Fabergé.

Like many of the Fabergé items in Queen Mary’s collection, this wee piano originally belonged to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna. It can also clearly seen in one of the display cases in photographs of the exhibition of Fabergé held in St Petersburg in 1902. The masterpiece came into Queen Mary’s hands between 1922 and 1931.

Punch’s Cousin, Chapter 305

Mr. Punch pulled his arm away from Arthur who frantically grabbed for it with bloody fingers.

“Don’t touch him,” Robert growled to Arthur.

“Please, Sirs, you’ve got to hear me.” Arthur pleaded.

“You ain’t tellin’ me nothin’ I don’t already know—in part.” Punch answered. “I knew me master’s mum hated him. He knows that. Everybody knows that. But, I’d be a donkey if I thought for a moment that she ordered her own son to be murdered.”

“Why?” Arthur hissed as his throat gurgled. “She ordered her own husband’s death. She sold her daughter’s virtue? Why not your life, too?”

“That ain’t what you told me ‘bout how it happened, Mate.” Gerard whispered to his dying friend.

“Shur yer gob, Gerry!” Arthur groaned. “I didn’t tell ya the whole story. Do you think I told you everything?”

“You said you did,” Gerard frowned. “Say, you are the lyin’ scoundrel everyone says you are.”

“This is a surprise to you?” Arthur coughed. “Think of all we done together. You think I was an honest man?”

“I thought you were at least honest with me,” Gerry shook his head.

“What for?” Arthur choked. “You were just another tool for me to use.”

“You’d best quiet yourself now,” Marjani said, studying Arthur. “You’ll tell your story to the Devil soon enough by the looks of ya.”

“Pay him no mind, Mr. Punch.” Robert whispered. “He’s trying desperately to save his soul.”

“But, there’s some truth in what he said.” Punch responded softly. “Ain’t the first time we heard that the Duchess asked for our pa to be killed.”

“He’s just speaking enough truth to make his other lies believable.” Robert replied quickly. “Besides, what good is any of it now? It has nothing to do with where we must go with our lives or how we’ll live in the future. It’s finished now. It’s the past.”

“Still matters.” Punch shook his head. “One thing I know is that the past matters. It makes us do the things what we do and think what we think. It’s what made me master what he is and what made me alive, it is. Can’t say the past don’t matter.”

“It doesn’t matter as much as what’s to come.” Robert answered affectionately. “Listen to me, dear Punch, it isn’t fitting for you to see this. Certainly not for Julian to see it. Go in the house and look for Meridian to give you a cup of tea. Let Arthur die here alone as it should be.”

“He won’t leave!” Arthur bellowed, drooling on himself as the words poured forth. “He won’t leave ‘til I’m dead and gone ‘cause he believes me, he does. He knows I’m tellin’ the truth. He knows that his ma were the one what made all of this happen! It weren’t me! She used me! And, His Grace knows that he’s got to make it right! It can all end with him—this suffering. All these generations of misery can all end with him!”

From outside the stable, Iolanthe Evangeline grinned as she watched through the dirty, narrow window. She mouthed the words along with Arthur—the very words she had coached him to say. “That’s it Arthur,” Iolanthe chuckled. “Hang on long enough to get it all out.”

At that very moment, Charles froze with fear as Louis Glapion looked around the cathedral to find the source of the sound which had startled him—the sound of a baby crying.

“What you got in your arms, Girl?” Louis asked.

“My child.” Barbara smiled.

“Then, what baby is cryin’ over there by your lover?”

“That?” Barbara grinned—a strange and unsettling grin which sent a shiver through Charles’ spine. “That is the child that belongs to my brother and his companion.”

“You ain’t right, Girl.” Louis narrowed his eyes.

“Am I not?” Barbara laughed wickedly. “Am I not? If I am not, then, haven’t I earned the right to be peculiar? My brother—he’s peculiar, yet, everyone seems to find it charming. Perhaps it’s a family characteristic to be strange, to be insane. Perhaps we inherited it from our mother. Perhaps.”

“What’s she sayin?” Louis asked, stepping back.

Charles stood frozen, unsure if he should pick up the crying baby and frightened that Louis would react angrily upon discovering that Barbara had lied to him. Furthermore, Barbara’s strange behavior puzzled and disturbed him. He had seen hints of this side of her before—a sort of wild and confused side—but only glimmers, only seconds.

“You wish to see my baby?” Barbara asked, her voice growing shrill. She unraveled the blankets that she held in her arms to reveal a knife which glinted in the dim candlelight of the cathedral. “This is my child. I call him “Hate.” He has a sharp tongue and if you’re not careful he will insult you.”

“Listen, Girl, just hand me the baby—the real baby. I told Mare I’d bring him back and I’m not gonna have none of your tricks.”

“My baby is not prone to tricks. You know where you stand with him.” Barbara said, gripping the knife firmly. “As for being real, can you think of anything more real than hate?”

“Lordy,” Louis gulped. “You’re a real loony.”

“But, don’t you find me charming?” Barbara laughed. “His Grace, the Duke of Fallbridge is charming—with all of his little references to being a puppet and his darling confusion about everyday things. Isn’t he sweet when he speaks in his rough, uneducated voice? Isn’t he wise when he says simple things which make us think? We pity him because even as a lunatic, he’s still charming. Even when he claims to be a puppet, he’s still adorable. He’s always been adorable. So rational. So steady—even when he was petrified, which was always. He’s afraid of everything. Yet, so adorable. It’s so easy to forgive his oddities. It’s so easy to pity him. Do you pity me? Did you know I was a Lady? Lady Barbara. I was to marry a Baron! I could have been Lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. Did you know that? Perhaps if not to her, then one day to the future Princess of Wales or the Duchess of York. Can you imagine? But, I gave it all away. And, I had a child. Two children, really. One, I lost—several times. One, I’ll keep, and he is the one I shall carry with me always. This child—hate!” She flashed the knife.

“Ain’t nothin’ worth this.” Louis stammered, stepping backward from Barbara.

“Don’t go.” Barbara cooed. “I want you to stay. I want to talk with you. I want you to pity me.”

“I do.” Louis nodded. “I do pity you. But, I pity that man and that baby more.”

“Such a shame.” Barbara sighed. “You can’t go now.”

“Why not?” Louis asked.

“Because, my child wants to know you better.” With that, Barbara raised the knife high in the air and plunged it with all of her strength into Louis’ chest. The man fell to the floor of the cathedral in a tangled brown heap.

Barbara turned and looked at Charles, smiling. “Now, my dear, we can be alone—as we were.”

Did you miss Chapters 1-304? If so, you can read them here.

Card of the Day: Her Majesty, Queen Mary

Kind, kind and gentle is she
Kind is my Mary.
--a popular verse in 1913

I’ve written at length for the past year about Queen Mary and my fondness and respect for her have been abundantly clear. She was much beloved by the English people both before and after she and her husband endured the Great War. She led her country—as Queen Consort—with dignity through many a crisis, served as a trusted advisor to her father-in-law King Edward VII prior to her husband’s accession to the throne and guided her son, King George VI through the tragedies of the Second World War.

Mary’s dedication to the Empire and the Monarchy was unflappable. Her love for Britain was unparalleled. She showed this love by protecting the history of the Empire by preserving its native arts. Queen Mary also was a fierce protector of the British people, endearing herself with her sincere appearances at the homes and places of work of her subjects where she would—without any sort of pretension—sit with them, take tea with them and, sometimes, take them in her arms for comfort.

In the eyes of the British people, Queen Mary was the ideal Queen Consort. During the day, she could visit mines, hospitals and factories, entering the worst conditions with humility and compassion—not worrying about soiling her clothes. But, in the evenings, she would transform herself into a glamorous creature in the finest gowns, dripping with diamonds—taking great care to represent Britain as a world power with a sense of history, tradition and elegance.

When visiting France just before the dawn of the Great War, she worried that the French people would not embrace a foreign monarch. She wrote in her diary, “How I hate having to go there when matters are so unsettled here; especially as one feels so acutely how England has fallen in prestige abroad. I really feel so ashamed I should prefer to hide—certainly to not have to smile and make one’s self agreeable when one’s heart is not in it, but then, nobody gives one the credit for having a heart or feelings in these days—It seems to me that ‘finesse’ has gone out of the world, that indescribable something which was born in one and which was inherited through generations.”

However, when Queen Mary appeared in France, adorned in a crown set with pearls and diamonds and wearing, from a strand of large diamonds wrapped around her long throat, the lesser Stars of Africa and her garter badges, the only thing that outshone her diamonds was her genuine, gracious smile. The French people fell in love with the Queen during a time when European politics were beginning to become extremely difficult.

And, this was the spirit with which Queen Mary approached everything. When the role of the Queen Consort was undefined and unclear, she made it solid and relevant and continued to remain an influence until her death just before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Mary is commemorated in a beautiful portrait in the final of the Silver Jubilee set of the Wills’s Cigarette Cards.

The reverse of the card reads:


The Queen, of whom we give a recent portrait, has shared to the utmost throughout her married life, in those "long and often anxious labours" of which His Majesty spoke last Christmas in the Empire broadcast. There have been few public occasions when the Queen has not been at the King's side; and beyond this, she has made innumerable charitable causes her own, and lent gracious and unfailing support to the work or women's organizations. Yet while industriously giving herself to the service of the people, Her Majesty has found time also to manage her private household and bring up a family in a way that has won the nation's deep respect as well as its affection.

This loving video tribute shows Mary’s long-lasting effect on Britain.

Tomorrow, we will begin a new set of cigarette cards also dedicated to King George V and Queen Mary.

Object of the Day, Museum Edition: Queen Mary While Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, 1873

Queen Mary
as Princess Victoria Mary of Teck
Dixon, 1873
The Royal Collection
This watercolor on ivory miniature of HSH Princess Victoria Mary of Teck was painted in 1873 by Annie Dixon. The miniature was most likely painted for Queen Victoria who enjoyed collecting miniature paintings of her family. Whether or not the miniature ever made into the hands of Queen Victoria is debatable since the piece was not in the Royal Collection at the time it was discovered by the sitter herself, then Queen Mary, who quickly acquired this lost portrait from her past.

At the time that this miniature was painted, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (known as Princess May) never imagined that she’d ever be anything more than Her Serene Highness. Her much beloved, but rather domineering mother, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, had plans for her only daughter—wishing for May to act as her Lady-in-Waiting and assist her with her many charities. While Princess May was a girl, Queen Victoria was impressed with the child’s intellect, but find her height and large features to be rather off-putting. It wasn’t until May had grown into a lovely teenager that Queen Victoria realized that her cousin, Princess Mary Adelaide’s, daughter was quite exceptional. At that point Victoria began to realize that “May” was a natural choice as the future bride to the heir presumptive to the throne—Prince Eddie. When Eddie died, Mary became engaged to his brother, Prince George who would become King George V.

I find this portrait fascinating since it shows Mary as the beautiful fair-haired girl that she was, but especially hints at her keen intellect and curiosity. I’m not surprised that Her Majesty acquired this miniature when finding it. She had a passion for returning lost items ot the Royal Collection, but also had a secret interest in chronicling her own life. This dedication to recording her personal history proved most helpful when, at the time of the coronation of her granddaughter, Princess Elizabeth, Mary was one of the few people left living who could remember the days of Victoria and the traditions of the Royal Court which she held so dear.