I pretend I’m one of the royal family when I’m in a hotel and that the hotel belongs to me – it is a palace*
At London this year many of the treasures of The Royal Collection will be on display in royal palaces, residences and selected galleries over this, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year. They document the evolution of the monarchy in England and also provide an important historical, social and cultural record of the evolution of art, design and style. They are a valuable resource for anyone with an interest in the development of art, society and culture and great moments in history.
What is there not to like about looking at, and musing over, beautiful things. You don’t have to own them to admire them for their aesthetic qualities, the standard of craftsmanship employed to produce them, as well as the quality materials used to fashion them. Judging by statistics from all around the world people viewing collections in major museums, art galleries, flower shows and botanical gardens continues to rise at an amazing rate. Its not about population growth either, its about curiosity and voyeurism for some, about gaining an appreciation and learning for others, or just plain admiring, imagining, coveting and dreaming for everyone else. The fine art on show includes drawings by the so-called ‘old masters’, and the Queen’s collection of these is absolutely outstanding. As well there are fabulous portraits, which were painted and sculpted by people in history who are now recognized as being geniuses.
There are extraordinary examples of the decorative arts; fine quality beautifully designed and crafted furniture, priceless ceramics, glorious glass, sensational silver, breathtaking textiles, powerful weaponry, dazzling jewellery, as well as incredible objects of art. These are made out of some of the world’s most amazing materials gleaned from nature and produced by master artisans of their trade and age.
We would have to say the Royal Collection is second to none. Currently there are Treasures from the Queen’s palaces on view at Holyroodhouse, Sixty Photographs of the Queen taken by press photographers over the amazing sixty years of her reign are on show at Windsor, where this great photograph of HM in red was taken. As well there is an exhibition of photographs of Scott and Shackleton taken on their ill-fated journey to the South Pole. This last event is currently at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace. I have luckily been to this intimate gallery many times over during my lifetime. Each time I was completely overwhelmed by the majesty of the displays. One of the most memorable was her Faberge egg collection. How wonderful it is of HM to share her family collections.
Her Majesty’s Royal Collection website involves hours of browsing, including an evening tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, viewing select items from the collection, as well as being able to select an adorable cuddly Corgi from Her Majesty’s (HM) shop online. Now this I have only just recently discovered – ooh aah.
For those who want to mark the Diamond Jubilee event, there is a range of limited edition goods and other sensational stock on sale at The Royal Collection online shop..
Her Majesty is certainly leading the way for online retailers in the commerce stakes. The shop has some fabulous things to choose from, including the range of commemorative China produced for the Diamond Jubilee
The sheer quality and standard of the China pieces produced by royally approved manufacturers and finished in 22 carat gold ‘for a price’ seems to be exceptional, judging by the ‘zoom’ in images available on the ‘royal’ online shop. And, they are in a price range that will suit many middle class pockets.
My favourite item in the China collection was 250 pounds, but it appears it is already out of stock, so I won’t be able to enjoy my morning cuppa from the limited edition Staffordshire made teapot after all, which looked as if it was made to pour well.
I might have to settle for a Loving Cup, which has two handles, perfect to hold as I age. The border decoration of this piece is based on the famous Rockingham Service, made between 1830 and 1837 for William IV who was a great patron of English porcelain and it was first used at Queen Victoria’s coronation banquet in 1838. No, perhaps it will be the copies of the wonderful pieces made by the Chelsea Porcelain factory, my favourite of all the old English factories, where botanical porcelain was a specialty. The range available is truly delightful.
Let’s not start to talk about fashion and jewellery. We won’t be able to stop. What woman would not want to indulge in this department. The soft stylish black Cashmere gloves are just perfect for Melbourne weather. But one of my favourite ‘British’ things are available, which are plates made from tin.
The Brits have long had a love affair with tin, or ‘tole wares’ as they are called, the tin having been mined in the south-west of Britain from prehistoric times until the 20th century. I have a ‘tole’ lamp next to my bed, carried home from an expedition to England years ago that included a trip to ”The Shambles’ in the walled city of York, where I discovered it lurking gloriously. It is delightfully painted with botanical prints, as is its matching lampshade. It has a pagoda top, also heralding the Brits love affair with the fanciful style Chinoiserie.
Now I have found HM’s online shop goodness knows what will happen next. The tole plates are just perfect for those wanting to go on a classy picnic or to enjoy a casual luxury lunch at home in royal style. The Queen’s collection of tin plates are definitely designed to take being just four pounds ninety five pence each, especially with the Aussie dollar doing so well. I have two favourites.
One is a copy of an exceptional ‘Animal plate’ created by Sèvres, the only known example of its kind. It says it was probably acquired by Louis XVI of France from the manufacturer in 1790 and was subsequently bought by King George IV along with pieces from the Louis XVI Sèvres service in 1811.
The animal tin plate has a great lion at its centre and amusingly some ‘bunnies’ on the side. Then there is the William IV number, whose design is based on an original china plate in the Royal Collection. It was commissioned by William IV in 1830 and produced by the china factory Worcester. It was completed for use on 10th May 1833 for a banquet given for the French Duc d’Orleans, who came from a long line of Dukes renowned for their famous parties.
My ultimate favourite happening on The Royal Collection site would be the Royal Books and Media shop. This definitely has my three sons worried. And as I have an interest in the social, historical and cultural aspect of so many things it is hard to choose. The lovely publication Fans, the Unfolding Pictures, about fans in the royal collection, is of special interest and quite unique. Then there is the delightful Butler’s Guide to Gentleman’s Grooming and Her Ladyship’s Guide to the Queen’s English, which I learned to speak when sent by my mother to those elocution lessons eons ago. They are within my budget, although Leonardo da Vinci’s The Mechanics of Man will be a struggle, but an absolute must have, alongside Mr Marshal’s Flower Book.
Now this latter tiny publication is a real winner, the exquisite Florilegium of the seedsman, horticulturalist and entomologist Alexander Marshal (c1620 – 1682) who was famous for his botanical illustrations or ‘plant portraits’ as they have been called. I purchased mine through www.bookoffers.com.au. It is a copy of the only surviving example of an English flower book of the 17th century. Nothing can beat handling and enjoying Mr Marshal’s delightfully painted watercolours to take the reader on a tour of a year in a 17th century garden.
In America, as in Australia we all have to have our selections from the Royal shop shipped. There are so many things to consider indulging in it is frankly, quite embarrassing. There are shocking pink Cushions for Princesses and Queens, a Union Flag Throw and a fabulous God Save the Queen Cushion. What I would rather do is make my selections for myself and carry everything home in a God Save the Queen Shopping tote bag. How cool is that, said my eldest son when I told him about it. Perhaps HM will set up some retail outlets soon, so that we can all enjoy the first hand experience of browsing in her elegant emporiums of style. Just think how much more employment opportunities that would provide, and it would surely have to prove to be nearly as popular as an Apple store. Oh, and I neglected to say. Part of The Royal Collection is a royal ‘app’ – Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
Gotta love commerce.
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012
*American Actor Martin Short